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Parent Engagement in Transitions to Middle and High School

Using the 3A framework (Attendance, Achievement, and Attainment) for dropout prevention developed by the America’s Promise Alliance and the Annie E. Casey Foundation, this article highlights specific knowledge that parents need to support students’ success, as well as ways that schools can engage parents as partners.

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Attendance Every Day

Children can’t learn if they aren’t present in school, so attendance is a must. We can influence attendance and poor attendance can be prevented. Parents — especially in the earlier years — are best positioned to ensure children attend school and to build the expectation around attendance.

What Parents of Rising Middle School Students Should Know

  • By middle school, attendance of less than 80% of the school year begins to predict a high likelihood of school dropout.
  • Starting in middle school, children begin making their own decisions about whether to attend school or a particular class.
  • The large and more complex nature of middle school education makes it more difficult for adults to monitor student attendance especially across the course of the school day.

What Parents of Rising High School Students Should Know

Grade level achievement is critical to long-term success in college, work, and life. Parents play a critical role in helping their child to make satisfactory progress. Students especially depend upon their parents for ensuring their learning needs are met in and out of school and for monitoring their homework.

  • In 9th grade, research suggests that attendance of less than 80% of the school year is a better predictor of school dropout than 8th grade test scores. Attendance for high school students is even harder for parents to monitor.
  • Attendance of high school students can be affected by their role in their family, e.g., needing to care for younger children or find a job.

Achievement Every Year

Students and their parents need to have shared beliefs and understanding about long-term success and what it takes. Most children depend upon their parents for guidance and encouragement.

What Parents of Rising Middle School Students Should Know

  • Tracking by academic ability typically begins in middle school. Parents may not be aware of what they need to do to ensure their child is not being discouraged from taking academic oriented courses that lay the foundation for being considered college-bound in high school.
  • The larger size of middle schools as well as the shift from single to multiple teachers makes it harder for parents to stay in contact with their children’s teachers.
  • Middle school-aged children generally start to share less about their school day, including what he/she is learning and homework assignments, making it more challenging for parents to assist.

What Parents of Rising High School Students Should Know

  • High school teachers are much less likely than elementary or even middle school teachers to communicate with parents about what they are teaching and often only communicate with parents when there is a problem.
  • Parents may not be aware of high school graduation and college entry requirements, especially if new requirements, e.g., high school exit exams, have recently been added. Increased graduation requirements mean that fewer parents have themselves taken the courses or mastered the skills expected of their children.

Attainment Over Time

What Parents of Rising Middle School Students Should Know

  • By middle school, parents need to begin to understand students’ educational options and the long-term implications of course decisions.
  • Students may have limited aspirations for careers and fields of study simply because they have not had exposure to many options. Parents and schools, with limited resources, may not know how to provide exposure to a wide range of possibilities for their students.

What Parents of Rising High School Students Should Know

  • Students may or may not be in agreement with their parents and teachers about their educational and career goals, which can make it difficult to have a shared plan for how to attain them.
  • Especially if parents are not college graduates, they may not have the knowledge to help their children navigate the process of applying for college and obtaining needed financial assistance.