A visitor to Chicago's Hancock High School quickly knows this school cares about student attendance and grades. Posters in the entry way promote awareness of the importance of course performance, saying: Did you know? A non-core course failure is just as detrimental as a core course failure to your likelihood of graduating from high school." Freshman and Sophomore rates of attendance and grade point averages of 3.0+ are prominently tracked and displayed in the front hallways.
In October, I joined a delegation of school administrators and educators to visit exemplar Chicago Public Schools that were highlighted in the book Make or Break Year: Solving the Dropout Crisis One In the Grade at a Time by Emily Krone Phillips. The delegation was hosted by Stand’s Center for High School Success and Network for College Success. More than 60 delegates from across the country observed and toured five high schools known for their work in applying Freshman On-Track (to graduate) indicators to turnaround sagging graduation rates. “Freshmen On-Track,” is a data point that University of Chicago researchers developed after realizing that how students fared in their first year of high school reliably predicted whether they would ultimately graduate — better than their race, gender, family background, and middle school grades and test scores combined. The proven approach, based on the University of Chicago’s research, calls for organizing and supporting school-based ninth grade success teams as they use data, apply interventions and take action to ensure that all ninth graders finish their "make or break year" ready to progress to tenth grade and persist to graduation.
Eight representatives from three Colorado school districts (Denver Public Schools, Poudre School District and Brighton 27J) were part of the delegation. We walked away motivated, validated and encouraged to further the ninth grade success team approach in Colorado. In fact, these school districts will be joining others for our first Ninth Grade Success Institute starting tomorrow. We will be sharing more about this emerging work soon!