ation rates, particularly in high-poverty environments. 1 And
everyone from classroom teachers to the National Governors
At the beginning of each middle school year, teachers stand near their classroom doors and greet arriving students. They smile, shake a few hands, and direct the wide-eyed students to their seats, remarking to themselves, They’re Association recognizes the powerful influence that high meaningful lives and create workforce readiness.
school graduation has on individuals’ capacities to build
It’s interesting, too, how some adults revert to adolescent
responses when stressed by conflict, failure, and risk taking.
getting shorter every year.
By June, after a year of body growth, intense hormones,
If we learn to handle issues constructively during these for-
mative years, ages 10–15, we tend to respond positively to
intellectual sparring, and distancing themselves from anything challenges later on.
“so last year,” these young adolescents are dramatically dif-
So, if high school success, navigating the larger world, and
ferent beings. But even as educators pause to acknowledge
discovering the direction we want our lives to take all have
the newly competent students standing before them who can roots in young adolescence, why would anyone leave the
hold their own in political debates and band competitions, a
crop of fresh young faces once again demands its turn at bat.
And this is where it gets interesting.
Those Important Middle Years
transition into this impressionable phase to chance?
Give Me Five
Five mind-sets for educators are key to designing successful
transition programs for incoming middle school students.
The way we handle life in later years can often be traced back
to specific experiences in middle school; it’s that transfor-
Understanding Students’ Concern about Belonging
mative. Robert Balfanz, a principal research scientist at Johns Belonging is one of the primary concerns for new middle-level
Hopkins University, presents compelling evidence that the
middle school experience has direct correlation with gradu-
students; addressing it is crucial for a successful transition.
Teachers and administrators should assure students that