Guest column: Kamela Patton: Learning the Ropes: District Provides Program for Successful Transitions

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By Kamela Patton, Ph.D.

Superintendent, Collier County Public Schools

It is that time of year when students in the fifth and eighth grade begin to think about what it will be like to be a middle or high school student.

The transition from elementary school to middle school can be an anxious time for fifth grade students as well as either graders going from middle to high school.

This year I asked a group of sixth grade students what they most enjoyed during the first few weeks of school. Their first response was they “no longer would have to walk in straight lines!” which translates into more responsibility for the students.

Typically the transition includes additional responsibility — a new schedule, larger building, developing new relationships and higher academic expectations. Making sure that students have an informative transition that excites and engages them is the first and most significant step to ensuring a successful secondary experience.

A well-planned transition program provided for our current fifth and eighth grade students helps parents and students have greater peace of mind by reducing the anxiety and providing the groundwork for a successful transition.

The benefits of developing and implementing effective transition programs for students as they leave elementary school for middle school and middle school to high school is well documented. There is a significant body of research that strongly suggests systematic, thorough and ongoing transition programs benefit students both academically and socially.

With this in mind, School District staff, along with principal input, developed a new transition program that contains a consistent message and process that will be used in all our middle and high schools this year. This new process provides transportation for 6,623 students who are going either into or out of middle school. Once the students are at their new schools, they will be part of an engaging presentation culminating with a school tour.

This process will require two different transition days. Middle school students moving from eighth to ninth grade will visit their new schools on Friday, Feb. 28, and elementary school students moving from fifth to sixth grade on Friday, May 2. School administrators and teachers will accompany students to the Transition Day assemblies.

During these visits, participating students will be introduced to:

academic and extra-curricular programs offered across our district;

criteria for placement into Honors, Advanced Placement (AP), Advanced International Certificate of Education (AICE);

technical education programs and themed career academies offered in our District; and

fun activities, such as clubs, music programs, competitions, and sports to acclimate them to the middle and high school experience.

It is equally important to inform parents about the changes at the different school levels. To inform parents of the academic and extra-curricular offerings, requirements for movement from middle school to high school and high school graduation, along with information about clubs, competitions, and sports, we invite parents to an orientation meeting to learn about the transition to and from middle school.

The Parent Night-Orientation for Middle School (incoming sixth grade students) will occur on Thursday, Feb. 27, and the Parent Night-Orientation for High School (incoming ninth grade students) is Thursday, May 1.

The administrators, teachers, and staff at each participating middle and high school look forward to meeting with parents and explaining the academic and extra-curricular offerings at their schools. Administrators, teachers, counselors, supporting staff and student leaders will be on site to answer any questions that parents may have regarding the transition to middle or high school.

Parents who are unable to attend Parent Night-Orientation may access presentation materials through participating middle and high school websites. Materials may also be accessed through http://www.collierschools.com/schools/.

Collier County Public Schools understands the importance of an effective and informative transition/orientation to better inform our students and their parents about the increased rigor, responsibility, and options as they move to their next educational experience. Our district-wide Transition Day has the commitment of administrators, teachers, and counselors from all participating schools.

We are confident that our multi-faceted transition efforts and support will result in a smooth and beneficial transition for the 6,623 students participating in our district-wide student Transition Day and Parent Night-Orientation events.

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