The transition from middle school

June 6, 2010 — by Arnav Dugar

Redwood Middle School students get a head start on many high school classes.

For every academically rigorous high school, there must also be an equally rigorous feeder school. Such is the case in the Saratoga school district.

The school boasts one of the highest API (Academic Performance Index) scores in the state: 933 out of 1000. Given that this standard of excellence is established at the lower levels, it’s no wonder that Saratoga’s feeder schools also boast abnormally high test scores.

The number of students who transition into Saratoga High after graduating from Redwood Middle School dwarfs the number of students from schools outside the district. For every four students who have come from Redwood Middle School, only one student comes from another middle school in the Bay Area, and just a handful from out of state, according to registrar Jeanne Jameison.

The large percentage of students coming from Redwood allows for coordination between courses the students take in middle school and high school. Several classes that Saratoga High offers, namely those in the mathematics and language departments, have prerequisites offered at Redwood. These prerequisites directly translate into high school credits, often allowing freshmen to take higher level classes.

Mathematics track made clear

The math classes a high school student can take are largely determined by decisions in middle school.

At Redwood, incoming sixth grade students are separated by proficiency in mathematics into three groups. Students who skip sixth grade math qualify to take geometry in eighth grade and Algebra 2 as a freshman, while those who do not skip sixth grade math take geometry during their freshman year.

“I think I’m pretty lucky that I’m ahead, because I never really had to try for it since it was up to my 5th grade teacher what math to put me in in 6th grade,” said freshman Evelyn Lee. “I never really had any control over it, but I appreciate being a year ahead now.”

Success in high school math courses is also strongly dictated by the foundation formed in middle school.

Middle School world language courses ‘muy buenos’

Redwood students also have a similar option regarding world languages. Many students opt to take either Spanish 1 or French 1 as electives in seventh and eighth grades, ultimately taking the high school equivalent class split into two less demanding courses. After completing the first level course, students are then able to move onto the second level in their freshman year.

“It creates a much smoother transition between the middle school and the high school,” said sophomore Jocelyn Takahashi, who took Spanish 1 in middle school and continued with taking Spanish 2 as a freshman. “Especially because there is a direct continuation from what we were learning in eighth grade.”

However, Takahashi also notes that the transition isn’t completely seamless, as some concepts in middle school are taught in unnecessary detail while others do not fully meet the standards required of the actual high school course. Still, she maintains that spending two extra years learning a language at Redwood was beneficial.

In fact, since the world language classes at Redwood are spread out over the course of two years, Redwood students are sometimes better prepared than those who take the one year equivalent in high school.

“I find that almost all the students that come into Spanish 2 as ninth graders from Redwood are very well prepared for the class and are among the best students I have,” said Spanish teacher Bret Yeilding.

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*Statistic is approximate, based on the previous school of every registered student at SHS on May 19, 2010.

API scores remain relatively consistent throughout the from elementary to high school, a testament to intense learning at the lower levels which translates into success in high school.

Academic Performance Index (API) Report 2008-09
Argonaut: 960, Foothill: 943, Saratoga Elementary: 951; Redwood Middle: 954; Saratoga High: 933

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