The Transition to Middle School
ContentsMiddle Level Transition Concerns
Effective and Comprehensive Transition Programs
The School Community
For More Information
ForumsEducation and Kids
Students make many transitions during their years of schooling: from home
to school, elementary to middle school, middle to high
school, and high school to college or work. These transitions are usually
major events in the lives of students and parents. The
stresses created by these transitions can be minimized when the new
environment is responsive to each particular age group. This
Digest presents a brief overview of some of the issues involved in the
transition from elementary to middle school and provides
suggestions for transition programs and activities. The term "middle
level schools" includes all middle grade and junior high school
Middle Level Transition Concerns
Student comments and behaviors give insight into their concerns as they move to a new school. Students in Gwinnett County, Georgia, when asked about their concerns in facing a school transition, mentioned the following worries: (1) getting to class on time, (2) finding lockers, (3) keeping up with "materials," (4) finding lunchrooms and bathrooms, (5) getting on the right bus to go home, (6) getting through the crowded halls, and (7) remembering which class to go to next (Weldy, 1991). In addition to these concerns, other studies include personal safety (aggressive and violent behaviors of other students) as a prominent concern of students (Anderman & Kimweli, 1997; Arowosafe & Irvin, 1992; Odegaard & Heath, 1992).
Teachers have also listed specific challenges to students making the transition from a sixth-grade elementary to a middle level school (Weldy, 1991, pp. 84-85): (1) changing classes; (2) reduced parent involvement; (3) more teachers; (4) no recess, no free time; (5) new grading standards and procedures; (6) more peer pressure; (7) developmental differences between boys and girls; (8) cliquishness; (9) fear of new, larger, more impersonal school; (10) accepting more responsibility for their own actions; (11) dealing with older children; (12) merging with students from five elementary schools; (13) unrealistic parental expectations; (14) lack of experience in dealing with extracurricular activities; (15) unfamiliarity with student lockers; (16) following the school schedule; (17) longer-range assignments; (18) coping with adolescent physical development; and, for some, (19) social immaturity; and (20) a lack of basic skills.
Students' perceptions of the quality of school life decline as they progress from elementary to secondary school, with the largest decline occurring during the transition to a middle level school (Diemert, 1992). Meeting social needs during the transition from an elementary to a middle level school is a major consideration because most programs focus more on academics and regulations. In Diemert's survey of 23 fifth-graders in a middle level school, of the top 11 (out of 23 possible) needs identified by boys, 6 were social, 2 were academic, 2 were procedural, and 1 was academic and procedural. Of the top 10 needs identified by girls, 5 were social, 2 were academic, and 3 were procedural.
Students who move into middle level schools from elementary grades that rotate students between classes at least part of the day reported feeling better prepared to enter a middle level school. Waggoner (1994) investigated transition concerns and the self-esteem of 171 sixth-graders. Students from teamed settings in elementary schools demonstrated a stronger affiliation in school activities and fewer concerns about the transition to junior high school than students in self-contained sixth-grade classrooms. Teachers in teamed settings felt their students exhibited fewer indicators of stress related to progressing to junior high school than teachers of students in self-contained sixth-grade classrooms. Sixty-six percent of all students surveyed believed they would be better prepared for seventh grade if they had more than one sixth-grade teacher (Waggoner, 1994).
In middle level schools, it is important to emphasize mastery and improvement, rather than relative ability and social comparison. Empirical evidence suggests that middle schools tend to stress relative ability and competition among students more, and effort and improvement less, leading to a decline in task goals, ability goals, and academic efficacy. Working in groups, focusing on effort and improvement, and being given choices all support a more positive task-focused goal structure (Anderman & Midgley, 1996).
Effective and Comprehensive Transition Programs
The transition into middle level schools is accompanied by intellectual, moral, social, emotional, and physical changes taking place in at least part of the transition group at any given time. Students making the transition into middle level schools need to receive assistance prior to, during, and after the move so that their social, psychological, and academic well-being is not compromised.
