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You and Your Middle School Child
The middle school years are a time of transition: emotional, physical, social and academic. Your support and involvement are essential at this stage of your child's growth. Research shows that preteens do better in school when their parents are involved in their lives.
—Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings
You can help your child transition from elementary to middle school. You can discuss the concerns he or she may have before starting middle school: learning from many teachers, getting to class on time, finding his or her locker, getting on the right bus, knowing where the cafeteria is, navigating crowded hallways and doing more homework. You may also want to talk about the physical and social changes that will take place and the social pressures that often occur in the middle school years.
Transitioning: moving to a new stage of life as from elementary school to middle school or from middle school to high school.
Many parents feel that because their child is growing up, they can lessen their involvement with the school. At this time, more than ever, parents need to be involved. Continue to communicate often with your child, the teachers, and the principal, vice principal or both.
Visit the school. Be aware of the place where your child learns. You may want to ask the following questions:
- Is there a transition program for students leaving elementary school and entering junior high or middle school?
- Are counselors available who can help your child transition to middle school?
- Are teachers and principals accessible to parents?
- When are the parents' nights, sports and art events, and other times when parents are invited to visit the school?
- When can parents volunteer at the school?
Help your child organize a schedule. You can show your child how to organize time, activities and schoolwork and how to stick to a plan. Help your child set goals with a time limit for completing particular tasks.
Listen to your middle school child. Communication is key in the preteen years. Be sensitive to any fears your child might have. Sometimes it is helpful to reserve comments and actions until you have facts about a situation and know how your child thinks and feels about it.
Discuss peer pressure. While riding in a car or doing chores together, you might want to describe "what if" situations. Ask, "How would you handle a particular situation?" Offer your thoughts. Encourage by always letting your child know he or she can count on you.
Welcome and get to know your child's friends. At home, you can watch how your child interacts with them. Look for the influence others have on your child. Also, try to get to know, and be in contact with, the parents of your 17 child's friends.
Become aware of physical and emotional changes in your child. Boys and girls are noticing physical changes in themselves and in each other. Discuss these changes and be factual. Also, express your own values and morals. If you are uncomfortable discussing these things, have your child talk with a doctor or trusted relative. Ask about the sex education programs offered at the school.
Reading in the Middle School Years
Reading is an important part of the middle school years. Many of the subjects your child studies in middle school involve much more reading than in elementary school. Check with your child's school counselor to see what your child's reading level is. If your child reads below grade level, check with the school to see if additional reading programs, supplemental educational services (SES) or reading specialists are available. Under No Child Left Behind, for example, the Striving Readers program aims to improve the reading skills of middle school and high school students who are reading below grade level. The Striving Readers program is available to Title I middle and high schools that have a significant percentage or number of students reading below grade level.
Looking to the Future
Help your child focus on academic needs for high school and college. Encourage your child to take challenging classes. You may want to ask these questions:
- Will the classes your child takes help him or her get into college, as well as be competitive in college and the workplace?
- Is your child having trouble with any classes he or she is taking?
- What tutoring programs are available?
- Does your child have good study habits: does he or she read what is necessary to complete the assignment and hand in assignments on time?
- Does your child have the supplies needed to complete the assignment?
Be sure that your child starts thinking about college early, both from an academic and financial point of view. What courses are needed for the career your child is interested in? What amount of money will you be able to contribute to your child's college expenses? What resources are available for financial aid? The U.S. Department of Education has a new resource that can help you figure out the financial commitments you will need to make. The FAFSA4caster at http://www.fafsa4caster.ed.gov can help you calculate college costs before your child applies to college.
Your child is entering a phase of life that produces great change. Your active support and participation will help ensure a successful transition into middle school and then to high school.
Academic Performance at the Eighth Grade
What are the academic expectations for your child at the end of eighth grade? What should your child know at this point to be able to advance and perform high school work? Although specific curriculum is set by each state, and varies from state to state, the following achievement levels can give you an idea of what to expect your child to know and be able to do in reading,4 mathematics5 and science6 when your child is in the eighth grade. These achievement levels build on those for the fourth grade, but the knowledge is more in-depth and complicated. They are taken from the NAEP frameworks in reading4, math5 and science6 at the "proficient" level.
4 http://nces.ed.gov/nationsreportcard/reading/achieveall.asp (2005)
5 http://nces.ed.gov/nationsreportcard/mathematics/achieveall.asp (2006)
6 http://nces.ed.gov/nationsreportcard/science/achieveall.asp (2002)
When reading, an eighth-grade student should be able to:
- Show an overall understanding of the content read, including inferred meaning as well as factual information;
- Interpret what he/she reads to understand broader themes or lessons and draw conclusions;
- Make connections between the material read and his/her own experiences, including other reading experiences; and
- Identify some of the strategies authors use to write the material.
Eighth-grade students should be able to:
- Show an understanding of the concepts and procedures in complex problems in five content areas: number properties and operations, measurement, geometry, data analysis and probability, and algebra;
- Apply the concepts and procedures in complex problems in the five content areas above;
- Reason, defend ideas and give supporting examples;
- Understand the connections between fractions, percents, decimals and other mathematical areas, such as algebra and functions;
- Apply arithmetic operations to solve problems in practical situations, understand quantity and spatial relationships, and convey reasoning skills beyond arithmetic;
- Determine what data are necessary in problem solving;
- Compare and contrast mathematical ideas and generate examples;
- Draw conclusions from data and graphs, apply properties of informal geometry and accurately use technology tools; and
- Understand the process of gathering and organizing data and be able to calculate, evaluate and communicate results within the area of statistics and probability.
Eighth-grade students should be able to:
- Understand earth, physical and life sciences. For example, students should be able to interpret graphic information, design simple investigations and explain such scientific concepts as energy transfer;
- Be aware of environmental issues, especially those addressing energy and pollution;
- Create, interpret and make predictions from charts, diagrams and graphs based on information provided or from investigations;
- Design an experiment and have an understanding of scientific phenomena and design plans to solve problems;
- Begin to identify forms of energy and describe the role of energy transformation in living and nonliving systems;
- Have knowledge of organization, gravity and motion within the solar system and identify some factors that shape the surface of the earth;
- Understand properties of materials and understand the particular nature of matter, especially the effect of temperature on states of matter, and understand that light and sound travel at different speeds;
- Be able to apply knowledge of force, speed and motion;
- Show a developmental understanding of the flow of energy from the sun through living systems, especially plants;
- Know that organisms reproduce and that characteristics are inherited from previous generations;
- Understand that organisms are made up of cells and that cells have subcomponents with different functions; and
- Develop their own classification system based on physical characteristics.