Transitioning from elementary to middle school is challenging whether you’re a student or a parent/guardian. Aside from the change in educational demand, the pace of the school year often feels as if it quickens. The relationship dynamic between parents/guardians and teachers also evolves. Teachers in middle school can have anywhere from 100 to 250 students, as compared to the 25 to 50 in elementary. It can feel like there isn’t as much time for personal attention.
At the same time, middle school is an important period for your child to start getting ready for the next step: high school and beyond, including career, college, and/or military. In fact, students are required by law to receive preparation for high school and beyond in the seventh and/or eighth grade.
Given these changes and expectations, how can you and your child best prepare for success?
Simple: Remove as many unknowns as possible by planning ahead.
Whether your student is just starting middle school or preparing to enter eighth grade, you can best avoid feeling overwhelmed and missing important deadlines by knowing the highlights of the year, and particularly the ways in which you and your child can prepare for success in what comes next after middle school.
July–August: Back to School
If offered, attend your campus’ student/parent event. These events cover information about the school day and contacts on the campus. It’s also an opportunity to have any specific questions answered.
Remember to obtain a copy of the school supply list and consider getting a planner. This will ensure that your student has all the necessary materials to keep track of their classwork and be successful. This video includes more information for how your child can cultivate good study habits.
If you are new to a school or have not yet found time to set up your online parent account, do so as soon as possible. This is a pivotal element in staying up-to-date with your student’s progress. You can expect your student to be given state tests, often called benchmark assessments. These exams measure student progress in each core content area and allow for targeted support in any areas needing attention. This is one of the many reasons why staying up-to-date with your student’s progress is important.
Electives are often an exciting part of middle school. Your student’s passion gets to be a part of their day! Plus electives can help your child discover passions and interests that can reveal future career opportunities. Make sure you’re aware of expectations about grades, attendance, and policies specific to the program. Attending parent meetings, making sure you are a part of a class-specific social media feed, or simply sharing an email or phone call with an educator can launch a great year.
Some Tips for Course Scheduling
If you’re planning to enroll at a new campus, do so as soon as the school allows. This increases your chances of getting into the classes you and your student prefer.
Many districts offer advanced courses in middle school. Many of those courses have prerequisites. If you want your student to take advanced coursework, make sure they are aware of and complete the prerequisites.
If you are unsure if your student is signed up for courses that may be too advanced or too easy, consult with your child’s teachers. The state test scores you receive in or before July will show your student’s mastery of grade-level content. This information is extremely helpful in knowing if your student is ready for advanced coursework. You should also think about how much time your student is willing and able to dedicate to their coursework. And if you’re unsure, you can always consult your school counselor for additional guidance!
If your student wants to change courses, each campus has a schedule change policy. You should contact your school counselor immediately. It is also helpful to get information on tutorial sessions your student’s teachers offer. This will allow your student to get additional support before deciding whether to change a course.
Looking for more information about scheduling and courses? This video shares helpful information about choosing courses in middle school.
This is the time of year when things are settling. It’s also the best time to establish contact with your student’s teachers. Teachers are often difficult to contact during the day because of their schedule, but they can be reached easily online. Your parent access portal is designed to help you stay up-to-date on your student’s grades. In most cases, your portal can be set up to alert you of missing assignments or grades and allows you to email teachers.
This is also when students will begin learning or reviewing their college and career planning components. Typically students will receive information regarding careers throughout their time in middle school and engage in a variety of personality, career, and job skills assessments. Guidance curriculum topics throughout the school year touch on these topics and extend to parents and guardians through meetings and parent nights.
As the November holiday approaches, encourage your student to check in with their teachers on projected semester grades. In the event that they have fallen behind or are missing assignments, this will give them an opportunity to catch up.
The end of December typically marks the end of the first semester. Grades from the first half of the school year are combined for the first semester average.
After the December holiday, districts begin preparing for the upcoming year. You can expect to attend student and parent meetings to discuss course selection for the next year. If your student is in sixth or seventh grade, consider having conversations about the courses they’ve taken so far. Which ones engage them the most? This will help ensure that their course selections for next year match their interests. For students in eighth grade, all the learning that has taken place up to this point will be used to guide a student’s decision in selecting their endorsement.
What’s an endorsement, anyway? An endorsement is a cluster of classes students will take in high school that relates to one of five areas: STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics), Business and Industry, Public Service, Arts and Humanities, and Multidisciplinary Studies. These areas also branch out to different career pathways. Endorsements are an opportunity for students to dig a bit deeper on a particular industry or career pathway that may interest them.
Your child will select their endorsement before the ninth grade, and you and their counselor will need to sign off on that choice. Often, endorsement selection happens in eighth grade, right before students register for high school classes. Texas OnCourse’s MapMyGrad is chock-full of helpful information about endorsements and career pathways for you and your student to explore, so you feel knowledgeable and empowered before choosing an endorsement. MapMyGrad includes an easy, fun quiz students can take to find out what the best endorsement for them might be. They can also explore the courses offered at their intended high school and draft a graduation plan to discuss with their counselor.
Texas students take at least two STAAR tests each year. These are the STAAR Tests your child will take, by grade level:
- Sixth Grade: Math and Reading
- Seventh Grade: Math, Reading, and Writing
- Eighth Grade: Math, Reading, Science, and Social Studies
Students are given three opportunities during their eighth grade year to pass math and reading. Otherwise, each STAAR test is provided once.
It’s important that your student does well on these exams. Consider saving the dates for STAAR testing on your calendar, finding out more information about your student’s test day schedule, and helping your student prepare by getting a good night’s sleep.
Your student may be eligible to receive STAAR testing accommodations, depending on their needs. Confirm which accommodations will be provided during your student’s annual Admission, Review, and Dismissal meeting (you may hear your school or teacher refer to this as ARD).
This time of year is also another opportunity to attend meetings your student’s school offers for discussing and selecting courses for next year.
As spring break approaches, encourage your student to check in with their teachers on their projected final grade. If they have fallen behind or are missing assignments, this will give them an opportunity to get caught up
The end of May typically marks the end of the second semester of school. Grades from the second half of the school year are combined for a cumulative final grade.