Starting 9th grade is not just another grade transition; it is a major life change. Students who find the transition especially frustrating and discouraging pay an emotional toll, and this exacerbates behavior and learning problems.

Unsuccessful 9th grade transitions are correlated with repeating the grade, disconnecting from school, and dropping out. Approximately 22% of students repeat ninth grade (more than any other grade). In a 2012 report National High School Center indicates data showing that “In 1982, ninth grade enrollment was 4% higher than eighth grade enrollment. In 2011, this bulge had grown to a 12% increase in enrollment in the ninth grade.”

Jon Zaff, director of the Center for Promise at Tufts University
“When kids fall behind and have to repeat a grade, they can wind up in a vicious cycle of peer judgment and low self-esteem. We are ending up with something now called the ninth-grade bulge,” explains Zaff, “which means a glut of students who have to repeat the grade. So they are stigmatized socially as well as academically, which can also lead to their finding it easier to just give up.”

9th-graders have:

  • The lowest grade point average
  • The most missed classes
  • The majority of failing grades
  • More misbehavior referrals than any other high school grade level
  • 9th grade has the highest enrollment rate in high schools, mainly due to the fact that approximately 22% of students repeat 9th-grade classes.
  • The transition from middle school to high school can be a time of loneliness, isolation, and disconnection for some students. This transition period is frequently marked by declining academic performance, increased absences, and increased behavior disturbances.
  • Freshmen are more at risk than any other school-aged group.

Do you know a high school student or young adult who is struggling at school or home? Get help today by joining a Safe Harbor local family support group. If you live outside of the Birmingham area then you can get help right now with our online parenting series Calming the Storm.

ERIC Institute of Education Science –
National High School Center –
The Atlantic –

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Executive Director at The Safe Harbor
All of Sean's allowance goes to photography, all of his free time goes to his family, and all of his hope is in Christ. Visit our forums and receive our newsletter to have a role in Safe Harbor's ministry to families.

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