A need for more collaboration between Redwood Middle School and Saratoga High

March 5, 2015 — by Deepthi Sampathkumar and Summer Smith

SHS and Redwood should collaborate on helping prepare middle school students for high school and on classroom content especially in math and language courses, which depend on sequential knowledge.

We won’t lie — coming to SHS from Redwood Middle School was a big jump for us. Everything was new  — the social scene, the seemingly enormous campus, the longer classes. But looking back, the main disparities between middle school and high school had to do with the homework load and fast-paced curriculum.

At Redwood we could finish homework before dinner easily and enjoy the rest of the night. Now, homework sometimes takes several hours, with students working until the wee hours of the morning, with few breaks for eating and procrastinating. It’s an enormous change that many of us were not fully expecting.   

Students at Redwood are monitored closely by teachers and given strict timelines for projects. In contrast, the high school encourages a more independent learning style, which gives students the huge responsibility of managing the entirety of their homework and ongoing projects by themselves.

Because of this, freshman year can come as a shock to some incoming students. The collaboration between SHS and Redwood that took place March 4 aimed to address how the middle school can better prepare students for high school. One possible solution could be providing a more rigorous curriculum for eighth grades; although this would not be popular among the middle schoolers, it would provide them with more benefit in the long run.

In addition to helping prepare middle school students for high school, the two schools should collaborate on classroom content especially in math and language courses, which depend on sequential knowledge.

Most Redwood students who attend SHS have taken classes at RMS, such as Algebra 1 or Spanish that are  prerequisites for classes in high school. However, students who start Spanish in middle school may not be fully prepared to take the next corresponding class in high school.

Any jump from a middle school math class to a high school one is a shock, especially if freshmen go straight into an honors class such as Geometry Enriched or Algebra 2 Honors. Because of the fast pace and high expectations, being in Mr. Yim’s Algebra 2 Honors as a freshman was the toughest transition in high school for some of us and resulted in a bumpy first semester.

Besides the academic gap between the schools, there remains a huge difference in atmosphere. RMS teachers are more laid-back and easygoing, sometimes putting on movies in class and assigning much less homework as a general rule. Many high school teachers, by contrast, assign massive loads of homework and push students toward high levels of mastery with arduous work. The jump students face during the first year of high school can be truly overwhelming for some.

In order to make the freshman year transition easier, more collaboration between Saratoga and Redwood teachers is essential — an hour less sleep once or twice a year for high school students is a small price to pay.

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