Pittsburgh Building 'Nation' of 9th Graders
District hopes weeklong orientation to high school helps students gain confidence.
Bitter experience has shown this city that if students are going to leave school, they are most likely to do it between the 8th and 9th grades. To combat that problem, the school district has launched a full-on campaign to get its rising freshmen into high school and keep them there.
Two weeks before school opened, the district welcomed more than 800 incoming 9th graders—about one-third of the class—to an unusual orientation. It was not the typical high school program, in which freshmen spend a half-day or so getting acquainted with their school’s floor plan and programs.
Pittsburgh’s session lasted a full week in mid-August. Students walked the hallways and learned school rules, but they also shook their booties to hip-hop aerobics and went on a scavenger hunt. They discussed a novel they’d all read over the summer, and talked about why it’s important to show up for class and get good grades. They also went with their teachers to a wooded campsite, where they managed an aerial ropes course and shrieked their way across a log suspended...
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