Middle School to High School Transition-Part 1

As a high school administrator, I would hear parents say to me on a weekly basis, “I don’t understand what is going on, they did so well in middle school.”  Grades slip, sometimes they tend to get into trouble that before, they were never even around, and I can see why parents wonder what is going on.  So what has happened?  Let’s unravel it in a short time here.

One of the biggest mysteries is when the middle school student has solid grades, maybe even becomes a member of the National Junior Honor Society and they get to high school and it seems like they are a different person.  There can be lots of explanations, more than we have time to address here.  But one of the most common ones is that the student just wasn’t prepared for high school.  So how can we help students get ready for tougher academic standards, increased competition, and increased distractions?  Let’s take a look at these three.

Tougher Academic Standards – In middle school oftentimes good grades are often more easily earned by students.  It’s not that the material is easier, students just engage differently and their understanding of the content flows for them more easily.  As parents, we can help this transition by talking with students about how to keep going when they experience frustration, defeat, or disappointment.  Let’s say they take a test and they don’t do as well on it as they thought they would do.  How do they handle that personally?  By sitting down with them as parents and examining how they study, how do they review the material from day-to-day will help.  It may be that as the class work gets more difficult that they need a different way to study.  What I’ve often seen is that students “get” the material without much effort in middle school and then when they get to high school those same approaches that have worked for them in the past no longer work.  Students don’t see this as something that needs revision and when they face some difficulties or opposition of sorts, they give up or simply just keep doing the same and accept the lower results.

By staying on top of day-to-day assignments, looking at the students work, the teachers’ corrections and making a connection with how they are studying, we can assist students in identifying the changes needed more quickly before it is too late.   I often spoke with parents after the fact, after a quarter of school was done or even later and they are frustrated.  If students don’t have to study much in middle school, it is very likely that they will need to study more, and even learn how to study in high school.  They need help with this transition and this can be done in advance before they need those skills in order that they are in place in advance.

In Part 2 of this Middle School to High School Transition, we will look at how to handle the increased competition that takes place in high school.