Syncing Transition Efforts Middle to High School

The degree to which middle and high schools within a given district sync their transition efforts can make or break an adolescent's chance at success during this critical...

Written By smcneely

On May 3, 2013

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blogFor adolescents, the leap from middle to high school is fraught with anxiety and anticipation. It’s also a time of great concern for parents who release their children to an environment of more responsibility and choice. The degree to which middle and high schools within a given district sync their transition efforts can make or break an adolescent’s chance at success during this critical juncture. Key to effective transition efforts is a diverse and sustained district plan that engages both the middle and high schools in strategic structural and instructional decision-making linked directly to goals for student social, emotional, and academic readiness and success.

School-wide Strategies for Effective Transition

For many schools and districts, transition efforts are isolated to a few activities at the start and end of school with little thought to vertical articulation or diversity of strategies to ensure all 6-12th grade stakeholders are invested in the process. Research on effective middle to high school transition identifies four big-picture, or structural, considerations to maximize impact.

  • Diverse and sustained articulation activities
  • Supportive advisory groups
  • Personalized learning environments/ Decreased anonymity
  • Strategic engagement with families, community, & higher education partners

The nature of a well-articulated plan is that it brings separate parts together, in this case the middle and high schools. A well- articulated transition plan at the school-wide level is one that is thoughtfully constructed to smooth or ease students and their parents across the divide. Activities should be three-dimensional, attending to the emotional, social, and academic readiness of all students and extend across a student’s school career so the link is clear that successful transition is a valuable life skill. A comprehensive transition plan includes measures to make certain no child slips through the cracks (academically or otherwise) and enlists parents and community leaders as supports and guides along the way.

Classroom Level Strategies for Effective Transition

At the micro-level, schools and districts must focus their energies on the day to day work of classrooms to ensure all students (and their parents), as well as teachers adapt to the ever-increasing demands of 21st century teaching and learning. Promising, research-based practices at the classroom level include:

  • Data-driven, responsive, monitored intervention
  • Transparent curricular requirement conversations across grade levels & schools (educators, parents & students)
  • Highly qualified teachers & leaders
  • Rigorous, relevant instruction

It is not enough to say that a school is data-driven. Leaders and teachers must understand what the evidence of learning reveals about teaching practices and be able to adjust instruction and interventions accordingly. This, of course, calls for highly skilled teachers, but also leaders who are equipped to provide the kind of meaningful instructional feedback and professional development that can move pedagogy and practice. Students and their parents also need to be fully versed in the scope and sequence of learning with full understanding that decisions made along the 6-12th grade instructional path can have tremendous consequences in a child being college-ready by the end of 12th grade.

Effective transition is a complex and well-coordinated process, middle to high school, that is embedded into the fibers of the district and its schools. It’s bigger that a few front or year-end activities that link kids to counselors and parents to teachers. Use the recommendations above to evaluate current practices and better sync transition efforts for the good of the whole, 6th-12th grade.