During a recent workshop that I did for the Arkansas Department of Education, I was working with Professional Learning Teams from each school in a district. As we explored collaboration among teachers, we expanded the conversation to collaboration between schools. In the July 18th blog, I identified the concept of team vs franchise as I saw it exist in schools. Perhaps one of the most critical franchise relationships exists today between middle schools and high schools.
According to the 2005 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), fewer than one third of the students in eighth grade can read and write with proficiency. In math, only 30 percent of students in eighth grade perform at the proficient level, and nearly a third score below the basic level.
In 2005, 15 High Schools That Works (HSTW) states had a ninth grade failure rate exceeding 10%, nine states had failure rates exceeding 15% and two states had a failure rate exceeding 20%. The median 9th grade failure rate in HSTW states was 10%. This failure decreases the probability that these students will complete high school. For full article- Giving Students a Chance to Achieve: Getting Off to a Fast and Successful Start in Grade Nine
HSTW discovered early in their work that middle schools were critical partners in increasing graduation rates and higher student performance. For full article- Making Middle Grades Work
Frequently I find that 8th and 9th grade teachers have never observed in each others schools and classrooms. Wouldn’t it be valuable for 8th grade teachers to be observing their students from the previous year in October 9th grade classrooms? That observation would provide great data on how their instruction last year prepared students for high school. Wouldn’t it be great if 9th grade teachers observed 8th graders at the beginning of the year? When they received those students next year they’d know “how far they came” in the previous year instead of just “what skills they are missing”. Wouldn’t it be great if 8th grade instruction in the second half of the year was designed by 8th and 9th grade teachers working as a team?
Mark Thompson, director of the National Educator Program and sponsor of SLC Success Conference, a yearly national conference on small learning communities suggests that…
…the most difficult transition years are 6th grade, 9th grade and freshman in college; and all for the same two reasons. 1) There is a marked change in environment and expectations for the student and 2) there is almost no collaboration between the faculty of the new institution and the previous one. To that end, it is easy for 8th and 9th grade teachers to collaborate and here are some easy strategies:
-As Steve Barkley suggested, set up times to observe each other’s classroom. One day out of the school year for each school would make a sizeable difference.
-Set up a retreat for the 9th grade teachers and the 8th grade teachers from the feeder schools. Have it facilitated and walk out with a better understanding of what is required of all in attendance, and a structure for an email-based collaboration. I recently had the privilege of facilitating a retreat like this in Owensboro, Kentucky for the freshman faculty of Owensboro Community College and the 12th grade faculty of the feeder high schools and it was a “eureka” moment for all involved.
-Have an ongoing email-based collaboration (as mentioned above) where 9th grade teachers are in the habit of dropping an email to an 8th grade teacher about a particular student or vice versa.
What strategies are you implementing to build a team focused on freshman success. Are there elementary to middle school transition strategies that could be adopted?