8th grade is a time of transition for students.

Socially, physically, and academically. This combination of factors makes this year a particularly challenging one for students. In regards to academics, students will need to consider the impact that their current academic performance has on the track that they will be on at the outset of high school. Receiving high marks in 8th grade serves as a foundation that allows a student to begin high school on the most rigorous academic track.

As students grow and mature, they should learn the value of having a deep understanding of academic material.

Focus on academics to improve placement.

A reality of many high schools is that once a student is placed on a particular academic track in 9th grade, it can be difficult to ascend to a more rigorous track later in high school, even with diligent student work and individualized attention.

Get comfortable with foundational math concepts.

In math, many students will receive initial exposure to the algebra and geometry concepts that will serve as the building blocks for much the math work they will do in high school.

Learn to work and play well with others.

During a time of changing friendships, an increasing desire for independence, and other associated social challenges, these group dynamics can be particularly challenging for students.

A particularly valuable use of time during eighth grade is to begin to practice study and time management skills.

It is important to keep in mind that it is much easier for students to practice these organizational and planning skills before the quantity and rigor of work – both inside and outside of the classroom – increases than to try to develop these skills once they are already in the thick of high school.

While middle school curriculum can vary from state to state, there are general content areas that students in 8th grade will be working on independent of location.

While placement in rigorous high school math, English, and science courses will continue to push students to develop a growth mindset in regard to their academic performance, they will also position students to take the honors and Advanced Placement classes throughout high school that will distinguish their academic transcripts when time comes to apply to college.

An additional important aspect of 8th grade in an increasing ability for students to make decisions on how they spend their time.

Students may have the opportunity to decide which foreign language – in most cases Spanish or French – they will study in high school, and it is important for students to begin to explore their passions and interests and what type of extracurriculars may align with these are once they begin 9th grade

Opportunities for Growth

A Students

The content mastery that these 8th grade students have demonstrated to this point in time must not abate at this late point of middle school. The grades that students receive this year will heavily influence the academic track on which these students are placed as freshmen, and this track will have a significant impact on determining what courses are available to these students later in high school.

As students in 8th grade with high academic achievement are on a track towards taking rigorous classes once they begin high school, it is essential now to develop the types of study habits and time management skills that will allow for a smoother transition to this increased workload. Many students struggle once high school begins because their current approach to studying is not transferable to the increased classwork and extracurricular work that occurs in high school.

A significant aspect of encouraging students to work to develop these skills is to develop a mindset that inspires them to learn these traits. Many students at with these grades are content with simply doing the minimal amount of work to receives A’s in classes they may not find challenging, but this attitude could lead to challenges once freshman year begins.

B Students

Students in 8th grade who have demonstrated the content mastery to receive B grades, but not A’s, to this point in their academic careers must work to identify and develop areas of skill weakness that are separating them from the extra points needed to receive top marks.

This is particularly essential at this point in time as colleges only consider a student’s Grade Point Average starting in 9th grade. Thus, if a student could develop the particular skills that allow him or her to receive A’s come the beginning of high school, then he or she can begin to work towards the Grade Point Average and course load that is coveted by the most-competitive colleges.

A significant part of this push to the top of the grade scale will be fostering a growth mindset – the student’s belief in his or her own ability to overcome whatever challenges have previously held him or her back from becoming an “A student.” Some students are comfortable being "B students" because they are bored with the material. These students would benefit from immersive extracurriculars that tie back into their academic work.

C or Below Students

Students in 8th grade who are receiving predominantly C grades or below still have time to build the skill mastery and content knowledge to improve their academic performance. As colleges only consider a student’s Grade Point Average beginning in 9th grade, a student that develops essential academic and study skills before that time can enter high school as an “A Student” or a “B student.”

The influence of a student’s academic marks in 8th grade on high school class placement is also particularly important. If students can receive higher grades at this point in time and start high school on a more-rigorous track, it will make it easier for these students to end high school in honors and Advanced Placement classes assuming continued progress.

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