So the transition from Grade 8 to Grade 9 is a critical piece. It’s an important time in kids’ lives. I think an overarching principle that really covers all the work we do is at St. Stephen all pathways are valued. So when we talk about a pathway, we’re talking about locally developed, academic, applied and life skills. So we refer to those as pathways, and they’re all valued, right? And so part of the transition in our view, part of what makes the transition successful is to ensure kids are in the right pathway—they’re in a pathway that meets – that suits their learning style, that will allow them to thrive. And so we work really hard with our elementary feeder schools to ensure that the transition is informed, it’s well informed. So we have transition meetings with our feeder schools; Grade 8 teachers share with us information about their students, about their learning styles, about, you know, areas for improvement and so on, and all of that informs their movement into our school. Once that process is, I mean, it’s never really complete; it’s ongoing; it’s a continuous process right into the start of the school year. And then at the very start of the school year—frankly the start of each semester is important—the first two weeks are when we do some work to verify that our students, we think, are in the right pathway. Sometimes despite the best effort to make recommendations, you know, students don’t end up in the pathway that suits them, and so we undertake a process of doing some diagnostic testing.
So we begin each semester with a week-and-a-half-long diagnostic review period, where we go through topics that were covered in the Grade 8 classes, give them a little bit of a refresh on it and then have daily quizzes, so they can show us where they’re at and what they know, how comfortable they are with the various topics. What we do with this information is use it to just double-check that the students are in the correct pathway, that the recommendations that were made and the choices that perhaps flowed from that are going to set the students up for success in Grade 9 math. The other thing it does is informs us as to the skill set that our students have coming in, so it really informs our planning and what background work we will need to do to cover the topics that are coming up in the Grade 9 curriculum. At the end of our diagnostic period, where we have a collection of three or four small quizzes and a bigger test on the skills that we’ve been practicing, if we identify that there are students who are really struggling and who are not likely to be successful in the pathway that they have chosen, we call home and have a discussion with the parents as well as with the students to touch base as to whether we feel the pathway is appropriate for them or whether we need to take a look at some of the other options that are available and some of the other pathways as a better fit. Those conversations aren’t always easy conversations to have, and we do meet with some resistance on some fronts with parents deciding that the choice that was made is the choice that they’re going to stick with, and it’s interesting to watch those students throughout the semester get frustrated with the work that’s coming at them, because we identified early on that they didn’t have the skills needed to work with the new material, and those are typically the students that we find in for extra help on a very regular basis and whose anxiety levels are a lot higher, because they’re struggling to meet with success in the pathway that they’re in.
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