Take a moment to reflect on the experience of students moving into school throughout the year. Is it the same experience as it was in September when the new school year began and everything was new for everyone? Awareness of how students transition into school throughout the year is important to assure that they feel welcome and connected to their new school community.
In a recent discussion, I was asked to think about the actual process that students undergo as they register for a new school. From the moment their parents receive their registration packet to the time the student enters the classroom, the experience of being welcomed seems to vary. I realized that there were gaps in the school system’s process such as language barriers, difficulties understanding educational terminology, and delayed receipt of documents essential for a school counselor to prepare an accurate schedule. Collectively, these compounding hurdles make the student’s experience one filled with unknowns and anxiety. In addition, the social-emotional concerns a student experiences about making new friends, fitting in and letting go of their prior location can add to the already challenging transition. How can we, as educators, make this process seamless and comfortable for our students?
Families move into districts on an ongoing basis, and being supportive makes the experience and transition easier. Here are three areas we recommend focusing on to create a positive experience for students and their families.
Families should always feel welcome. As a school counselor, I worked in districts where students and families were moving in throughout the year. Setting up a buddy system or a youth group to help with transitioning the new student is ideal. Scheduling visitation dates for students and families thinking about transferring into the district can help ease the move into a new school. Finally, working with the PTA is a wonderful way to collaborate on communication resources to help new students and families. They can support new families with introductions and connections to community resources such as: the library, doctors, sports events and summer programs to name a few. — Deborah Hardy, Ed.D., Senior Advisor
Run a transfer group and find a way to not only engage students but also the families, and, when possible, differentiate the delivery of services. Often times, counselors run the same transfer groups year after year, delivering great material to help transfer students get acclimated to the school. Remember, the families are new, too, and there are great ways such as coffee with the counselors to welcome and incorporate valuable information for new families to learn. Additionally, run your transfer groups using data such as weekly attendance, grades, and behavior. You can differentiate your delivery and target the students that need extra support. — Matthew Liberatore, Senior Advisor
Mindset and Outreach
Late-starting students and mid-year transfers represent a growing percentage of school populations and the factors driving this can create academic and social-emotional risks. Parents and students trust that staff at the “new” school have a strategy and a mindset to ensure success for these students. Regular outreach by teachers and counselors that may seem optional for students present on Day One is critical for families arriving later. Since they may need to work a bit harder to find their place academically and socially, late-starting students should have a clearly identified support network that includes peer mentors and peer tutors – National Honor Society Members make great peer mentors and tutors. Members of late cohorts should also be monitored closely by Student Success teams until it is clear they are holding their own; consider them at-risk until it is abundantly clear they are not. — Patricia Gagnon, Senior VP, Programs & Practice
As challenging as student mobility may be to school staff and, especially, to students, it is a reality that is not going away. Some schools see more of this than others and have strong systems in place to ensure student success. We would love to hear more about practices that have proven effective.
Our passion at Intellispark is to bring understanding and knowledge to all stakeholders, and not just within the walls of the school. We are building Intellispark Pulse to engage the school, parents, and community in the success of every student.