October 13, 2015

By Catherine Gewertz

With policymakers focused heavily on the college readiness agenda, educators at the middle school level are working in a variety of ways to make sure that young adolescents are ready to do well in high school.
(If you’ve been in this game a while, you probably recall research showing that 9th grade is a key stumbling point for adolescents, one where they’re more likely to drop out of school.)

One bit of news on the high school readiness front comes from a nonprofit organization called Spark, which recently won a $1.2 million grant to help 4,100 middle school students choose high schools and make smooth transitions into 9th grade.

Spark has already been running apprenticeship programs for 7th and 8th graders in those cities, as my colleague Caralee Adams mentioned in a story last summer about career preparation in middle schools.The three-year grant from the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation will enable the organization to expand its work with students in Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia, and the San Francisco Bay Area who are showing signs of disengaging from school.

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