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California Department of Education News Release
Release: #11-94
November 29, 2011
Contact: Tina Jung
E-mail: communications@cde.ca.gov
Phone: 916-319-0818

Schools Chief Torlakson Reacts to Study on Strategies to Help
Middle School Students Transition to High School and Graduation

SACRAMENTO—Middle and high schools can reduce the dropout rate by working together to plan the transition to high school, holding activities to familiarize students with the campus, and helping them feel connected to their new schools, according to a new report issued by the California Comprehensive Center at WestEd.

"The transition from middle school to high school can be challenging for students," Torlakson said. "The good news is that some simple steps to make students welcome, can give them the confidence they need to stay on track and stay in school."

The report, Making the Move: Transition Strategies at California Schools with High Graduation Rates, is designed to identify best practices among high schools and feeder middle schools.

The California Comprehensive Center at WestEd and its partner, the American Institutes for Research, worked with the California Department of Education to identify and gather information on schools with higher graduation rates than were statistically predicted for certain subgroups of students. The work of the Center is supported with a grant from the U.S. Department of Education.

Researchers then interviewed administrators and conducted focus groups at some of the high schools and feeder middle schools. The research helped identify programs and strategies that help middle grade students transition to high school and ultimately graduate in preparation for college and careers.

"Successfully transitioning students from middle grades to high schools is vitally important to California education," said Tom Parrish, Managing Research Scientist for the American Institutes for Research. "Students crossing this bridge successfully are much more likely to stay in school and graduate."

This study identified successful strategies that include:

  • Creating opportunities for staff across school levels to jointly plan and collaborate;
  • Arranging activities for transitioning students to become familiar with the high school campus and culture prior to enrollment;
  • Ensuring all students feel connected to the new school;
  • Identifying students who are struggling prior to transition; and
  • Preparing timely and individualized supports for such students.

Researchers also found some prevailing themes in these strategies. For example, enabling collaboration among teachers, providing students with many opportunities for academic support, helping students feel connected to school, having a strong counseling program, maintaining high expectations for all students, and the importance of having a caring staff and caring environment.

"Steps like these are a central thrust of our Blueprint for Great Schools report," added Torlakson. "That is, great schools know they have to meet the needs of the whole student—not just their academic needs—to give them every chance to succeed."

For a copy of Making the Move: Transition Strategies at California Schools with High Graduation Rates, please visit California Comprehensive Center at WestEd's Web site at California Comprehensive Center at WestEd [Note: The preceding links is no longer active.]. For more information on Torlakson's A Blueprint for Great Schools, please visit the California Department of Education's Web site at A Blueprint For Great Schools - Initiatives & Programs.

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Tom Torlakson — State Superintendent of Public Instruction
Communications Division, Room 5206, 916-319-0818, Fax 916-319-0100

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