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THE TALENT DEVELOPMENT HIGH SCHOOL MODEL: New Report Finds Substantial Gains in Course-Completion and Promotion Rates Among Ninth Graders

A new report on the Talent Development High School model found that first-time ninth graders made substantial gains in academic course credits earned and promotion rates, and modest improvements in attendance. The report, The Talent Development High School Model: Context, Components, and Initial Impacts on Ninth-Grade Students’ Engagement and Performance, examines five large, nonselective high schools from a northeastern, urban school district that have implemented the Talent Development model.

According to the report, high schools in the study were “characterized by low student engagement, poor prior preparation among entering ninth graders, low ninth-grade promotion rates, and continued problems in the upper grades.” More than 75 percent of the students entered ninth grade with reading and math skills below grade level, and fewer than 40 percent were on schedule to graduate four years after starting high school.

During the first year of the implementation of the Talent Development model, each of the five schools in the study created a Ninth Grade Success Academy. Within each academy, there are self-contained teams composed of at least four teachers from several disciplines, and 150 to 200 students. Schools also created extended-length class periods in order to provide a double mathematics courseload and a double reading/English courseload.

Results from the new Talent Development schools were measured against results from other district schools. In every case, students in the Talent Development schools outperformed their peers who were not in the program.

On average, about 43 percent of first-time ninth graders completed a core academic curriculum (at least five credits, with three credits in math, English, and science) prior to the implementation of the Talent Development model. After the program’s implementation, 56 percent of students-an increase of 13 percent-completed a core academic curriculum. By contrast, the percentage of first-time ninth graders who completed a core academic curriculum in non-Talent Development comparison schools increased only 4 percent during the same period.

The report concludes that the Talent Development model “helps keep ninth-grade students on-track for graduation.” Subsequent reports will track student outcomes for up to five follow-up years and will determine whether improvements in ninth-grade promotion rates translate into increased graduation rates.

The complete report is available at http://www.mdrc.org/publications/388/overview.html.

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