Supporting Transitions: Effective Ways to Guide Students Through Changes

Why institutional support for students matters.

Photo Credit: Teach for America

| January 19 2018,

6:44 pm

Schools exist in our collective consciousness as agents of both liberation and restraint. Schools can determine if you remain trapped in your cycle of poverty or if you’re able to escape its grasp. Full of both potential and harm, the influence of schools on lives, especially the lives of the marginalized, cannot be overstated.

Institutionalizing support for underprivileged students during unsettling times, taps into the potential of schools and their influence on futures. Transitions between middle school to high school and high school to college are key areas where room for improvement is gaping. The vital transition made between middle school and high school can have long term impacts on a student’s life. Ninth grade is one of the most failed grades and starting high school off on the wrong foot can potentially derail a student’s academic career and eventually their life outcomes.

As a first generation student, I often experienced isolation and confusion while trying to navigate school systems on my own. The most disorienting however, was my transition from middle school to high school. I remember stumbling through this awkward transition into late adolescence, feeling unprepared for the amount of change and decision making that awaited. I watched my privileged peers feel supported by their social capital which assisted them with new academic demands, college exploration and long term goals. While I, along with other marginalized students, didn’t fare as well. As privileged students eased their way into and throughout high school, underprivileged students were often left to grapple with these changes on their own; causing many to drop out and disengage. What we lacked in social capital, could have and should have, been supplemented with institutional support.

So what does an effective middle school to high school transition system look like? Primarily, the transition should be an effort that both middle schools and high schools are participating in. Out of date or misleading information is often given to students and families about their former and impending environments causing families and students to be ill prepared for their transition.

Furthermore, instituting formal transition programs have proven to positively impact students’ early high school experiences. Implementing better transitions programs can increase retention, influence graduation rates and ultimately impact lives. Programs such an orientations, mentoring and formal open house events for eighth graders and their parents could have drastic effects on decreasing the anxiety experienced by students as they transition into high school.

The views in this piece reflect those of Blavity, with funding provided by the Gates Foundation