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Home » Student Success » Support Programs » Ninth Grade Success

Ninth Grade Success

Contact Information

Kefi Andersen
System Improvement Program Supervisor Lead

We know that ninth graders who end the year on track are four times more likely to graduate. It is a stronger indicator of future graduation than race, ethnicity, poverty, or test scores (Network for College Success).

Learn more about why ninth grade success is important, best practices and strategies. We also have frequently asked questions and resources to support your work.

Best Practices & Strategies

The best way to get ninth graders on track is to create awareness of why ninth grade is such an important year. You can also commit to creating an ongoing ninth-grade success team. You can set the conditions for success and help eighth graders transition to high school with strong relationships, relevance, and timely intervention.

Five Contributing Factors for Ninth-Grade Success

Each of the following components is critical to implementing freshman on-track work. You will find a collection of strategies, materials, and resources organized to help you achieve freshman success goals!

Creating a culture of caring at school makes students feel welcome and connected. Consider ways your school can make each student and family feel comfortable and included.

  • Engagement Matters. Curriculum is more engaging with student voice and choice. Provide relevant tie-ins to students' lives, aspirations, and communities.
    • Project-Based Learning
    • High School & Beyond Planning Help students explore who they are, what they want to become, and how to get there.
    • Create a View of the Future
      • Provide students with opportunities to gain knowledge about postsecondary options. Visit colleges, skill centers, tech schools, the military, job shadows, and apprenticeships. Provide opportunities to become aware of options and supports to help them reach their goals.
      • Provide access to dual credit options and college & career readiness.
      • Sponsor career and college fairs to share options with students.
      • Make students and families aware of financial aid options and their timelines.
    • Apply knowledge from the Since Time Immemorial Curriculum for your Native American and Alaskan Native students.
  • Create access to academic tasks through Universal Design for Learning
  • Relationships with caring adults and peers help students thrive.
  • Participating in Tribal Consultation is a great strategy for involving Native American families.
  • Measure perceptions using the Healthy Youth Survey results. Follow up by re-asking target questions throughout the year to check for improvements.

  • Educate your teachers, students, and community about why ninth grade is a critical year. Convince your strongest teachers to teach ninth graders; students will benefit from that foundation throughout the rest of high school. Research Summary for Students and Parents
  • Staff ninth grade with your most experienced and inspiring teachers. Students will benefit throughout their high school experience as they continue learning. 
  • Understanding and implementing fair grading practices helps teachers and students build a relationship of trust.
  • Foundations for Young Adult Success

Moving up to high school a lot changes for students. Easing the transition can make a huge difference in a student's engagement.

  • Provide students and families with orientation to the school.
  • Provide parents training on Student Information Systems to help their students succeed by tracking grades and attendance.
  • Provide mandatory summer programs to support students who are failing courses.
  • Adjust your school schedule to make time for additional supports.
  • Engage middle school staff in vertical alignment. Students who need added supports (such as Wrap Around Intensive Services) will have them in place when school starts.
  • Register students in March of the previous year.
  • Partner with middle school staff to have High School and Beyond Plans created and transferrable to the high school.
  • Use older students to mentor ninth-grade students through ongoing Link Crew or mentoring opportunities.
  • Build relationships with school by recruiting for clubs and sports for all students.
  • Build time into the day for student participation in clubs and sports.

Create a Success Team

A Success Team regularly reviews ninth-grade academic, behavioral, and attendance data. This practice supports ninth-grade students failing one or two of their classes. Teams use protocols to efficiently stay focused on asset-based student support, and assess those supports. Teams are made up of administrator, counselors, ninth grade teachers, and graduation specialists. Attendance liaisons and other key support staff are also included. Reserve time for this team to meet 3-4 times a month.

Apply Timely Interventions

Grow the green. Start with building in supports that will help all students. Move to small group supports that will move groups of students with one or two failing grades back into passing all classes.

  • Regularly communicate progress with students & families using a BAG Report
  • Extend deadlines for course completion up to 20 days to finish key projects with targeted support.
  • Intervention Evaluation Flow Chart
  • Use the Kid Talk Protocol to bring student voice into the conversation (document to be added)
  • Connect to Community-Based Organizations that can help


Almost all students who have good attendance finish their ninth grade year on track. Students with poor attendance often lose credit in their classes. Attendance problems are often a symptom of larger problems that must be addressed for the student to experience success. Ideally, a Success Team should be focused on students who are attending 80% or more of the time. A Care Team, made up of Attendance and community liaisons, school psychologists, social workers, and counselors can help reduce barriers to attendance before the student is referred to the Success Team.

Great work gets better with friends. Learn what’s working for other schools once a quarter. If you’re interested in forming a group, get in touch with your Educational Service District or contact Kefi Andersen.

Meet with similar school leaders to:

  • Check Ninth Grade Success Attendance, Behavior, and Coursework.
  • Read about best practices
  • Share ideas
  • Set goals for next quarter