Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Only Nine Months to High School...

One of the most essential parts of a middle school educator's job is to best prepare their students for high school. Much of this preparation takes place in the classroom. A significant part takes place in school-related activities before, during, and after the school day. What many students and their parents may not realize is that a key element of a successful high school career begins with a thorough, well-prepared articulation between the current feeder middle school and eventual high school administrative teams. Today, almost nine months before our eighth graders arrive at the local high school as re-designated freshmen, we held our now-annual articulation meeting between the two local high schools and their three main feeder schools, of which we are one.

The meeting was held locally at the local high school. I find this decision to be somewhat of a blessing as given the hectic nature of a middle school administrator's day, it is rare that we have the opportunity to venture off campus during the work day. Thus, it was quite refreshing to spend a few minutes at our local high school and reconnect with some of our former students. These meetings also provide the opportunity to catch up and share stories with fellow local administrators and counselors, an important and usually overlooked aspect of our professional development. 

The purpose of the meeting is to calendar specific registration events for the upcoming semester for our eighth grade students and their parents as well as to discuss how effective the transition was for last year for the current ninth graders. From here, we agree upon various deadlines and consider possible changes to past practices. Not surprisingly, these conversations were quite professional and productive. I believe the high school staff is quite pleased with the work we do with the students we send them and likewise we appreciate the supports they provide at the high school level for our alumni. 

Having worked previously as a high school administrator, I will admit that the high schools often drive the decisions made at their feeder middle schools. After all, when the local high school brought Project Lead The Way to their campus, we followed suit just two years later. If they were to eliminate Spanish as a world language (which thankfully isn't even being considered not should it be), we would have to re-examine if we wanted to make a similar change on our campus. Aware of these common themes, I was surprised when the high school repeatedly asked for our input and support on their current practices. They wanted to know what we felt would work well. I sensed that they realized we knew our students the best up to this point, and they wanted to rely on our input to best serve them moving forward.

Tentative dates were set for parent nights, class schedule choices, and various placement tests. Looking at our successful 8th grade special education meetings with the high school teams in early March, we explored holding similar meetings for any suspected non-graduates (sadly, there are usually 1-3 students a year who do not average a 1.5 GPA in 8th grade, the district requirement to participate in the promotion ceremony) as well as for our 504 students. We've already put a date on the calendar to continue the articulation conversation with our local high school's counseling staff. One of the benefits of starting the articulation process early is the benefits of a not-completely-jam-packed calendar that we often see after the February break.

The meeting lasted just over an hour. I spent an extra 5-10 minutes connecting with some former students found scattered across the high school campus. From there, I walked back to our middle school's campus and reflected on how positive and upbeat the articulation meeting was. After spending three years with our students, I want to be certain that they're matriculating into a learning environment as safe and rigorous as the community we've built at our school. Meeting the administrative team and listening to their thought-out plan to best guide our students' for the next four years is not only refreshing but also reassuring that our students will be in good hands. 

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