Easing kids' middle school transition improves HS graduation rate

By Jackie Faye - bio | email

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - One out of four students does not graduate high school in four years. It's a startling statistic that has teachers and parents alike looking for answers. The key to getting out of high school with a diploma is dealing with problems early.

Starting sixth grade can be a difficult age.

"They are taller than me, a lot of these 8th graders, and so it's very intimidating for the younger kids as they transition through all the different phases in their life," said Communities in Schools Development Coordinator Jordan Thie.
The organization helps students with problems throughout the school year. Games held at E.L. Wright Middle School are part of the program's summer academy to help incoming sixth graders.

"Teaching them about middle school, conflict resolution and preparing them for the big transition from fifth to 6th grade which can be a huge turning point for a lot of kids," said Thie.

A turning point that could be bad. "This is when we start seeing problems like attendance issues, tardiness issues, and especially behavioral problems," said Thie.

According to a John Hopkins University study, students that show these off-track indicators between 6th and 9th grade have no more than a 25 percent chance of graduating high school. "In helping these kids deal with these issues, in coaching them through this time, if we can reduce those behaviors we can greatly increase their chance in graduating high school," Thie said.

Breanna Surles went through the same summer academy. "I know how it was for me in 6th grade so I wanted to show them how it was because I've had experience doing the same thing," said Surles.

This summer, Breanna is offering her advice. "Do all their work and start off the school year good because it's going to be harder to catch up at the end of the year if you're slacking off at the beginning."

97 percent of the students enrolled in Communities in Schools passed on time over the past three years, 81 percent showed improved course achievement and 80 percent showed better attendance.

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