It requires support from parents, teachers, counselors and administrators at both levels. The move into high school is a critical juncture for students. It is a time when they move from usually smaller middle schools to larger high schools where academic and social demands are greater. Research shows that students who fall behind their freshmen year are 70 percent more likely not to graduate. This process demands collaboration between eighth-grade teachers, who have the students now, and the ninth-grade teachers who will be receiving the students in a few months. The Bradley County School District has worked with both Lake Forest Middle School and Ocoee Middle School to develop Eighth-Grade Transition Teams to ensure that students have a smooth transition.
The 2012-13 Ocoee Middle Transition Team is composed of educators Kim Bagley, Jeremy Jones, Lee Baggerly and Ann German. Lake Forest’s team members are Robbie Winters, Judson Kirkpatrick, Laura Elder and Brandan Harrelson. These teachers and counselors work with the transition coordinator, Karen Winters, to help all eighth-graders be prepared for the move to their respective high schools.
The high schools play an important role as well in helping the students feel comfortable and welcome for their next educational challenge. Both Bradley Central High School and Walker Valley High School have established Transition Teams to assist in this endeavor. Bradley’s team consists of Angie Neeley (Ninth Grade Academy principal), Jenny Matson, Melissa Presswood, Kris Ware and Elisha Waters. Walker Valley’s team members are Denny Collins (Ninth Grade Academy principal), Kathy Lane, Lindsey Hornbuckle, Aimee Borders, Rebekah Ball and Craig Long.
Among the transition activities are parent meetings that are held in the fall and spring at the middle schools. In these sessions, parents and students learn about course offerings at the high school, graduation requirements, honors class requirements, as well as EXPLORE/PLAN/ACT Test information. Every eighth-grader also has an opportunity to participate in a campus visit that includes a building tour, extracurricular options, and a meeting with the Ninth Grade Academy principal and guidance counselor who together address school expectations and answer any questions or concerns the students may have.
Once at the high school, every student participates in a variety of programs that provides him or her an opportunity to integrate into the Freshman Academy. In the fall a Commitment Ceremony is held to encourage each student to “commit” to graduate with his or her class. All students are also a part of an advisory program that helps them connect with an adult mentor on campus. Motivational speakers are arranged and rewards are given for good grades, as well as attendance. One program of which Bradley County Schools is especially proud is Summer Bridge. This program gives students an opportunity to be on the high school campus the summer before their freshmen year. Students may apply for one of several sessions. This year the offerings are Leadership/Service Learning, Success Academy, and Jump Start. For more information on these programs one can contact the Guidance Department at either high school.
Bradley County Schools is committed to providing all freshmen a successful start to their high school experience. The school system’s motto is: Begin Now to Finish Strong!