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Middle School Engagement

Attendance and success in middle school are critical in keeping students on track for on-time graduation and preparing them to continue their education after high school or secure a self-sustaining job.

In so many ways, middle school represents a period of transition and evolution. It can be difficult for students to remain engaged and persist into high school, especially for students who struggled academically in elementary school, who have experienced trauma or have mental health and/or identity issues. To increase the chances of success, students must have safe school and home environments, positive interactions with adults and peers and feel a sense of empowerment as they mature into young adults.

While standardized test scores are only one piece of the middle school engagement puzzle, they are a critical piece nonetheless. Standardized test scores help us know whether a student is prepared to face the greater academic demands, new environments and new school cultures that await in high school.

Children missing more than 10% of the days in a school year (about 18 days or two absences per month) are much more likely to struggle to stay engaged in middle school. Chronic absenteeism creates and widens achievement gaps throughout elementary, middle and high school.

Students from low-income families are more likely to be chronically absent, and the impact of absenteeism on their academic performance is twice as great as it is on their more affluent peers.

Regular school attendance is a strong predictor of academic success. Research has shown that students who are suspended or expelled are more likely to have academic problems, drop out of school and enter the juvenile justice system.

Research finds that the presence of one or more caring, committed adults in a child’s life increases the likelihood that children and youth flourish and become productive adults themselves.

Unfortunately, no community-wide survey of youth social and emotional behaviors or supports is conducted in our region. United Way and our nonprofit partners in the out-of-school time space are committed to collecting more data about this critical indicator. We believe a regional survey of adolescent social and emotional well-being – including data on social relationships and supports – would inform policy, advocacy and interventions that helps adolescents stay on a path to a successful future. In the meantime, we encourage everyone in the community to help spread awareness and volunteer their time to this important issue.