July 01, 2013

DCPS Establishes Ninth Grade Academies to Support Incoming Freshman 


Contact: Melissa Salmanowitz | 202-535-1096

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In the 2013-2014 school year, District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS) will establish targeted ninth grade academy programs at nine comprehensive high schools across the District to help first-year ninth grade students successfully transition to and succeed in high school. These new programs, focused on supporting the academic, social and emotional needs of first-year ninth graders, is based on best practices, research and successful programs in other urban school districts.

“We know that ninth grade is a critical transition year and data show us that without the right supports, our students are at a high risk of truancy. It’s clear that we need to do something differently,” said DCPS Chancellor Kaya Henderson. “I am excited about the opportunities that the ninth grade academies will provide our students and the impact this initiative will have not only to increase academic success and student engagement, but also to reduce truancy and help us meet our strategic goals of raising proficiency and graduation rates.”

Research regarding the ninth grade indicates that the ninth grade year for students is critical to college and career success.  At DCPS, most comprehensive high schools have a disproportionate number of ninth grade students, due to a significant number of students repeating the ninth grade because of poor course performance and engagement.  These factors are also major contributors towards DCPS’ dropout and truancy rates.

To address the specific needs occurring as students transition to high school, the ninth grade academies will be at the schools -- Anacostia, Ballou, Cardozo, Coolidge, Dunbar, Eastern, Roosevelt, Wilson and Woodson High Schools -- that contain the largest populations of ninth grade repeaters. The new program model is designed around four strategies: data-driven decision making, teaming of instructional staff, course programming to meet student needs and student engagement.

Data-driven decision-making: Three times per year, school-based staff will review student performance data relating to attendance, behavior and course performance in core areas including English, Math, Social Studies and Science. High school administrators will use this data to place students on one of two teams.  The first team will include students who are on pace to successfully pass ninth grade courses and meet behavioral expectations. The second team will include students who show signs that they might not successfully pass ninth grade courses, based on failing one or more courses in eighth grade, and behavioral expectations. Each team’s course schedule and programming will be designed to meet the needs of the cohort of students.

Teaming: The ninth Grade Academy staff will include a social worker, guidance counselor and data lead and a core group of four teachers: English, Mathematics, Social Students and Science. These teams will be supervised by an academy coordinator or designated administrator. This staff will work exclusively with the group of students assigned to their team. The master schedule will provide daily common planning time for the core staff. There will also be a system-wide professional development series for Ninth Grade Academy staff.

Course Programming and Student Engagement: The ninth grade academies will offer differentiated courses to meet student needs. Students on pace to graduate in four years will enroll in a yearlong English I and Algebra I course.  These students will also enroll in at least one honors course and participate in an extracurricular activity. Students who need more intensive remediation will enroll in an advisory course to focus on study skills and organization. Students who need additional help will also take Algebra I and English support courses, such as Extended Literacy or Algebra Extension.  Students will be required to attend the extended day program, as well as the Saturday Academy throughout the year to focus on assignment recovery, as well as participate in an extracurricular activity.

The curriculum in the ninth grade academies will incorporate key areas of character development and study skills.  Students will participate in regular field trips to see workplaces and the skills needed for success.  Students will also be required to participate in college visits and extra-curricular activities. Schools will hold regular family conferences to monitor progress and quarterly recognition assemblies to acknowledge students who significantly improve or who have made other notable accomplishments.

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