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The eighth-to-ninth grade transition: How afterschool can help

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The eighth-to-ninth grade transition: How afterschool can help

This is first in a series of blogs the Afterschool Alliance will publish exploring the challenges of transitioning to high school, and how out-of-school time can help. 

The transition from middle school to high school is a tumultuous one, a transition in which students encounter many possible obstacles.  They must navigate shifting social structures and build new relationships in a new and unfamiliar environment, all while dealing with more difficult and rigorous coursework than in previous years.

A number of studies have shown that how students fare in the eighth-to-ninth grade transition can be a powerful predictor of whether or not they will graduate from high school on time, or at all.  Educational data show that there are consistently more students in the ninth grade than in either the eighth or the tenth grades, a phenomenon that experts commonly refer to as the ‘ninth grade bulge.’  This is largely attributable to two factors: first, more students fail the ninth grade than any other grade, and second, more students are held back in ninth grade than any other grade. According to the National High School Center, “a disproportionate number of students who are held back in ninth grade subsequently drop out.”

Even students who don’t drop out or need to repeat ninth grade face significant difficulties during the transition.  According to Education Digest, ninth graders not only have the lowest GPAs, the most missed classes, and the most referrals for misbehavior of all high school grade levels, but they also receive the majority of all failing grades in high schools.

While the data may make this transition seem daunting, the fact of the matter is that afterschool and summer learning programs can play a vital role in easing this transition for children.  These programs can provide students with a valuable sense of continuity and community in this volatile period of change, and can help them deal with the social and emotional challenges associated with entering a new school.

Afterschool and summer learning programs can also provide important academic supports to students before and after this transition.  Research indicates that a lack of academic preparedness is a leading cause for students’ need to repeat ninth grade, and out-of-school programming can help build up a solid academic foundation for students to help make sure that they are ready for the more demanding curricula of high school classes.  Summer learning programs in particular can play a pivotal role by limiting summer learning loss between eighth and ninth grades.

While children face many challenges and obstacles when making the transition into high school, the academic, social, and emotional supports provided by out-of-school programming can help make the shift easier while providing kids with a safe learning environment. 

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New issue brief showcasing afterschool promoting civic engagement

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BY: Nikki Yamashiro      11/01/18

New issue brief: A big-picture approach to wellness

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BY: Guest Blogger      06/26/18

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By May Sagbakken, executive director of the New Mexico Out-of-School Time Network All children and youth deserve access to high-quality afterschool and summer learning programs that prepare them for school, college, careers, and life. While many students across the country are receiving valuable...

BY: Guest Blogger      06/05/18

New resources! National and state-level fact sheets on afterschool

As spring finally arrives in Washington, D.C., so does a suite of new resources highlighting key facts and stats on afterschool!   The first resource is a new fact sheet on afterschool, which summarizes positive outcomes for students who participate in programs, as well as the supports...

BY: Nikki Yamashiro      04/13/18

New issue brief: A big-picture approach to wellness

From empowering students to take charge of their health to training staff to model healthy behaviors, afterschool and summer learning programs across the country are offering safe and supportive environments that promote young people’s healthy eating and physical activity, as well as build...

BY: Nikki Yamashiro      09/07/18

An Ideal Opportunity: The Role of Afterschool in Social and Emotional Learning

High school students in The Possibility Project, New York, N.Y., tackle issues close to their heart, taking on leadership roles to enact change in their communities through performing arts and community action. At Girls on the Run councils located in all 50 states, plus D.C., girls run with their...

BY: Nikki Yamashiro      05/04/18

The prevalence of adverse childhood experiences

Close to half of children (45 percent) in the U.S. have experienced at least one adverse childhood experience (ACE)—an experience that could have negative and lasting effects on one’s health and wellbeing, such as depression, drug abuse, and poor physical health. One in 9 children...

BY: Nikki Yamashiro      03/09/18

"Building Workforce Skills in Afterschool" highlights promising practices for all ages

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BY: Nikki Yamashiro      11/14/17