Sunday, August 15, 2010

Exciting Transitions

Tomorrow is the first day back to school for freshman in our district.  In fact, tomorrow is the first day back to school for all students entering the sixth grade as well. Making transitions into new schools have become the focus for school districts across the nation simply because educators, parents, and communities have come to realize the importance of those years when it comes to student success. Research indicates that schools do themselves a favor when they focus on helping students through transition years.

According to educational reform research, students who are strongly supported during the freshman year have a much better chance of succeeding academically throughout the remaining high school years. Students making a transition to a new school may often worry about getting lost in the building, not knowing who to ask for help, and being overwhelmed by all of the "new" rules.  As a result, middle schools and high schools are implementing an orientation day specifically designed to help students transition into their new school.

For our students coming to the high school level, this process began last spring when students were still in eighth grade. Prior to the start of course registration, eighth grade parents and their students were invited to the high school for a presentation on the school, its staff, programs, clubs and athletics, and an introduction to the registration process.  Information packets were provided regarding the school and course work. Additionally, counselors discussed new graduation requirements, freshman course offerings, and then allowed students to schedule an appointment to register for their freshman classes.  While informative, this presentation is the first of many discussions that students and parents will engage in regarding their upcoming high school experience and their academics.

There are many other programs that have been set up to address the freshman transition  year. Some include the following:
  • Freshman Academy model where students have common, subject-area teachers, are provided a framework for academic structure which may include in-depth work on study skills, consistent discipline with understood consequences, and participation in a curriculum designed to meet high expectations and standards.
  • Adviser/Advisee programs that offers a specific time for students in grades 9-12 to meet with teacher advisers.  During the Adviser/Advisee period, students participate in activities designed specifically for supporting all students and addressing their concerns at each grade level.  
  • Peer Mentor programs also offer important help to rising freshmen when it comes to getting to know the school and its culture.  Often these peer mentors are instrumental in helping younger students in overcoming the fear of not fitting in at a different school.

  Regardless of which approach a school offers, as long as there is recognition that the transition year sets the tone for the remaining years, schools will encourage confident students and a successful school experience.

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