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Keeping 9th Grade Students “On Track” to Graduation

About On-Track Indicators

As early as 9th grade, student engagement and achievement can offer strong signals about which students are on the path to on-time graduation, and which are at risk of dropping out. The sooner schools have specific information about how to identify struggling students, the earlier they can provide support through targeted interventions designed to get students back on the path to graduation. We can use data to develop early-warning indicators that identify students who are “on track” for graduation, and those that may need extra help.

In addition to helping individual students, these indicators can also be used to determine whether schools are effectively addressing the most important needs of entering 9thgrade students—and to identify schools that successfully keep or get students back on track to graduate.

About Our Study

The Research Alliance is studying current on-track indicators, working to identify even stronger ones, and developing strategies to integrate these powerful indicators into research and practice throughout the City. 

We began by examining 9th grade academic performance and engagement measures, in order to evaluate the DOE’s current on-track indicator, and to explore the potential for other, stronger early indicators.

Our analysis revealed that that the DOE’s current indicator (earning 10 or more credits in 9th grade) is effective. However, we found an even stronger indicator that a student is on-track for on-time graduation: whether he or she earns 10 or more credits and passes at least one Regents exam in 9thgrade.

The strength of the on-track indicator we identified is good news, since it suggests that a student’s chances of graduating can be improved in school, in spite of external factors that may be beyond a school’s reach. 

We are now building on this work to develop other indicators that students are on track for success at different points in time, including indicators that students are well prepared for college.


This project was made possible through general operating support to the Research Alliance.