‘9th Grade Academy’ is working
Over the past decade ninthgrade students in Rockdale ISD, the State of Texas and all over the United States have struggled as a whole with meeting the expectations of high school courses. The failure rate for ninth graders during this time period has been significantly higher than students in other high school grades.
This year Rockdale High School sought a way for ninth graders to be more successful by designing the “9th Grade Academy.” Their core courses of English I, Algebra I or Geometry, World Geography and Biology are located in one section of the high school campus. The ninth grade teachers implemented Project Based Learning as their method of instruction and learning. While Project Based Learning has gained a lot of publicity both positive and negative, measurable data from the first 12 weeks has indicated some success with our students.
The failure rate for ninth graders for the first six weeks was the third lowest since 2006 and the lowest in the second six weeks since 2006. Attendance rate for the ninth graders was almost 97 percent for the first six weeks and a little above 96 percent for the second six weeks. That is a half percentage higher than last year’s freshmen and over a percent higher than the ninth grade class from 2009-10.
Our ninth graders have performed well to have so much change occur in their school life. One of the most significant improvements has been in the area of behavior. During the first 12 weeks of last year’s ninth graders 115 discipline referrals were written for a class of 130 students. During the first 12 weeks of this year’s only 43 referrals have been written for a ninth grad class of 160. After looking at all of the data it seems that our students are more engaged in the learning process.
There have been challenges to improve the process of Project Based Learning, but with the current data it looks as though the implementation has been worthwhile. We realize that we have a long way to go and our teachers and administrators know that there is much to learn and put into practice.
One of the positive factors to come out of this implementation has been the involvement of parents in their child’s learning. In fact this Wednesday afternoon the first meeting of a parent, student, and educator committee will occur at 5:30 p.m. at the high school.
Also, there is a link on the RHS webpage that is dedicated to the “9th Grade Academy.” This link is under development, but it does have some information about each class and it will continue to grow with additional information about assignments, rubrics, and projects for each class.
I appreciate the parents that have provided input and those that will serve on this committee. I also am proud of our ninth grade teachers and our administrators that have taken on a challenging task this year and are dedicated to ensuring that our students learn and succeed.