Who is likely to finish HS? You can tell in 8th grade

We had a Curriculum Committee meeting on Monday, and I’ve been pondering some very interesting data presented by Dr. Ritu Khanna, our head of research.  According to recent studies,  it’s possible to pinpoint the students that are at risk for not completing high school based on two risk factors in 8th grade:  having a GPA of less than 2.0 and an attendance rate lower than 87.5 percent.

According to a study of almost 2. 6 million student records from urban school districts across the country,  89 percent of students who did not possess either risk factor in 8th grade and who passed all of their academic core courses (math, English, social studies or science) in 9th grade graduated in four years.  By contrast, only 55 percent of students who possessed one risk factor but still passed all of their 9th grade core courses were able to graduate in four years.  And only 24 percent of students who possessed both risk factors in the 8th grade — even though they passed all of their 9th grade core courses — graduated in four years.  Scary.

Curious what the data for 8th graders at SF middle schools is? Funny you should ask — here it is!

8th grade students with a Fall 2010 GPA of less than 2.0 AND instructional time attendance of less than 87.5%, by SF middle school*

School # of Students Percent of 8th
A.P. Giannini 6 3.3
Aptos 5 2.7
Bessie Carmichael K-8 2 1.1
Everett 26 14.3
Francisco 17 9.2
Hoover 26 14.3
ISA/Enola Maxwell 10 5.5
James Denman 11 6.0
James Lick 2 1.1
Marina 24 13.2
Martin Luther King, Jr. 4 2.2
Paul Revere 1 0.5
Presidio 15 8.2
Rooftop 1 0.5
Roosevelt 4 2.2
Visitacion Valley 9 4.9
Willie L. Brown 7 3.8

*I noticed as I was entering the data that Claire Lilienthal is missing;a commenter noticed that Lawton is also missing. I’ll find that data and add it later.

What I think is interesting about this data is the high rate of students with risk factors at several schools that are otherwise high-performing (Hoover and Presidio, primarily, but also Marina). At some of the lower-performing schools (Horace Mann and Willie Brown in particular) the relative lack of students with risk factors might be related to those schools being very diligent with their anti-truancy efforts. Anyway, the real point is that now we know there are 182 students currently in the 8th grade who are statistically at least, very at-risk. I’ve asked for this data to be transmitted to each middle school (and the high schools where these students will move next year), so that schools can develop plans to support them.


8 responses to “Who is likely to finish HS? You can tell in 8th grade

  1. When will there be a serious movement to point out that in schools most whites will move to avoid, Asian kids go to and make it to UCs. When will we focus on the hours studying gap? When I was a kid, many of the older teachers would constantly tell kids how important it was to get As, how much better Lowell was than the next high school, how important grades are to one’s future, how important it is to study several hours a day. Many of the African American kids listened and did this. Sadly most have left San Francisco, and now teachers tolerate bad behavior, tolerate improper English, tolerate not doing homework, and are afraid to offend them by pointing out that if Asians can do it, anyone can. We are not serving poor African American and Latino students by not addressing this key part of the achievement gap. We are hurting them. We need to address the tough issues. To close the achievement gap, we must convince all students that obsessing over grades and scholastic achievement is a better way of life which leads to better results. These are the facts, and they are undisputed.

  2. There’s a mistake on that chart: Everett and Hoover do not have the same number of 8th graders (Everett is a small school and Hoover is huge), so the percentages cannot be the same.
    Can you repost this chart with the correct numbers?

  3. Adrienne Johnstone

    This is a very interesting study. Lawton, Fong Yu, SFCommunity and Horace Mann are missing. It will be interesting to see if the K-8s and smaller programs have anything to offer here statistically. Thanks.

  4. This is an excellent example of how data can be used to specifically identify those students that may need help. Great…

  5. Interesting to note that Aptos, despite it’s large size, diverse student body, etc. , shows up as a school that seems to be doing well on this measure. Clearly, they are doing something RIGHT in this regard – and doing it on top of being provided the lowest per pupil funding for WSF among all SFUSD middle schools. I think the staff would say that it is many things, including the school wide focus on visual and performing arts as an anchor to get kids excited about school and want to be there (among other things.)

    I’ll continue to ask (regarding the “Quality Middle School” plan): When will the district take a hard look at what schools are doing well, understand why they are doing well, and work to replicate success?

    And yet, Aptos isn’t perfect – what is being done by the district middle school administration explored to understand what needs improvement and why? These are questions that elementary school families cannot address – yet that has been the overwhelming majority voice in the QMS discussions.

  6. I think the problem is that schools are addicted to kids graduating in 13 years. As they noted in ‘Waiting for Superman,’ to succeed you need to adjust the level of work to what it takes to be successful. Here we have a set number of days and what happens happens. We should hold kids back who are in this predicament in 8th grade, probably even in 7th grade. Give them a remedial year. It’s better to start life one year later and go to college and graduate than rush into a life as a low wage service worker.

    Another factor is we are too politically correct. People are afraid to say the truth, that students need to study more and if they do, they will succeed. It’s considered gauche to point out that Asian students study more hours than anyone else in California, including whites (maybe not San Francisco, where the white public school parent population, unlike most places, is almost all college graduates), and that this outstanding behavior should be emulated in other communities, be it white, black or Latino or other. Studying many hours each weekend, not watching TV during the week, parents not watching TV so as to help their children with homework rather than claiming they’re too tired (they can at least give it their best effort), these are the type of behaviors we need to convince kids to have if they want to succeed in school and in life.

    The achievement gap is almost entirely a result of the hours studying and hours watching TV gap. If we fix that, all races are capable, we won’t have an achievement gap.

  7. Oops! You’re right. Thanks for pointing that out.

  8. Rachel, it looks as if Lawton is missing, too…