Center for High School Success

As part of our comprehensive approach to change, we ensure that the policies we fight for reach classrooms and directly support students. In service of that mission, we launched the Washington Center for High School Success (CHSS) to provide direct support to districts across the state.

The Center for High School Success is a free service dedicated to supporting educators focused on Ninth Grade Success programs to improve high school graduation rates in Washington State. Founded in 2019, the Center for High School Success partners with public school teachers and staff to support ninth graders at risk of not graduating high school by providing data-based, proven interventions for addressing each student’s individual needs.

"I believe that this was the missing piece for us. If we had more trainings like this, I think we could make full strides in moving education to where it needs to be."

- High School Principal in Spokane and 2019 Center for High School Success partner

Ninth Grade Success Coaches Kaaren and Habib support an educator during the first cross-district collaborative event in 2019.


Our coaches provide training, coaching, data analysis, peer learning opportunities, and tools and resources to help high schools committed to effectively implementing the Ninth Grade Success Approach to substantially increase Ninth Grade On-Track rates.

CHSS partners with high schools committed to becoming communities where all students excel academically and race and socio-economic status do not predict success. 

To learn more about what services CHSS offers, please visit the Center for High School Success network site at

“This is one of the best team approaches that directly impacts student success that we have done in a very long time.”

- Survey response of an educator who participated in the 2019-21 OSPI Ninth Grade Success pilot project

Educators gathered in Yakima for our first CHSS cross-district collaborative event in August 2019.

Read More about the Ninth GRADE SUCCESS Approach Here


After decades of research with Chicago Public Schools, the University of Chicago’s Consortium on School Research found that staying On-Track during ninth grade means a student is four times more likely to graduate high school, regardless of their race, income or background. Now, in partnership with The Network for College Success (NCS), the University of Chicago is leading the way in student success strategies by sharing their findings with educators across the country.

At Stand, the implications of this research - including the demonstrated impact that focusing on Ninth Grade On-Track has had on graduation rates in Chicago schools - have laid the foundation for our work with Washington high schools.

"Thanks to one-on-ones tailored for a struggling ninth grader, home visits, and family nights, Wahluke was able to achieve its highest passing rate of the past four years and celebrated 89.2% of our ninth graders passing all their classes in 2020."

- Molly Lawson, Wahluke Vice Principal and CHSS partner

Implementing a Ninth Grade Success strategy often involves a shift in mindset for high school educators. As young middle schoolers enter high school, their high school teachers and counselors can work together to make their transition as smooth as possible. We've detailed what is involved in the implementation of this type of approach in a three-part blog series discussing:

Educators from Evergreen school district in Vancouver, WA huddle for a small group discussion during a 2019 CHSS training.

In Washington, state school administrators have already elevated the importance of the 9th Grade On-Track metric for students. The metric is now a part of our state’s ESSA plan and is tracked by the state superintendent’s office for every school. During the 2019 legislative session, lawmakers signaled the importance of the metric and the promise of the Ninth-Grade Success approach by allocating $250,000 for five school districts to pilot test Ninth-Grade Success in their high schools. (Stand for Children was a critical partner within the High School Success Coalition advocating for this legislation.)

Support Ninth Grade Success in Washington


Teams improving on-time graduation rates for 9th graders
Senator Marko Liias to Everett Herald, February 13, 2022

"Ninth Grade Success Teams have now been implemented in 30 schools across the state. Two of these schools — Mariner and Kamiak High School — are in the Mukilteo School District. At Mariner, ninth graders who might otherwise disengage later in high school have responded enthusiastically to new Freshman Seminar courses that create opportunities to identify their goals and plan for their futures.

Ninth Grade Success Teams have also served as extra support during the pandemic by making it easier for each student to get what they need for a successful education. Right now, at Kamiak, time together as a team allows staff to identify which students need the most support before a failed class affects their trajectory in high school."

Two education programs that yield extraodinary results
Seattle Times editorial board, March 29, 2021

"The Ninth Grade On-Track program has led to exciting improvements for high-school freshmen during what has been called a “make-or-break” academic year. The pilot program was launched in 2019 as a collaboration between the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction and the Center for High School Success.

For the pocket-size investment of $125,000 a year, the program trained “success teams” of teachers, administrators, counselors and support staff who could identify and support 9th graders in danger of falling behind. Early data show that most pilot schools saw double-digit increases in the percentage of students on track for graduation."

Letter: Help students succeed
Allison Wallace to The Columbian, March 21, 2021

"The demands of online learning have made our Ninth Grade Success Team especially critical and we have been encouraged in our school to see ninth-graders – including English Language Learners – improve their academic performance and GPA during the pandemic."

Letter: Investing in graduation
Jabez Harlan to The Spokesman-Review, March 18, 2021

"Our Ninth Grade Success Team has created a mentoring program where we work with students one-on-one to help them succeed academically."

Letter: Program for high school students should be expanded
Molly Lawson to The Yakima-Herald Republic, March 15, 2021

"The partnership and dedication of each student have paid off -- Wahluke was able to achieve its highest passing rate of the past four years and celebrated 89.2% of our ninth-graders passing all their classes last year."

Eastmont brings up grades for failing freshmen
Wenatchee World, December 7, 2020

“We interacted with students better. We engaged students better. Even though we were online, we had to rewrite everything we did. Our team meets every two weeks and we fine-tune and celebrate the little successes along the way.”

New effort forms partnerships to help ninth-graders succeed in Central Washington

Yakima Herald-Republic, August 13, 2019

"Each school partnering with the center forms a ninth-grade success team made up of school staff such as freshmen teachers, counselors and attendance administrators. They are asked to meet regularly to identify students with potential needs, such as kids with poor attendance or previously failed classes. A plan is then drawn up to address each student’s individual needs."

Invest in Ninth Grade On-Track program
Seattle Times Editorial Board, April 10, 2019

"As education researchers have already discovered, success in the 9th grade is already positively connected with improved graduation rates. School districts across the state should be studying this OSPI program and doing their best to embrace its recommendations."

Invest in programs that boost high school graduation
Seattle Times Editorial Board, December 12, 2018

"Getting every Washington student to graduate from high school prepared for college and career opportunities is the state’s No. 1 goal. More attention must be focused on the high school experience. The Legislature should follow the lead of Stand for Children and put more money and energy into helping more students graduate."

Ninth-grade failure rates reveal much to state, local educators
The Columbian, May 14, 2018

"The freshman academy [at Evergreen High School] is one of several programs launched in recent years by area school districts to offer incoming freshmen who may have struggled in middle school extra academic and social support through their first year of high school."

State lawmakers advance legislation to encourage schools to make better use of student data
Seattle Times, February 23, 2018

"At high schools in places like West Seattle and the Franklin Pierce School District in Pierce County, have started reinventing the freshman year, using data to prevent more students from ever becoming at risk of dropping out. At Washington High just south of Tacoma, for example, the graduation rate has climbed to 87 percent since the school started paying more attention to freshman success."

How high schools break up the 'ninth grade bottleneck' to help students graduate on time
Seattle Times, September 2, 2017

"As research increasingly shows that ninth grade is a make-or-break year, educators around Puget Sound are reinventing the freshman experience to help all students early and often."

Ninth Grade: The Most Important Year in High School
The Atlantic, November 1, 2013

"Educators are honing in on three indicators—attendance, behavior, and course performance—that are believed to be the most accurate measurements of a student’s likelihood to either quit school or move on."

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