Symposium Brings Together State, National Educators to Reflect on Past Year, Focus on 9th Grade Success

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Symposium crowd

The Connecticut RISE Network hosts a two-day symposium at New Haven’s Blake Hotel

New Haven, CT (July 5, 2022) – Ninth-grade success, which is shown to improve high school graduation rates and postsecondary success, was the focus of the Connecticut RISE Network’s first-ever Grade 9 Summer Symposium this week.

Since 2015, the RISE Network has partnered with eight districts in its core network, serving over 13,000 students, that have collectively improved Grade 9 on-track rates from 64 percent to 84 percent and four-year high school graduation rates from 78 percent to 87 percent. The symposium, which concluded Tuesday at the Blake Hotel in New Haven, brought together 65 participants from 15 schools across Connecticut, Colorado, and Maryland.

“Over the past seven years, we’ve experienced the power of bringing together educators across schools and districts to advance shared goals. We’ve learned that freshman success unlocks doors of opportunity for our students, and we can change the trajectory of students’ lives by investing in a strong middle to high school transition,” said Emily Pallin, Executive Director at the Connecticut RISE Network. “We were thrilled to partner with talented and passionate educators from 15 schools and three states this past week, and hope this experience is just the beginning of an improvement journey to support all students in achieving high school and postsecondary success.”

RISE, a non-profit organization focused on improving student outcomes and closing opportunity gaps to ensure all students graduate with a plan and the skills and confidence to achieve college and career success, last year published a two-part report reflecting on the education landscape during the pandemic that used data and promising practices to help tell the story of how schools and families navigated remote and hybrid learning.

During the two-day Symposium, attendees learned about the research around the critical importance of the Grade 9 transition, explored data-driven practices to promote freshman success, planned improvements to enhance the freshman experience in their schools and districts, and connected with a community of fellow educators also working to promote success as students transition to, through, and beyond high schools.

A Waterbury educator commented, “It was a great opportunity to look at the different ways to improve on the Freshman Academy and the ninth grade experience not only for students, but also for us as teachers. It gave us the ability to think about what we wanted the Freshman Academy to look like and plan how we were going to get there.”

On the second day, educators from the RISE Network’s core partner schools shared inspiration with school teams seeking to reimagine and transform the freshman experience.

Symposium panel

The panel, moderated by Sam Purdy, RISE’s Deputy Director of Engagement, featured Dr. Dawn Brooks, Assistant Principal, Middletown High School; Peter Civitello, Supervisor of Data Integration and Postsecondary Planning, Meriden Public Schools; Jennifer Straub, Principal, Maloney High School; Phillip Mitchell, Grade 9 Team Leader and Social Studies teacher at Hartford Public High School; and Sharina Jimenez, Senior On-Track Coach, Brien McMahon High School.

During the panel, the school leaders shared their experiences launching freshman success efforts and offered key learnings.

“The individualized attention they (the students) get from On-Track Coaches is very important,” said Jimenez. “We provide them with a safe space and bridge the connection between teachers and students. Not every plan will work with every student – it is important to keep an open mind.”

They also discussed strategies, such as On-Track Data Teams and Summer Bridge programs, for schools to consider.

The RISE Network works with the following schools and districts as our core network partners:

  • East Hartford High School, East Hartford Public Schools
  • Hartford Public High School, Hartford Public Schools
  • Francis T. Maloney High School, Meriden Public Schools
  • Orville H. Platt High School, Meriden Public Schools
  • Manchester High School, Manchester Public Schools
  • Brien McMahon High School, Norwalk Public Schools
  • Middletown High School, Middletown Public Schools
  • Naugatuck High School, Naugatuck Public Schools
  • Westhill High School, Stamford Public Schools