In the city of Philadelphia, a systematic process is in place for eighth grade students to get accepted into the numerous high schools that fall within city lines. A substantial amount of weight rests on students and their parents as they make crucial educational decisions that will drastically affect the student for the rest of their secondary education career. Now is the time for eighth graders to be faced with mounds of information, teacher recommendations, and applications as the deadline to apply to schools is October 29th. Once again, The Notebook has provided an extensive guide for parents, students and educators that walks them through the process and offers useful information regarding deadlines, certain school requirements and a breakdown of school statistics. The online edition can be found here, but the print version is available at most schools around the city.
We know the roles of the student, parents, and guidance counselors during this time. However, what about teachers? What can they do?
Just as high school teachers prepare students for college, middle school teachers do the same for their students. By the time the high school admissions process arrives, the student should already have a good idea of what to expect. To a student in sixth grade, high school is a far off destination where all they may know is that work gets a little more complex and that they’ll finally be older – but they need to know that what they do in the next few years will have an impact. Teachers can for example, explain to students before eighth grade how well they master the material will carry them into the next grade and beyond and how well they do will increase their chances of getting into a high school they want to attend when the time comes. They also can remind students to take standardized tests seriously as there have been reports of students getting burned out and deciding to fill in any bubble on the test just to get it over with. The problem with that action is that is will raise the chances of getting a low score that will follow them on their records.
No hardcore lecture needs to be given. Just give students a glimpse of a future that they may not be able to envision yet to help them develop goals and take responsibility for their education. It is important that students and their families look into their options sooner rather than later. For some students it makes all the difference in the world. A twenty-eight-year-old computer technician from Northwest Philadelphia who chooses to remain anonymous, says that his experience with the high school admission process was unfavorable. He explained, “When I was in eighth grade I wanted to attend the same schools as my friends, but my mother wasn’t involved in the process at the time and didn’t fill out the forms for me so I ended up going to my neighborhood school which wasn’t the best choice for me”.
Now, there are quite a few options for students; special admissions schools, city-wide admissions schools, charter schools and neighborhood schools (note: The Notebook’s new edition gives a summary of these schools and names all schools that fall into these categories). Students should know the difference between them and that can be explained fairly for each type of school for students’ understanding. The closer students are to high school, the more guidance counselors and school officials will offer resources, so there is no reason to go into too much detail before that time.
What else can teachers or the school do as a whole to promote this process? Invite former students who have had success in high school to come and speak to middle school students about how the process was for them and their high school experience; students can also ask them questions as sometimes they are more likely to feel comfortable asking someone closer to their age about something that they experienced not too long ago. Another idea is to include success stories from former students in newsletters that are sent to parents and include tips that promote actively encouraging students and looking into school options.
Constant communication from all parties involved increase students’ chances and understanding of how to move forward in a new and exciting step in their lives.