November 2011

Transitioning from Middle School to High School


Johns Hopkins University researchers call ninth grade a “make-or-break year.” Young adolescents entering high school look forward to having more choices and making new or more friends; however, they are also concerned about having harder work and struggling with the academic challenges of high school, making lower grades, unfamiliar school situations, getting lost in a larger, unfamiliar school, and changes in relationships with parents.


As young adolescents make the transition into high school, many experience a decline in grades and attendance; they view themselves more negatively and experience an increased need for friendships.


Middle school students want to know what high school is going to be like, and they and their parents need to know about and understand high school programs and procedures. In particular, parents need to be actively involved in the decisions their eighth-graders are asked to make about classes they will take in ninth grade and understand the long-term effects of the course decisions.


What can parents do to help make ninth grade a successful year for their child?


What Parents Should Know:

  • A partnership between the school and parents has been identified as a best practice to increase graduation rates.
  • Adolescence is a confusing time for students due to the many emotional and physical changes that occur at this age.
  • The 8th grade in middle school is nothing like 9th grade in high school.
  • The type of middle school transition program the school has is a predictor of future success in the 9th grade.
  • 9th grade students worry about transitioning to high school.


What Does Research Say About the Transition From Middle School to High School?

  • Success or failure during the 9th grade year often sets the tone for a student’s entire high school career.
  • If a student is successful during 9th grade, there is a higher likelihood the student will graduate and enjoy the high school experience.
  • There is a higher risk of school drop out related to negative school experiences.
  • When parents are involved in their child’s transition to high school, they tend to stay involved in their child’s school experiences.
  • When parents are involved in their child’s high school experiences:
    • Students have higher achievement.
    • Students are better adjusted.
    • Students are less likely to drop out of school.


What Parents Can Do to Assist with the Transition to High School:

  • Discuss the high school course work and schedule with your child and guidance counselor. Find opportunities to visit the high school and talk about what it will be like.
  • Stay involved in school during the middle school years so the transition will be easy for you into the high school environment. This will make you confident that your involvement makes a difference in your child’s academic success.
  • Seek information from teachers and guidance counselors to help you gain the knowledge and skills you need to monitor and guide your child’s education and understand the critical role you play in your teen’s college advocate.
  • Develop the attitude, “I expect my child to go to college,” instead of, “I’m hoping my child attends college.” Start making college visits and seeking information on various college programs with your child beginning in middle school and continuing through the high school years.


Tips for Getting Involved in Your Child’s Learning Experiences:

  • Get to know the teachers. Ask about their expectations. Find out how much time your child should spend on homework each night. Ask what is the best way to get in touch if you have questions.
  • Serve as an advisor for activities (i.e. chess club).
  • Be in the school. It is a great way to get a feel for what is going on.
  • Volunteer to chaperone school dances and drive kids to school sports competitions.
  • Go to school meeting and events.
  • Post a family calendar in a central place. Write down important school dates, including parent meetings and due dates.


Other Tips:

  • Talk it out. Show enthusiasm about the high school experience. It may rub off on your children.
  • Be prepared. The workload in high school is more demanding. Help your teen develop good study habits and organization.
  • Iron out the details. Make sure transportation arrangements are clear. Your teen needs to arrive at school with all necessary materials and be on time.
  • Lend and ear. High school is a big change. Be ready to talk about issues that arise, and be supportive and open to communication with your child.


Tips for Successful Transition taken from PIRC Facts Cornell University Cooperative Extension Jefferson County