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Making Successful Student Transitions To Middle and High SchoolTransitioning from one grade to the next can be quite stressful for all parties involved, whether it’s a fifth grader moving to middle school, or an eighth grader entering high school. Regardless of the specific grade mark that may initiate the shift, there will be major changes in curriculum, student populace, learning environment and overall atmosphere.

Going from elementary school to junior high or middle school can be overwhelming for a pre-teen. Researchers have found that some of the biggest concerns from a student perspective are in areas of logistics, social changes and academic difficulty. The concerns of middle school students entering high school may slightly differ. Students are at the age where friendships and social interaction are more influential. Though they may look forward to making friends, they may be worried about being bullied. The stress of making good grades is also more prevalent as high school is the final step before pursuing post-secondary education or entering the workforce.

Increasingly, schools are recognizing the need for transitional assistance that involves students, parents, and educators.  In State College, the entire school district has come together to implement meaningful transition programs. Each incoming sixth grader to Mount Nittany Middle School gets a Q & A session with current students along with a guided tour. Administrators visit the elementary school for another information session, and in May, parents are invited to tour the middle school with their student(s).

SCASD also has the unique Delta Program that allows for a more personalized middle school and high school learning experience. In addition to smaller classes and weekly advising, there are more internship opportunities and other valuable services. Incoming students are able to shadow current students and meet with the principal to discuss their potential enrollment. Before a new school year begins, administrators are already preparing to assist new students in their transition.

“We try to do a lot of things over the summer and before school even lets out, because this could be a new school not just only for fifth and sixth graders, but also any grade, because it’s a new building, some kids haven’t been here,” says Delta Program Principal Jon Downs.

“When we know who’s on the roster, we have them come in before school lets out for next year, just to have them walk through the building, answer questions they have, and we have them back twice more in the summer.”

The work done by SCASD is but one example of how we can make transitions easier. The key to successful programs is to work together, starting with tours before school begins, information sessions, and meeting with school counselors. Parents can also visit the school website with students to become familiar with policy and curriculum information, as well as attend school events to remain on the same page.  When staff members of the school know what to expect from their students, and students have their parents helping to reinforce what will be expected of them, the transition from one school to the next is much easier.