The summer before ninth grade is both an exciting and daunting time for students. Soon they will be entering a new school, taking more advanced coursework, and will be held responsible for keeping up grades for college. It certainly sounds like a time that they should be relaxing before these new responsibilities take hold! However, summer vacation, rather than allowing students to rest and mentally prepare for the next year can contribute to the sudden and unpredicted decline in many students’ academic performance (hitting students from disadvantaged backgrounds the hardest) known as: ninth grade shock.
On average, students lose more than two and half months’ worth of grade equivalency in math skills during summer vacation, and low-income students typically also lose two or more months’ worth of reading performance. These losses often aren’t recuperated come fall, instead accumulating over years, resulting in students performing significantly below their grade level.
Ninth grade is an important year for students, proving to be the most important indicator in estimating a student’s likelihood of reaching graduation. According to Jon Zaff, Director of the Center for Promise at Tufts University, “More and more [education researchers] are realizing that it’s the make or break year for many 14- and 15-year-olds. It’s a time when the cognitive, emotional, and physical are all coming together. The schools are likely new environments, and the students have more autonomy and more homework.” Even for many students who are doing relatively well in 8th grade, the transition to high school can be a shock.
The consequences of this abrupt change are ninth graders having more misbehavior referrals, more missed classes, the largest number of failing grades, and the lowest GPA of any other high school grade level, resulting in approximately 22% of students repeating at least one ninth grade class. A study of Philadelphia schools found that 57% (more than half!) of the students who were not promoted to tenth grade had dropped out of high school within four years. In stark contrast, of the students who moved on to tenth grade, only 11% dropped out of school within the same four years.
What can be done to prevent this sudden drop in academic performance and its related consequences? Summer learning! Here are some of benefits of enrolling rising ninth grade students in summer school.
Walk Before You Run
Opportunities For Learning’s (OFL) FREE blended learning summer school program allows students to take up to 15 credits in a single summer, and unlike the regular school year, work on just one class at time. OFL’s guided independent study lets students work at a pace that best suits their learning style, allowing them to spend more time on concepts they struggle with and move quickly through subjects in which they excel. This offers students a unique opportunity to get accustomed to the rigor of high school classes before full-steam ahead in the fall. Summer school also allows incoming students to get to know their new environment before the official start of ninth grade, making new places and faces less intimidating.
Explore Potential Careers
In addition to a wide array of electives, OFL’s Career and Technical Education (CTE) courses offer summer students hands-on, practical training in relevant, high-demand careers. Experienced professionals teach students real-world skills using industry standards in tools, equipment, safety procedures, and processes. CTE students can earn professional certifications, become eligible for industry-specific organizations, and gain real-world work experience while simultaneously earning credit toward their high school diploma.
Keep Up the Momentum
Don’t let the summer slide put your child at a disadvantage during this pivotal time. By keeping mentally focused throughout the summer, the dangers of summer learning loss are erased and students enter high school, a considerably more rigorous academic environment than they have yet experienced, prepared to succeed. OFL offers more than 40 summer courses, including a-g approved options, to keep students’ academic performance on the rise.
Students can complete up to three classes in a single summer with OFL, enabling students to graduate early or get ahead and complete more advanced courses before graduation, strengthening their college applications. A growing trend among students competing to get into the best colleges is known as “previewing,” when a student takes a course during summer and then retakes it during the regular school year—having already studied the material—to ensure a top grade. While this might seem extreme, for students who worry they may struggle their first year in high school, this is a free and strategic way to increase the chance of success.
Signing up for OFL is easy and returning to your home school in the fall is totally seamless. Summer school starts July 3rd and enrollment has already begun. Space is limited so don’t wait!
For more information, including orientation dates, classes offered, and enrollment steps, visit www.oflsummer.com.
“Benefits of Summer Programs for Middle School Students.” TeenLife, Nev 17, 2014. <https://www.teenlife.com/blogs/benefits-of-summer-programs-for-middle-school-students>.
Willens, Michele. Ninth Grade: The Most Important Year in High School. The Atlantic Nov 1, 2013. < https://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2013/11/ninth-grade-the-most-important-year-in-high-school/281056/>.
Pharris-Ciurej, Nikolas; Charles Hirschman; Joseph Willhoft. 2011. “The 9th Grade Shock and the High School Dropout Crisis.” Social Science Research 41.3 (2011): 709-730.
Neild, Ruth Curran; Scott Stoner-Ebby; Frank F. Furstenberg, Jr. “Connecting Entrance and Departure: The Transition to Ninth Grade and High School Dropout.” Education and Urban Society 40.5 (2008): 543-569.
McCallumore, Kyle Megan; Ervin F. Sparapini. “The Importance of the Ninth Grade on High School Graduation Rates and Student Success.” Education Digest 76.2 (2010): 60-64.
Neild, Ruth Curran; Scott Stoner-Eby; and Frank Furstenberg. “Connecting entrance and departure: The transition to ninth grade and high school dropout.” Education and Urban Society 40.5 (2008): 543-569.