Spotlights
Helping students make the leap - from elementary to middle school
In honor of national Middle Level Education Month, this March we are taking a closer look at Baltimore County Public Schools’ wonderful middle schools.
03/21/2016

Spotlight

Middle school.

Just those two simple words can spark fear in elementary school students and their parents.

Why?  Because books, movies, television shows, older siblings, comedians, and others offer countless negative stories about how tough middle school is. Students worry about changing classes and having more teachers. Will they lose their old friends? Will they make new friends? Will they be able to open the combination lock on their lockers? Will teachers help them if the work seems too challenging?

As the school year began, Dr. Penelope Martin-Knox and Dr. Marshall Scott, Baltimore County Public Schools assistant superintendents for middle schools, met with all of the Grade 6 students in Baltimore County, and one of the topics they discussed were these fears. The still new middle school students happily reported that middle school was not the scary place that had been described to them. They enjoyed having more teachers, more choices, more afterschool activities, and more diverse friends.

But rather than just waiting for students to discover that middle school is not what it is rumored to be, under the leadership of Superintendent Dr. S. Dallas Dance, BCPS has implemented numerous strategies to assist students in making that critical transition both from elementary to middle school and also from middle to high school. Here are just some of the strategies in place:

Early Entry Day

On Monday, Aug. 22, BCPS will host a half-day “Early Entry Day" for rising Grades 6 and 9 students for the 2016–2017 school year. Students will visit their classrooms following their class schedule, have a complimentary lunch in the cafeteria, practice opening their lockers, tour the school building, meet teachers and school counselors, and learn about extracurricular activities. Transportation will be provided for those students who will take buses to middle and high school. The intent is to allow the students to get to know each other and to feel more confident on the first day of school.

Summer Math Academies

BCPS also is funding summer camps to help rising Grade 6 students with foundational mathematics skills and to support rising Grade 9 students to prepare for success with Algebra I. Algebra is a gateway to advanced high school and college math. Middle and high school classes will use dynamic, online materials as well as face-to-face instruction.

School-based transition activities

BCPS middle schools work closely with their feeder elementary schools and high schools work closely with their feeder middle schools throughout the year to collaborate on student placement and to implement a variety of transition activities. Often staff from middle schools visit elementary schools and staff from high schools visit middle schools to talk about what to expect. Students in Grades 5 and 8 are taken on tours of their new schools in the spring and parent information nights and tours are offered. Summer orientation is focused on informal fun at open houses and ice cream socials.

Some schools take their own unique approaches. Hereford Middle School, for example, welcomes two students from each feeder elementary school to shadow a Grade 6 student for a day in January. These students then share what they saw and experienced with their fellow Grade 5 students.

Summer bridge programs

Many middle schools host summer “bridge” programs to allow rising Grade 6 students to spend a few days at their new school, getting to know the building, meeting peers and teachers, building study and organizational skills, and learning more about the opportunities that middle school offers. Deep Creek Middle’s summer bridge program, Eagle Leaders Camp, has been offered since 2012. The weeklong program addresses reading and math skills and offers lessons on time management, bullying, conflict resolution, and middle school success.

To learn more about BCPS middle schools, please see profiles of each school at http://www.bcps.org/news/spotlight_archives/.

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