By: Twumasi Duah-Mensah
The school has always struggled to help eighth graders transition into high school.
Finally, they have a solution to their perennial problem.
During the summer of 2018, the school will place a trailer on the football practice field to house a new program for upcoming eighth graders. Four new teachers will be hired to teach honors classes to eighth graders. The decision to build on the practice field was after complaints from parents of the eighth grade prodigies-to-be that classes would be held in Husky Stadium during the day.
The program will allow the middle school students, during their second semester, to take courses like a high school student–four classes on a block schedule–for two weeks. The courses that they will take–English I, Healthful Living, World History, and Biology–are all required courses for graduation. The students will be graded as if in high school, as well.
The students will also be shown several presentations during the two-week period about high school and college opportunities to get a headstart on their planning, as administration has identified such planning as integral to not falling into a great amount of student loan debt. At least five tours will be given to the students, as navigation of the school has also been a problem for freshmen.
Eighth graders who are interested must apply for the program. They must be taking or have taken Math I, have no major discipline referrals, and had no Bs in all of their classes for at least one quarter of the first semester. The students who apply must be assigned to Heritage High for their freshman year. The maximum amount of acceptees is fifteen, although the program will take place three times.
As aforementioned, students will be graded on an A to F scale in their classes. Those who finish with an A in all four classes by the end of the two-week period will receive a season pass.
With a booming population in Wake Forest explaining many recent changes in the community, the school hopes that the program will not only speed up the integration process, but increase school engagement among freshmen.
“The freshmen who apply are among the most intelligent in their respective schools,” said Principal Scott Lyons. “They are some of the best leaders and some of the most involved in their schools. We hope to see them lead their peers by example as they transition to high school.”
The program accompany further efforts by Heritage High to reach middle schoolers and educate them on high school and college planning.
In 2016, Heritage had listed eighth grade transitioning as an area for improvement in its School Improvement Plan. Other priorities like AP participation and student engagement were stressed. Now, they want to focus on the freshmen.
Research shows a strong correlation between ninth grade failure and a lack of emphasis in middle school on high school planning. Students flunk the ninth grade more than any other grade. Administration aims to take action given the research.
“Numbers don’t lie,” said Lyons. “We cannot ignore this key data point. We must take action before we fall behind.”
When told about the program, Husky students were angered by the move. Most are angered by the position of the trailer.
“On the practice field?!” said angered junior David Francis. “Really? They couldn’t have put it anywhere else?”
“The football practice field is the football practice field,” argued junior Eric John. “Nothing else. So much for making history. I guess not winning a single game is some history, though.”
Some don’t share the faith the school has in the program.
“It’s ridiculous,” said sophomore Cheyenne Jones. “What eighth grader will take it seriously?”
Most freshmen are in support of the move, though.
“This program will help so many people succeed if they learn early,” said freshman Mark Johnson. “Everybody’s just hating because of pure freshmen hatred. Simple as that.”
Freshman Abigail Williams also expressed her approval with the program. “This would have really helped me at the beginning of the year,” she said. “I always get lost going to second period, and it’s hard to keep up with due dates.”
Principal Lyons is expected to hold an information session on the program and other changes around the community on Monday, April 9th.