Summer Learning Propels Back to School Optimism

Posted on August 21, 2018 in CEO Updates

Students who finish ninth grade on-track (with at least six credits) are four times more likely to graduate than students who fall behind in their first year of high school.

Because of this, ten years ago we established Ninth Grade Counts, a network of summer transition programs that provide summer learning opportunities to incoming ninth graders with a focus on serving academic-priority students—those at the greatest risk of dropping out. Since 2009, more than 8,500 students have participated.

Nicole, an energetic and outgoing teen, who wants to pursue a military medical career, is one of the students who participated in this summer’s Ninth Grade Counts program at the Native American Youth & Family Center (NAYA). At NAYA she built relationships with peers (including Native American peers), learned personal management strategies to help transition into high school, and reflected on her goals for the future. “High school is where it actually matters,” says Nicole. “It’s where we try to figure out what we want to become. The future seems far away but it’s already here.”

Through close collaboration with seven school districts, All Hands Raised and our partners developed a common process that ensures all partner programs are able to offer students, like Nicole, a 0.5 elective credit, giving them a strong start to high school and increasing their overall chances of graduating. Last year, 96% of students who completed Ninth Grade Counts received this elective credit.

“Students in our Ninth Grade Counts program have the opportunity to connect with kids their own age facing similar issues. They become immersed in their cultural history, and gain a stronger academic footing to propel their future success towards graduation and beyond. For some of these students, this program makes all the difference,” said NAYA Executive Director Paul Lumley.

Collective impact efforts like Ninth Grade Counts are contributing to increases in our local high school graduation rates. Over the past five years, the graduation rate in Multnomah County has increased by nine percentage points. For American Indian/Alaska Native students it has increased by 12 percentage points.

For Nicole, being connected to NAYA through Ninth Grade Counts has given her hope for the future and sharpened her goal of being the first in her family to graduate from high school. Creating a sense of belonging is what Ninth Grade Counts is all about — making sure students feel supported and empowered through the critical transition from middle to high school — and beyond.

Thank you to this summer’s partner programs: Boys & Girls Clubs of Portland Metropolitan Area, Centennial High School, David Douglas High School, El Programa Hispano Católico, Elevate Oregon. Girls Inc. of the Pacific Northwest, Gresham High School, Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization, Latino Network, Metropolitan Family Service, Native American Youth & Family Center, Open School, Portland Leadership Foundation, Portland Parks & Recreation, Portland Public Schools, Reynolds High School, Self Enhancement, Inc. and the University of Portland.

Special thanks to U.S. Bank for ten years of vision, leadership and support of our shared work to improve students’ transition into ninth grade, and ultimately their completion of high school.

Our shared impact is made possible by the generous support of our community. Thank you!