Middle school is a pivotal time for tweens to build a strong educational foundation in preparation for high school. Students are expected to be increasingly independent and to shoulder more responsibility at school. It is typically their first experience with changing classes and having several different teachers. Issues such as family involvement, parental income and social relationships can have a bearing on whether a middle-school child experiences academic success.
When parents have high expectations and provide support, guidance and supervision, a child's chances to succeed in middle school increase. Middle-school children must learn organizational skills, such as storing papers in a three-ring binder or recording various homework assignments in a daily agenda planner. When parents monitor these tasks, the child develops positive habits. Kids must make choices regarding participation in band, drama club or a sports team, and parents can guide their decisions. Children are more successful when their parents stay in contact with teachers and other school personnel. Involvement is often more challenging for single parents or for families in which both parents work. The matter is compounded when parents don't speak English.
Elementary school children still turn to their parents for support, but middle school kids typically switch their attachment from parents to friends. There are lots more children in middle school, and kids are influenced --- good or bad --- by what their peers do and think. When they have reciprocated friendships, they have an increased chance of social and academic success. Communal connections such as youth groups and sports teams help a child gain confidence. If he falls in with the wrong crowd, drugs, gangs and alcohol might become more important to him than learning.
Parents sometimes move from one city or state to another for employment or family reasons, and their children are in and out of school mid-year. When a child moves frequently, it can affect her self-esteem. Students in her new middle school math class might already have learned about a topic such as probability, so she'll miss that segment. Subjects such as math and reading become more difficult when there are holes in the foundation. When a child doesn't feel proficient, her confidence and motivation start to wane. She might even shut down altogether. Several states have adopted common core standards, and this will help ensure that the curriculum is more consistent for transient students.
A family's income level can have an effect on the opportunities that a child receives in middle school. Millions of American children are poor or living in poverty, according to the National Poverty Center. If a child has food insecurity, she won't be able to concentrate in class on an empty stomach. Middle-school children often need extra help in areas such as mathematics. Affluent parents can hire tutors, but less fortunate families can't afford that option. It can affect a child's grade if she's doing a science project and doesn't have the money to purchase the needed supplies. Physical and mental health can suffer as a result of economics. Many children in middle school begin to have vision problems, but parents might not have the money for eye glasses or quality medical care. Chronic financial stress can affect a child's concentration and memory.
- Global Journal of Community Psychology Practice: Academic Performance in Middle School -- Friendship Influences
- Education.com: The Role of Parents in Children's School Achievement
- National Center for Children in Poverty: Basic Facts About Low Income Children
- Adoption.com: Single Parenting and Children's Educational Achievement
- Breakthrough Collaborative: July 2009 Research Brief -- Factors That Support Academic Success
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