The George Washinton University's Freshman Transition Initiative

A 10-Step Plan

A 10-Step Plan

NASSP
Principal Leadership Magazine

A Personalized Plan for Life
Launching a Freshman Transition Initiative in your school doesn’t have to be overwhelming. Here we’ve outlined a 10-step process that will allow you to effectively implement a Freshman Transition course aimed at reducing dropout rates, increasing postsecondary matriculation and guiding students toward productive, self-sufficient adulthoods.

Step 1:
Gather Your Resources

Download a copy of the Course Standards for Freshman Transition Classes. You’ll also want to request your own copy of a PowerPoint presentation to be used in steps 2 and 4 below.

Step 2:
Create a Vision

Present the 10-year career, life and education plan concept and the Freshman Transition initiative in a school-wide meeting. Generate interest around what students have to gain from creating a comprehensive 10-year educational and career plan, and cast a vision for how the plan can be used by all instructors to motivate students to higher academic achievement.

Step 3:
Form a Team of Champions

Gather a committee of your most innovative teachers to develop a plan for instituting a standards-driven, Freshman Transition course that culminates in the development of a 10-year educational and career plan for all incoming freshmen (whether it is completed in the 8th or 9th grade). Their duties should include formulating and assisting with steps 4, 5, 6, and 8.

Step 4:
Generate Community Buy-in for the New Course and 10-Year Plan

With your team, make presentations to parents, community groups, and your school board. Lobby your school board to consider mandating a Freshman Transition course for all students in either the 8th or 9th grade.

Step 5:
Identify a Curriculum that will Accomplish Your Course Goals

Good curriculum is one with scope and sequence, where it is apparent to the learner what the results are for their efforts (in this case a comprehensive—yet flexible—10-year plan for students’ transition into adulthood). Seek out resources that provide your teachers with the tools, textbooks, and materials required. Support your team in finding the best tool they can that meets the Freshman Transition Standards.

Step 6:
Recruit Your Most Experienced Teachers to Conduct the Course

This kind of course requires a high level of teaching skills. Ideally, by this time, your team of champions will become your pool of potential instructors. When recruiting, don’t make the mistake of assigning the newest teachers or the least skilled. In addition, provide course continuity by identifying a master teacher who will commit a minimum of four years to the project. Provide him or her with the release time needed to train and to support both the course instructors and the school-wide initiative (see step 8).

Step 7:
Provide Professional Development and Course Planning Time

In order for course instructors to develop a comprehensive, rigorous classroom experience, they will need professional development and course planning time, particularly during the first year. Arrange schedules so all course instructors have at least one common prep time each week in which to meet and discuss the progress of their efforts. Send the complete team to appropriate workshops and conferences.

Step 8:
Make your Freshman Transition Initiative a School-wide Effort

Provide professional development to all instructors on how to best use and support their students’ 10-year plans. Because it is important for students to reassess their goals each year, develop a system in which students revisit and update their 10-year plans at least once per year within their sophomore, junior and senior coursework. Ask each department to identify where they can assist in this project.

Step 9:
Share all Students’ 10-Year Educational and Academic Plans

Provide each teacher with immediate access to each of their students’ current 10-year plans. Every teacher then has increased insight when counseling and personalizing their efforts with each student. If a student is failing a course that is required for their desired career goal, any academic teacher, upon reviewing the student’s 10-year plan, is in the position to counsel that student and either help them make up the deficit or rewrite their plan with altered expectations.

Step 10:
Recognize and Reward

To maintain the energy of your best instructors and to keep the enthusiasm of the total school community high, it is important to reward and recognize excellence. One way to do this is to invite your local newspaper and news channel to cover your Freshman Transition initiative once it is up and running, with periodic updates. Encourage your master teacher(s) to attend conferences and make presentations about your school’s efforts. Ask students to vote each year on the teacher in each grade who most supports their dreams, and then recognize those “Dream Catchers” at a yearend assembly.