Middle School Students Aren’t Being Prepared for High School

There’s a purpose for middle school, but is it being fulfilled based on students’ readiness for high school?

Jovan Manning, 7th Grade scholar at 7 Pillars Career Academy, is a student of mine and leader in the EdLanta Student Coalition. He recently spoke about what students in his generation want to see in public schools and why he believes more students need the educational options schools like 7 Pillars offer.

The U.S. Education Department reports  the high school graduation rate is at an all-time high at 83.2%. Four out of five students are successful in course completion and graduate within four years. 

“But what happens to the 20% of students who don’t graduate, are they automatically at risk of entering the criminal system?” – Jovan

While these statistics sound like a reason for a standing ovation, they are overshadowed by the crisis that is sweeping the United States. While 80% of high school seniors receive a diploma, less than half of those are able to proficiently read or complete math problems. 

We are celebrating increased numbers in high school graduates, but all of these graduates aren’t college or career ready. Deficiency in reading and math doesn’t begin in high school. 

Many high school seniors aren’t college or workforce ready.

Middle school teachers must review from 4th and 5th data and provide supports to get students ready for high school. High school readiness starts way before 9th grade.

During a recent EdLanta town hall, our student leaders asked this question to a top ranking educational leader. What’s preventing Black and brown high school seniors to make it across the stage to graduation but not successfully matriculate through college or aren’t prepared for careers? There are many reasons that attribute to this problem. 

See more on the EdLanta Student Coalition townhall

Students are being passed onto the next grade when they should be held back. The quality and rigor of lessons provided isn’t helping advance students’ knowledge or bring students up to grade level standards. Teachers (both in the classroom and parents) lack effectiveness and efficiency. Students lack initiative and motivation for learning. School data collected through benchmarks, assessments and classwork highlights this as well as how students are unable to complete grade-level tasks or meet standards.

The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), the largest standardized test administered in the United States, reports that fewer than 40 percent of graduating seniors have mastered reading and math and are poorly equipped for college and real world life. These students who are passed to the next grade are at a serious disadvantage and have an increased chance of falling behind and dropping out of college.

Are public school leaders considering these questions. . . 

  • How many of these students went to tutoring, study hall, Saturday school, after school programming for support? 
  • Were the parents actively engaged? 
  • How was education continued at home from the classroom? 

All of this matters in how students are prepared for high school. Changing this begins with how we reform the middle school model in order to focus on high school and college readiness.

See what Black boys are saying is needed in public schools

This should include SEL (social, emotional learning), character education, advanced electives such as coding, home economics, app development, foreign languages, restorative based discipline programs, and rigorous academics.

5 Areas That Help Prepare Middle Students for High School 

  1. Family Engagement – Families must be engaged in grades 6th – 8th just as much as elementary school but in different capacities.
  2. Student Services – Staff must meet the social, emotional and academic needs of all students and this requires counselors and interventionists. 
  3. Student Activities –  Students are provided with  an outlet to be creative, be competitive, and just have fun!
  4. Student Leadership – Student led conferences are held to empower students to have an active voice in their academic careers or organizations like the EdLanta Student Coalition. 
  5. School Culture – Staff understands the school’s vision and the leadership creates the expectation of excellence in all areas and are a key driver of equity and quality education. 

7 Pillars Career Academy is a partner of EdLanta and base school of the EdLanta Student Coalition. Scholars in my classes at 7PCA were interviewed for this article in hopes to continue the conversation on reimagining schools and the work of the ESC.


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