The California Comprehensive Center at WestEd conducted a research study aimed at identifying middle-to-high school transition practices at California schools with graduation rates that were higher than predicted. They found that some schools used a “Regional Model” that leveraged collaboration and cross-school communication to ease transition and raise graduation rates.
A Regional Model system organizes schools into geographical clusters, grouping high schools with their feeder elementary and middle schools. These schools work within their region to share and align instructional strategies, rubrics, and resources. The region employs vertical and horizontal articulation between schools, allowing teachers to collaborate within, as well as across, schools and grade levels. Horizontal articulation is the alignment and collaboration of teachers across the region within a particular grade; while vertical articulation facilitates K-12 collaboration within the existing feeder pattern.
On October 19, 2011, SchoolsMovingUp, a WestEd initiative, held a Webinar highlighting one of the schools in this study, allowing its principal to speak on the Regional Model and how it has been implemented in his district and with his school. The Webinar, “Articulating High Expectations from K-12: Valley High School and Its Partners,” featured primary presenter Keven MacDonald, Principal of Valley High School in Elk Grove, CA; Ellen Ringer, Administrator at the California Department of Education’s K-12 Innovation and Improvement Office; and Tom Parrish, Managing Director at the American Institutes for Research. Researchers Parrish and Ringer, spoke briefly about their study and why the Valley Region was selected to serve as a Regional Model example. Principal MacDonald shared his experience at Valley High School, highlighting the advantages of, and challenges with, the Regional Model and articulation.
The Regional Model focuses on providing smooth transitions for both students and parents. Students are made aware of their feeder pattern and know which schools they will attend, from elementary, to middle, to high school. Students receive t-shirts and banners reading, “Go to Mack Elementary, Go to Jackman Middle School, Go to Valley High School, Go to College!” They receive multiple opportunities to interact and become familiar with their future schools and more knowledgeable on what each has to offer. Upon entering high school, ninth graders attend a week-long Summer Bridge program. In the middle grades, students attend assemblies and activities throughout the year, in which they interact with faculty, staff, students, and administrators from their future high school. Principal MacDonald highlighted a program in which Valley High School students spoke at a feeder middle school about various high school related topics, such as how to register for Advanced Placement classes, where to get information about college applications, and how they felt when they first entered high school. Parents are also provided with transitional support through meetings with future middle and high school teachers and administrators.
Some potential challenges with implementing Regional Models include budget constraints for professional development and transition activities, having multiple feeder schools, and accommodating varying school schedules.
The California Comprehension Center’s full report, Making the Move: Transition Strategies at California Schools with High Graduation Rates, has not yet been released, but the Executive Summary is available now.