- New research shows that a student's mindset — specifically whether they believe their abilities are fixed, or can be improved — can predict who flounders and who succeeds in 9th grade. Freshman year is a pivotal one, with performance and attendance pointing to who will eventually drop out, the authors of the study write in a piece for FutureEd.
- Fortunately, student mindsets can change. Studies show that even an online introduction to the concept that intelligence is something that can be developed can be enough to lower students' stress and improve their academic outcomes.
- While those results are good news, many 14- and 15-year-olds need more than a quick online program to make the adjustment to high school. What can really bolster long-term success is being taught, both at school and at home, that mistakes happen to everyone. They're opportunities to learn and improve, not indicators of failure or lack of intelligence, the researchers write.
One-off "days of welcome" or brief orientations are unlikely to help high-risk students successfully take on the high-school transition. School leaders should look to bigger picture tools to smooth their way. For instance, Stanford University’s Project for Education Research that Scales (PERTS) has made a growth mindset program available to 9th graders for free. Transition programs need to be engaging and focused on motivating students to succeed in school.
Research from the Baltimore Education Research Consortium found that preventing chronic absenteeism and re-engaging those who habitually absent in 9th grade will increase graduation rates. One tactic for accomplishing this is to deliver explicit instruction to middle school students about the importance of a high school diploma and how reliable attendance is required to get it. This instruction should ideally be incorporated into curriculum so that students encounter it organically throughout the school year.
Also important is supporting 9th grade teachers in implementing explicit strategies for preventing course failure in the first place, rather than relying credit recovery opportunities. Credit deficiencies can snowball, and prove an overwhelming obstacle to graduation down the road.