High school is one of the most exciting times of a young person’s life. It signifies the completion of nine years basic education, Kindergarten to eighth grade, with four more to complete. With high school, there are more freedoms and opportunities. The security is gone, and again, students start over as the small fish in a huge pond. Some students become accustomed to the academic and social responsibilities of high school. Others struggle and often drop out before their senior year. Educators, parents, and school boards across the country question the strategies to prepare middle school students for high school. There are three ways, in my opinion, to prepare students for high school. All three stakeholders should work together to begin student transition before ninth grade, prepare students mentally for the coursework, and encourage students to explore the career and social options of high school.
First, preparation for high school should begin earlier than the eighth grade. The physical changes usually occur during the middle school years. School systems should encourage programs where high school sophomores talk with rising ninth graders about the academic and social differences between middle and high school. The wisdom of upper level students seems more credible than the words from paraprofessionals.
The days of team-teaching, outdoor gym, and exploratory classes are long gone. The student is one of 175 on a teacher’s roll, one of hundreds in a freshman class, and one of a few thousand in a school. Whereas middle school students are assigned to English, math, science, and social studies classes with a chance for performance art classes, high school students wish to have a slot opened for more exploratory classes. The typical high school schedule includes the core classes, language and health/physical education class, which are required for graduation. Students who are on the cusp between an F and a D will receive the F if efforts are inconsistent in the coursework. High school students are now facing “verified credit,” meaning that a passing score on a state standardized test confirms high school graduation. A graduation candidate can be pulled from the graduating line on graduation day if short verified credits.
Another meaningful tool for high school success is to prepare students mentally. Classes are longer at the high school level, approximately 70 to 90 minutes. At the high school level, teachers have a specialty in the subject area and not split between two subject areas, a trait among middle school instructors. The complaint “too much homework” multiplies five or six fold. To have homework in all subjects is not out of the ordinary in high school. There are higher expectations for high school students both academically and behaviorally, the reason for all to suggest achievement in the upper elementary and middle school curriculum. The lower grades leading to high school are prerequisites for the high school level. If a student misbehaves during instructional time, he or she is kicked out of school. The student loses out in the end, as missed classes, in and out of school suspensions, alternative settings, and eventual dismissals become a permanent remedy to behavioral concerns.
Finally, high school preparation should introduce students to the diverse population called our society. Some schools have magnet programs for students, like business education, performance/visual arts, and science/math schools. The prerequisites for graduation remain the same, but the opportunity to receive specialized training begin at the high school level. By graduation, a majority of students have the necessary credentials to enter the workforce. It demonstrates the practicality of schools, recognizing that many are not interested in attending college.
Providing magnet programs to students also encourages the sometimes forgotten student body to remain in school. We as a society still need cosmetologists, plumbers, electricians, and carpenters to keep our personal standards of living at its highest. Success in the future does not include the National Honor Society and straight A’s at the high school level. Because more local elementary and middle schools exist in a community, one local high school introduces the student to additional economic, ethnic, and social backgrounds-the citizens of our world. Indeed, rising freshmen face academic and culture shock during their first year of high school.
Both parents and teachers can adequately prepare students for the transition to high school by earlier introduction in a child’s academic career, mental preparation for the coursework, and creating a plan to make the best of the experience.