Effective and comprehensive transition programs help (1) build a sense of community; (2) respond to the needs and concerns of the students; and (3) provide appropriate, faceted approaches to facilitate the transition process. The following guidelines are suggested for planning transition programs (Weldy, 1991):
The following examples may be helpful in selecting or creating a transition plan to best suit your community:
The School Community
The students, teachers, administrators, parents, staff, business partners, and residents in each school community contribute to the establishment, communication, and refinement of the various factors that define their middle level school. Effective middle level transition programs establish a sense of belonging among the multiple constituencies involved, appropriately respond to the needs of the incoming students, and provide multiple opportunities for all constituencies to develop a meaningful role during the transition process as well as maintain that role throughout the school year.
For More Information
Anderman, Eric M., Hicks, Lynley H., & Maehr, Martin L. (1994, February). PRESENT AND POSSIBLE SELVES ACROSS THE TRANSITION TO MIDDLE GRADES SCHOOL. Paper presented at the biennial meeting of the Society for Research on Adolescence, San Diego, CA. ED 396 193.
Anderman, Eric M., & Kimweli, David M. S. (1997). Victimization and safety in schools serving early adolescents. JOURNAL OF EARLY ADOLESCENCE, 17(4), 408-438.
Anderman, Eric M., Maehr, Martin L., & Midgley, Carol. (1996, April). SCHOOL REFORM AND THE TRANSITION TO MIDDLE SCHOOL. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association, New York. ED 396 440.
Anderman, Eric M., & Midgley, Carol. (1996, March). CHANGES IN ACHIEVEMENT GOAL ORIENTATIONS AFTER THE TRANSITION TO MIDDLE SCHOOL. Paper presented at the biennial meeting of the Society for Research on Adolescence, Boston, MA. ED 396 226.
Arowosafe, Donna Schumacher, & Irvin, Judith L. (1992). Transition to a middle level school: What kids say. MIDDLE SCHOOL JOURNAL, 24(2), 15-20. EJ 454 360.
Diemert, Amy. (1992). A NEEDS ASSESSMENT OF FIFTH GRADE STUDENTS IN A MIDDLE SCHOOL. Acton, MA: Author. ED 362 332.
Eccles, Jacquelynne S., Wigfield, Allan, Midgley, Carol, Reuman, David, Mac Iver, Douglas, & Feldlaufer, Harriet. (1993). Negative effects of traditional middle schools on students' motivation. ELEMENTARY SCHOOL JOURNAL, 93(5), 553- 574. EJ 464 543.
Mizelle, Nancy B., & Mullins, Elizabeth. (1997). Transition into and out of middle school. In Judith L. Irvin (Ed.), WHAT CURRENT RESEARCH SAYS TO THE MIDDLE LEVEL PRACTITIONER. Columbus, OH: National Middle School Association.
Odegaard, Sandra L., & Heath, Jay A. (1992). Assisting the elementary school student in the transition to a middle level school. MIDDLE SCHOOL JOURNAL, 24(2), 21-25. EJ 454 361.
Waggoner, Jan E. (1994, October). The relationship between instructional teaming and self-esteem of sixth graders transitioning to a traditional junior high. Paper presented at a meeting of the Illinois Association of Teacher Educators, Lisle, IL. ED 379 278.
Weldy, Gilbert R. (Ed.). (1991). STRONGER SCHOOL TRANSITIONS IMPROVE STUDENT ACHIEVEMENT: A FINAL REPORT ON A THREE-YEAR DEMONSTRATION PROJECT "STRENGTHENING SCHOOL TRANSITIONS FOR STUDENTS K-13." Reston, VA: National Association of Secondary School Principals. ED 338 985.
Weldy, Gilbert R. (1995). Critical transitions. SCHOOLS IN THE MIDDLE, 4(3), 4-7. EJ 499 102.
ED422119 98 The Transition to Middle School. ERIC Digest. Author: Schumacher, Donna
ERIC Clearinghouse on Elementary and Early Childhood Education, Champaign, IL.
This publication was funded by the Office of Educational Research and Improvement, U.S. Department of Education, under contract no. RR93002007. The opinions expressed in this report do not necessarily reflect the positions or policies of OERI.
THIS DIGEST WAS CREATED BY ERIC, THE EDUCATIONAL RESOURCES INFORMATION CENTER. FOR MORE INFORMATION ABOUT ERIC, CONTACT ACCESS ERIC 1-800-LET-ERIC
|Back to the Top|