Easing Transitions

Robert Balfanz A student’s middle grades experience is critical to his or her life’s chances. It is during the middle grades that students either launch toward achievement and attainment, or slide off track and placed on a path of frustration, failure, and ultimately, early exit from the only secure path to adult success.

Students have always needed extra support when starting their first year of middle or high school. After two consecutive school years of interrupted in-person schooling during the global pandemic – and in acknowledgment of the profound inequities that shape the educational experience of young people – those supports are needed more than ever. In response, educators are searching for ways to create proactive processes and to increase the individual intentionality of school- and district-level bridge programs.  When planned specifically with incoming students in mind, these processes serve to connect educators across schools and to boost students’ sense of belonging, well-being, and academic success for the long term.

Equity priorities

  • Review student performance outcomes for patterns of disproportionate achievement between student groups and note the opportunity gaps that initiate and sustain these patterns.
  • Revisit curriculum with an equity lens.  Representation is culturally affirming and sustaining. Ensure all students see themselves and can make cultural connections to content.
  • Structure opportunities to help students process and learn to discuss structural racism and social justice issues with their peers and to take action to create a more equitable society beyond the school’s walls.