School transitions bring considerable change for students. One particular tension is the increase in responsibility that happens when students go to high school, combined with less supervision and less support. Students can easily confuse having the responsibility for getting to class and getting work done on their own with having the freedom of choice of whether to do it or not.

Rather than waiting until students are almost done with high school and so far behind in credits they have virtually no chance of graduating, educators are now working to prevent students from failing in the first place.

Over the last decade, ninth grade early warning indicators have shifted the way that educators perceive and address the issue of high school dropout. Dropout prevention programs traditionally focused on students who had failed half or more of their classes the prior year, or were only occasionally coming to school; those students are obviously in need of support. At that point, Consortium research shows students have about a ten percent probability of graduating, or less. In the meantime, students who were just starting to struggle—those getting Ds or Fs in their classes or missing a day or two of class a month–were not viewed as in need of intervention.

Read the full interview with Elaine Allensworth on ninth grade at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation