Junior Academy, Raul Yzaguirre School For Success
Houston, Texas
[8MB; please allow loading time.]

Close to 100 universities/colleges were gracious enough to provide their pennants/posters to help us build a "College Wall" for our Junior Academy. The premise behind the wall, of course, is to begin to instill within our youth ... even at a young age ... the importance of getting good grades, finishing high school, and going to college to have a successful future. And good grades in middle school and high school can translate into scholarships at the very schools the students are seeing through the pennants/posters on the "College Wall".

The Middle Grades: Putting All Students on Track for College

By Sharon J. Camblin

Adults often ask adolescents what they want to be when they grow up. While the question may be innocuous on the part of teachers and parents, when students begin to think about specific occupations and education requirements is critical. The middle grades, those enrolling 10- to 14-year-old students, have an important relationship to college access. The middle grades are when students, families, and school personnel begin to address career aspirations, academic preparation, and college information.

The challenge is how to help all students develop the aspirations and skills to be successful in postsecondary settings. Underserved students (low-income, underrepresented minority, or first generation to attend college) simply do not enroll in postsecondary programs or complete college at the same rate as their white, middle- or upper-income peers. Research evidence suggests that this discrepancy is due in large part to the lack of opportunity for underserved students beginning in middle school.

The middle grades have a critical impact on the postsecondary success of students because it is here that two factors collide. The middle grades are the intersection of students’ needs to “get on track” for college and to determine what they will be like as adults. For white, middle- and upper-income students, this collision most often results in a sudden focus on college opportunities. For underserved students, the collision is more challenging. The decisions made during this time have lifelong consequences about how these students see themselves as learners, engage with learning, and set their goals.

Most closely associated with the middle grades is the predisposition stage, which is when students develop their occupational and educational aspirations. A challenge for parents and school personnel is to help students see the connection between thinking they want to go to college and learning how to prepare for college entrance. The ages between 10 and 14 are most commonly when students engage or disengage from school and learning. The transition to middle school has been associated with a decline in academic achievement, performance motivation, and self-perception. The middle grades classroom influences whether students see themselves as smart and worthy of taking challenging courses in high school. As they develop an adult self-concept, self-esteem, and racial identity, students make decisions about how academic achievement, certain careers, and college fit into this self-perception.

Research statistics suggest that middle grades students often think about going to college but fail to plan or obtain support for the intermediate steps. The tragedy is that the failure at an early age to develop a plan for approaching college has dramatic impact on what actually happens to students, especially those considered underserved. Students who focus on going to college during the middle grades are far more successful at actually attending college despite other challenges. These students plan their secondary schooling around appropriate course selections and extracurricular activities. They become interested in maintaining good academic performance. In addition, their families become involved in securing information about ways to finance a college education and most often begin saving for the expense.