Foundational Research

Supporting the Transition from Middle School to High School

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Middle school academic performance is a key predictor of success in ninth grade, where course completion is the most accurate predictor of graduation. The middle school years lay a foundation for success in high school, college, and career. Unfortunately, many students leave middle school underprepared for the rigors of high school work. This lack of readiness, combined with the socio- emotional changes students experience during this time, has a major impact on high school and post-secondary success:

  • Ninth graders have the lowest grade point average, the most missed classes, and more behavior referrals compared to other high school grade levels.
  • Approximately 22 percent of students repeat a ninth-grade course.
  • More students fail ninth grade than any other grade in high school.
  • Students who fail ninth grade are at a high risk of dropping out.
  • One-third of high school dropouts never made it beyond the ninth grade.

Weak foundational skills and gaps in prerequisite concepts make accessing grade-level learning targets difficult, and often leads to course failure, which places students at risk of dropping out.

Learn how educators can take steps to support struggling students as soon as they are identified and how districts can prepare students for high school.