From the Middle: Transitions

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Closing the Achievement Gap for African American Males

Diane
By Diane McMillan

Associate Director

Managing successful transitions from elementary to middle school is tough in and of itself. Managing that transition for students who are already falling into the achievement gap is even tougher. I attended a recent conference in Louisville, KY and attended a session where the Jefferson County Public Schools (JPCS) presented a program that is closing that gap and keeping African American males engaged in school. I was impressed and thought that this program was a model for students who are at risk of failure.

The Street Academy, a Saturday school program offered by the Louisville Urban League, is meeting with great success for a group of struggling male students. The goals of the Street Academy is to assist African American males attain proficiency in reading, increase school attendance, and reduce negative behavior in school. Presently, 40 young men in grades 4-7 attend the Academy, which is taught by JCPS teachers, Chris Rasheed, Terry Humphrey, and Kevin Garner. The program's founder and director is Dr. Joseph McMillan.

The Street Academy uses a unique instructional model. The Academy provides academic enrichment, direct instruction in reading and math, and a full component of tai chi, a martial art that teaches stress reduction and body control.

“Our students must learn with their hearts and their minds,” said Baba Serakali, a program mentor and tai chi instructor. Serakali said that tai chi teaches the students to control their body which teaches them discipline in the classroom. This translates into better academic performance, as students modify their behavior to become more focused on their school work.

Rasheed said, “Our model depends on the parents, the instructors, and the students. The parents are like the batteries and the program are the like the wires that connects to the light bulb (students). When the batteries are charged, the wires supply the energy, and the light bulb comes on.”

In 2007, 29 students at high risk for failure participated in the program, with 100% advancing to the next grade level. ~from the 2007 Annual Report, Louisville Urban League.


More on the Elementary to Middle School Transition

This time of year is busy for middle school administrators as they plan for the transition of two grades, 8th grade to high school and elementary to middle school. While the transition from middle school to high school may seem to get more attention, a successful transition to middle school from elementary is critical for future student success.


Transition Activities

~From ERIC Digest

  • The following examples may be helpful in selecting or creating a transition plan to best suit your community:
  • The need for curriculum articulation for all teachers at all levels should be clearly understood. Teachers from sending and receiving schools can meet to discuss curriculum and instructional practices.
  • Teachers from receiving schools can visit the sending schools to initiate personal contacts.
  • Letters can be sent home welcoming students and families, and inviting them to school activities.
  • Parent Teacher Association members can call each new family welcoming them to the school.
  • Guidance counselors and special education teachers from each school can meet to share information.
  • Students of the receiving school can become "ambassadors" of goodwill. Student-to-student contact, preceded by a discussion of what information might be useful to new students, can help establish personal links. Sending-school students can be paired with receiving-school students for visitation days.
  • Letters between students in the sending and receiving schools can be exchanged.
  • Programs new to the entering students can be highlighted during student visitations.
  • An unstructured open house can be held prior to the opening day of school; a structured evening open house can be held during the second week of school.
  • A school handbook can be distributed to each family. Be sure to include phone numbers; school history; yearly schedules; teachers identified by grade level, team, and subject taught; bell schedules; lunch procedures; and other practical information.

Other Website Articles of Interest

Elementary to Middle School Transition: Five Helpful Hints for Parents
(includes a Parent Tip Sheet)
Transition to Middle School

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