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Motivating and Helping 9th Graders


A story in The Dallas Morning News today about a new initiative in the Carrollton-Farmers Branch school district to improve the success of ninth graders, "Motivation, Extra Help Make Ninth Grade More Manageable," touches on a challenge faced by many school districts across the country: Making sure freshman year is not the beginning of an academic slide into four years of underachievement, or worse, dropping out of school.

The story notes that nearly a quarter of the district's 9th graders were held back after the 2004-05 school year.

It will be interesting to see what impact the initiative has on such statistics.


Ninth grade? The horse is already out of the barn. If kids have been in school for nine years, where have the resources been? Why hasn't anything ben accomplished? What's the holdup? Why aren't these kids remediated before ninth grade? The educational establishment can't get it done, again. Looks like we need to bring in some form of competition; charters, pilot schools, magnet schools, vouchers, etc. As long as schooling in this country remains essentially a monopoly, these problems are NEVER going away.

The key to making ninth grade more manageable is to provide incoming students with personal connection. For the past few years, our school has provided a new version on student caseload for school counselors. Having a designated school counselor for ninth grade students has kept the personal connection, but also a case manager who knows student's needs academically and socially. The school counselor meets with every parent and incoming 9th grader to do a personal interview and course selection; attends annual reviews for rising for ninth graders; but provides students with classroom guidance lessons on study skills and time management as well as other transitional topics. When students are surveyed at the end of their freshman year, they have responded positively to having the school counselor as their support. We certainly have seen many benefits from this new model.


Yesterday I wrote a comment regarding this piece and you chose not to print it? So much for the free exchange of ideas at Motivation Matters and EdWeek. I am a retired Massachusetts public school teacher (34 years) and I see the monopolized world of public education enjoyed by the educational establishment at the core of the problem in our public schools. Vouchers, charter, magnet, and pilot schools, etc., would all help address the stagnant mindset prevalent in so many of our schools.

I keep reading about all these problems in today's schools, such as lack of student motivation, lack of schools trusted by families, forced teaching mandates to improve test scores, diversity and integration problems, and all sorts of other school reforms with unforseen consequences that are forced upon schools. I view these things with amazement, since I have seen statistic after stunning statistic about improved test scores, improved reading, math, science; improvements in behavior and school climate -- all of these benefits have been realized, in school after school, which incorporates character education. Why there hasn't been any attention focused on the incredible outcomes of effective character education is unbelieveable to me, because it costs nothing to implement and the results are the answers everyone is seeking. I would challenge anyone serious about improving Americas' educational system to take a look at the power of character education to transform students, teachers and education. Many examples can be found amoung schools which are winners of the annual National Schools of Character Award, as well as those that participate in other character education initiatives such as Character Counts! and many others. With all the problems schools have now, I just can't see why character education is not sweeping the nation!

Students are often "held back" in 9th grade simply because they fail to complete enough credits to be entitled to be called sophomores. The following year, they will surely correct this problem.

What is far worse is that some students will never successfully complete the 9th grade academic requirements in a meaningful way. For example, my local high school will make students take required courses only twice. If they fail twice, they are nevertheless passed on to the next course. Some students never do pass freshman mathematics - even though they eventually do receive a high school diploma. The other problem this system causes is that the 10th grade math teachers have a load of students who cannot pass 9th grade math. What are they to do?

External motivation, while not long lasting, has been the preferred method of motivating students. For the most part it works. However, we are seeing a change in student behavior and external motivation is not as effective as it once was. Internal motivation takes a lot more planning and thinking as it is not the norm. Since there are fewer teachers that work in this area, there are not a lot of models to see. Activating the Desire to Learn by Bob Sullo is an ASCD book that does a simple job of describing internal motivation and how to implement it in the classroom. We are no longer able to assume that students come to school knowing how to behave. Educators must spend more time teaching the behaviors necessary for students to become successful in school as well as in life. Nobody said it would be easy.

Comments are now closed for this post.


Recent Comments

  • Jim Duplaga: External motivation, while not long lasting, has been the preferred read more
  • Jim Schatzman: Students are often "held back" in 9th grade simply because read more
  • Vicki Robb: I keep reading about all these problems in today's schools, read more
  • Paul Hoss: Kevin, Yesterday I wrote a comment regarding this piece and read more
  • Deborah Hardy: The key to making ninth grade more manageable is to read more




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