Seamless Transitions

Join us this week and next as Mass Insight Research Fellow Danielle Allen blogs about exploring educational innovations and making good policy choices, such as aligning 6-12 instruction, and using blending learning in the classroom.  Below is post 2 of 3.


At MIE, we’re big proponents of providing continuous educational experiences for students and their families.  While there has been a significant movement toward the K-8 school structure in recent years, we’re focusing on the student experience in grades 6-12.  Higher dropout rates at the end of grade 9 and beginning of grade 10 reflect the end of many students’ unsuccessful transition from middle school to high school.  Between grades 6 and 12, students move from child to adolescent to burgeoning adult and their development is marked by a waves of physical, socioemotional, and behavioral changes.  Simultaneously, the level and rigor of academic work we expect from them increases significantly.  For many students, especially those without many out-of-school supports, the pressure is too much to bear.

We believe that preparing students for college success necessitates better aligning the middle and high school experience.  Grade 6-12, as a continuum, is an opportunity for students to become increasingly more independent and engaged in the world outside of school.  From self-contained teams in grade 6 to self-directed academic experiences that include college courses and internships in the latter half of high school, the transition for students should feel seamless.  To this end, us adults need to better vertically align curriculum and course sequencing to allow for differentiated supports for both struggling and advanced learners.  We need to rethink summer, especially the summer between grades 8 and 9, as a mandated opportunity for both academic and nonacademic development.  At MIE, we’re rethinking many of these transitions.

Graduated independence between grades 6-12 will enable students to be well-prepared for college success.  To design a school experience that supports this goal, we have to stop viewing about middle school and high school as separate units.  The distinction is arbitrary and risks of adhering to it are too great for our students.


Danielle Allen is a Research Fellow at Mass Insight Education and a joint degree candidate at Harvard Kennedy School of Government and Stanford Graduate School of Business.