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Transitioning to High School

Monday, September 15, 2014

High School Week challenges eighth graders with the expectations of a secondary school schedule.

three boys sit outside at lunch
During High School Week, students are allowed to leave campus and eat lunch wherever they like, as long as they return on time for class.

As a middle school student transitions into high school, self-direction is essential.

Last spring, we piloted a week-long program called High School Week to ensure our eighth grade students feel poised in their academic abilities and organization skills as they transition out of Harlem Academy.

Designed to give students a sense of what to expect, High School Week imposes the workload and time management expectations of top secondary schools.

Lunch, recess, and independent study times all become free periods during which students may leave campus or use designated school areas, making personal decisions about how to use their time. The only stipulation is that they arrive on time and prepared for all classes and activities.

With this new autonomy also comes more responsibility, as teachers double the homework load and move through classwork at a faster pace. The goal is to get students to take ownership of their time and negotiate the school’s expectations on their own, without prodding from teachers.

Zahir, one of last year’s eighth graders, noted, “High School Week made me feel more mature, independent, and prepared. The time felt like it was mine to manage.”

Harlem Academy graduate Maya added, “I liked the independence of High School Week. And I don't want to say I liked the bigger workload, but it was good. It helped me know what to expect in high school.”

Middle School Director Chris Cunningham says of the pilot program, “A core part of Harlem Academy’s mission is to ensure that our students are prepared for success at top high schools. High School Week gives the eighth graders a sense of what will be expected of them as well as the feeling that they can handle it.”