The Importance of a Successful Transition to High School

Spark’s March 11, 2015 Quarterly Investor Call featured Camille Farrington, Research Associate and Assistant Professor at the University of Chicago Consortium on Chicago School Research. Farrington presented her research about the importance of a successful transition to high school for middle grade students. She emphasized the point that most schools are too focused on content knowledge when the development of non-cognitive skills are equally important. Farrington shared that, “non-cognitive skills such as attitudes, beliefs, behaviors and developing identity seriously affect performance in school and long term development, particularly in adolescence.”

Throughout her presentation, Farrington discussed “academic mindsets,” a concept covered in her work, Teaching Adolescents to Become Leaders. Her research has found that although students might have strong academic mindsets in 8th grade, they will still need to renegotiate these mindsets all over again once they’re in high school. Therefore, it is critical to reinforce the mindsets including: I belong in this 

academic community, I can succeed at this, my ability and competence grow with my effort, and this work has value for me. “When students believe these mindsets are true, they are more likely to persevere in their academic work and to not give up when they encounter challenges; this encourages coming to class, turning in work, and participating in class activities which ultimately results in getting good grades.”

When asked how mentors can support their mentee’s high school transition, she said, “you have to help young people to understand and be aware of what skills they have already developed that will help them in high school. If you don’t call out their assets, specifically for them, they may not recognize them. So make them ask themselves ‘what are some things I learned at Spark and what strengths do I have that can help me in my future and in high school.’”


Spark inspires 7th, 8th and 9th grade students to succeed in high school and beyond by connecting them with mentors in leading workplaces and supporting their academic journey with skill-building and resources. By engaging working professionals and connecting businesses with local communities, Spark empowers the next generation to perform better in school, graduate on time and lead fulfilling careers and lives.

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