In recent years, there has been an increased interest in the study of high school retention in the United States. A high school diploma is a basic indicator of educational attainment, yet graduation rates have remained flat for decades. When the U.S. Department of Education’s data is compared to the data provided on census information, the numbers do not compare. The Common Core of Data (CCD), which is the information used by the U.S. Department of Education (USDEC), does not account for student who are repeating the 9th grade. It follows students from the 9th – 12th grade, but there is no distinction for students who are in 9th grade for the second time, the numbers merely reflect 9th grade enrollment. If there was an adjust made in the CCD reporting data to demonstrate this difference, the data would reflect that graduation rates for Black and Hispanic students is worse than the 50% now reported by the USDEC and would be closer to the information reported in the 2000 Census. The CCD should be using data to measure the graduation rates of students who are entering the 9th grade.
The numbers in this distinction are astounding. Nationally, there are 12-13% more students in the 9th grade than the previous year in the 8th grade. For students of Black and Hispanic descent, there are 25% more students in 9th grade than the previous year’s 8th grade. In several states, Nebraska, New York, and Wisconsin, the 9th grade enrollment is 30% larger for Blacks and Hispanics than the previous year’s 8th grade (Roy & Mishel, 2008).
In all, there are more than a million students choosing to drop-out of high school annually. That amounts to seven thousand students every day. America needs its students to complete high school to sustain and increase the workforce’s skill level. It is difficult, if not impossible, for a person without a high school diploma to earn a livable wage in the United States in today’s economy while working only one job. By working two full-time jobs, a family of four barely can reach out of the poverty limits. Since most of these families end up requiring public assistance of some kind, they add financial and social costs to communities, states, and the nation. It is far less expensive to invest in programs at the high school level to help students earn their degrees and therefore doubling their lifetime earning potential over that of someone with no high school diploma.
Ninth grade is a significant academic year for many students. Upon entering high school, many students realize that their academic skills are lacking and they struggle to meet the basic requirements of their workload. Success academically in 9th grade is a strong indicator if a student will graduate. Many of these students have had negative experiences in school, feel alienated, and have decreased attendance rates and more referrals than peers in middle schools. By identifying these students as they enter 9th grade, and providing an alternative 9th grade educational program for them, it is possible that intervention may help them find success in school.
Traditional alternative education programs took place outside of the regular school setting. During the past decade, some of these programs have been adapted to accommodate students within the boundaries of the traditional, regular education classroom. Some programs incorporate the use of charter schools, magnet schools, and vocational schools to address this purpose. Many students succeed in alternative programs because they are encouraged to use their creativity and are not forced to conform within traditional educational standards. Much of the time they had been fighting the system as they battled against these issues in the traditional classroom. By finding a style of program where they can be successful, they are more likely to be engaged in the learning process, attend school, and complete the required academic regiment in order to earn their high school diploma. This, in turn, will open many more doors than having a General Equivalency Diploma (GED) or no type of certificate at all (Siegrist, Drawdy, Leech, Gibson, Stelzer, & Pate, 2010).
Roy, J., & Mishel, L. (2008). Using administrative data to estimate graduation rates: Challenges,
proposed solutions and their pitfalls. Education Policy Analysis Archives, 16(11), 2-27.
Siegrist, J., Drawdy, L., Leech, D., Gibson, N., Stelzer, J., & Pate, J. (2010). Alternative
education: New responses to an old problem. Journal Of Philosophy & History Of
Education, 60, 133-140.