PROBLEMATIC BEHAVIOR OR ACTIVITY
In Linn County, middle school–age youth who have served time on probation and had difficulties in several areas were apparently not receiving any transitional services when they entered high school. This meant that students entering high school with known barriers to academic success and graduation were not provided relevant services. System actors seemed to wait until young people failed and were behind before providing the extra supports that could have prevented the failure in the first place.
IMPACT ON THE COMMUNITY
Research indicates that youth who are successful in school are much less likely to engage in delinquent behavior. The main goal of this project is to increase school connectedness and high school graduation rates.
The Linn County Eighth Grade Transition Program has these components:
The nine-week program involves eight consecutive weeks beginning in March and one follow-up session in September/October (after the students begin high school).
Middle schools select students based on who faculty and staff think is at greatest risk for school failure.
Youth are assigned a 10th- or 11th-grade mentor. The mentor needs to be someone who will be at the high school the following year when the youth begins.
During every week of the program, the youth are transported to the high school during its lunch hour and eat lunch with their mentor.
During the lunch hour, a short group session takes place. Topics include how to make friends; how to handle conflict with a teacher or another student; organization of a school notebook; how to succeed in high school; and how to get involved with groups or clubs.
Participating students also learn the school fight song and take a tour of the school.
One week’s activities includes a tour of the local community college or university.
Every week, mentors make efforts to introduce students to administrators, coaches, and people responsible for different school clubs (such as band, choir, and drama).
BASED ON RESEARCH
Research on transitions from middle school/junior high to high school show that this period can be a time of high risk for youth. The program components are not based on any particular study, but draw on relevant research.
- Linn County Juvenile Department provides staff to facilitate weekly groups (requiring 1.5 hours per week; and 10 hours of organization and planning each year).
- School provides all weekly transportation from middle schools to high school and trips to colleges.
- High school often involves an administrator or school counselor who works with freshmen.
Oregon State University is helping to conduct a program evaluation to review five years’ worth of data and determine the next steps. The Juvenile Department and OSU are also gathering graduation data about the 2010-11 cohort.
Feedback is gathered every year through the following:
- Pre-participation and post-participation tests for school connectedness;
- Pre-participation data: grades, attendance, and behavioral referrals;
- Interest surveys completed by eighth-graders and mentors as a way to match them;
- Post-participation group: students use feedback sheets to suggest ways to improve the group; and
- Data collection after freshman year on grades, attendance, and behavioral referrals.
CRITICAL SUCCESS FACTORS
- Strong relationships with school administration and superintendent;
- Clear parameters about the data to be tracked, followed by gathering and tracking data over time to measure success; and
- Outgoing, energetic staff to get the youth excited about school.
Make sure to collect the right data so you can accurately measure outcomes and determine whether the program is successful. The Juvenile Department should also encourage high schools to involve an administrator or counselor who works with high school freshmen.