Middle school level a turning point for college, career readiness

Andy Merfeld
Andy Merfeld

by Andy Merfeld
St. Michael-Albertville Middle School West

Sometimes lost in the whirlwind of adolescent life is the importance of the middle school years in a child’s education. A report compiled by ACT, The Forgotten Middle, identifies the impact the years spent in middle school may have on the future success of students. It is important to note that college readiness may also mean career readiness as not every high school graduate plans to attend college. However, a majority of the fastest growing jobs that require a high school diploma require knowledge and skills comparable to those expected of the first-year college student.
The results of The Forgotten Middle suggest that, in the current educational environment, there is a critical defining point for students in the college and career readiness process — one so important that, if students are not on target for college and career readiness by the time they reach this point, the impact may be nearly irreversible. This critical defining point is eighth grade. We must therefore also focus on getting more students on target for college and career readiness by the end of eighth grade, so that they are prepared to maximize the benefits of high school. Moreover, this research shows that, under current conditions, the level of academic achievement that students attain by eighth grade has a larger impact on their college and career readiness by the time they graduate from high school than anything that happens academically in high school.
This information is not meant to underscore the value of education and significant number of academic opportunities at the high school level. But with this information, we know the importance of the upper elementary and middle school years as critical years in preparing students for college and careers.
I believe that STMA middle schools are committed to not being a part of The Forgotten Middle as we strive to prepare students for high school, college, and for life. Our strategic plan clearly states our district mission to create self-directed learners, purposeful thinkers, effective communicators, and responsible citizens. We continue to work with parents, students, teachers, and our community in a relentless quest to maximize learning. This preparation includes all levels of education including our kindergarten and elementary programming through high school. STMA schools provide an excellent education and foundation for our child’s future successes.
Our recent ACT EXPLORE results at STMA middle schools represent this commitment as well as high levels of student success. The ACT EXPLORE test measures student preparedness in the areas of English, mathematics, reading and science — the same subject covered by the future ACT PLAN test (taken in 10th grade) and ACT tests that continue to report college readiness of our students. We continue to see an increase in students’ overall average scores and an increase in the number of students meeting the benchmarks in all four areas of the test. Our average scores rank above the nation’s averages in all five (English, math, reading, science, composite) areas. This is exciting news!
Thank you for your support of STMA Schools and for sharing in our current vision to consistently achieve academic rankings in the top 15% of all Minnesota public school districts and more importantly that we continue with a tradition of excellence in our schools. Please be diligent with encouraging your adolescent student to thrive in middle school and help develop academic behaviors that are known to contribute to successful academic performance and a very bright future!
Visit www.act.org/research/policymakers/reorts/ForgottenMiddle.html to read the full Forgotten Middle policy report.