The Freshman Transition Network

Working together to transition freshmen & transform schools from the bottom up!

Please tell the other members of the network a little about yourself. Nothing is too short and nothing is too long. Just let us know who we are so we can turn this network into a true community.

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I'll see you in a few minutes!

I am a graduate student in the technology leadership program at Lamar University.  I am doing an assignment on educational networks and that is how I got here.  More importantly, I am a freshmen biology and technology teacher and have a 14 year old child. I think that any possible way to help my freshmen transition and be successful is a step in the right direction.

Dawn, Thanks for joining and for introducing yourself. I hope you find some helpful ideas. If I can ever help you out please let me know.

I am an assistant principal for grades 9 and 12 at Messalonskee High School in Oakland, Maine. We are a school of 800 students with a rural/suburban feel. I have the pleasure of not only transitioning in the freshmen but helping the seniors transition out of high school. We are currently working on how to meet the individual needs of our incoming class of 2017 as we move forward with implementing Mass Customized Learning. Having been a high school assistant principal for 19 years this is probably the most challenging shift in thinking and implementation that I have been faced with.

I look forward to hearing from anyone that may be in a similar situation or has gone through this process.

Thanks for joining, Paula, and for taking the time to introduce yourself to the group.  I hope you find some helpful resources on the site.  Please let me know if I can help you out in any way at all.

Your focus is familiar to thousands of us across the country. Most of the dropouts here in Dallas, Texas never even made it into the 10th grade a decade ago. The percentage of full 9th grade enrollment represented in the graduation class did not go above 50% until 2011 when it jumped for just over 52%. That was a gain of 12 percentage points since 2006 for the entire district. I'm rather certain your district is not quite that rough. We are an inner-city urban district. However, a system now in 2 of our 23 high school feeder patterns, and going into a third feeder pattern before the end of the year, may be of interest to you. Details about it, as one of three steps to improving schools, are at
At the beginning of each 9th grade year we ask all 9th grade parents, grandparents, and anyone involved in the 9th graders life, to write a personal letter to the student about their dreams for them. We ask they include any stories from their history that they think would be of value to the student. These letters are then used by the students to write letters to themselves in Language Arts Class about their own plans for high school and their future. All these letters are then placed into a larger self addressed envelope and placed into a 500-pound vault bolted to the floor in the school lobby. (We are working to get spotlights on all these vaults so that they stand out.)
Then each day the students walk by going to and from class and hopefully occasionally think of what is written on the letters inside.
At the end of 12th grade those letters are returned to the students, and also mailed to those who may have moved. We again ask the parents of remaining students to write another letter about their evolving dreams, this time looking 10 years into the future as to what they hope the student they are writing to will be doing. The students then take these letters and again write a letter to themselves focusing on what they hope to be doing in 10 years, and how they will get there. The letters again all go into a self-addressed envelope for each student with many other addresses on the outside of relatives or friends just in case it is hard to reach that student in 10 years for the planned 10-year class reunion.
They know that at the reunion they will get their letters back, and be asked to speak with then current students about their recommendations for success. They know to expect questions like "Would you do anything differently if you were 13 again?"
We started doing this in our middle school in 2005 and will have the first 10-year reunion in November of 2014. Since starting this project the graduation rate of the main high school receiving our students has doubled from 33% to 65%. A similar system to this may also help your school even if you already have much higher graduation rates. See
Both of the high schools receiving our students have improved significantly.  It used to be that most students never made it to the 10th grade.  That is no longer true and upper grade enrollment is the highest it has ever been on record.   The historic “9th grade bubble has disappeared and we expect to have graduation rates over 80% within 5 years.

I teach math at Corbett High School (25 miles outside Portland, OR).  I'm also the intervention person for all 6th-12th graders in our district (it's a small district; about 1500 kids on one campus).  My job includes anything and everything that will increase our high school graduation rate to course administrator, summer/weekend school teacher, special study hall facilitator, parent caller and general pain-in-the-neck to anyone that is not on track to graduate.  I spend most of my time teaching freshman math, harassing freshmen to turn in work and finish incomplete coursework in all subjects, and doing damage control with seniors that are seriously credit deficient.

Thanks for joining the network, Cassie, and thanks for taking the time to introduce yourself.  I visited David Douglas High out your way a couple of times about a year or so ago.  I was helping them build a freshman transition program to help achieve a lot of the same goals you mention fall into your job.  If you'd ever like to discuss possible PD for your school on the topic, just let me know.  I'd love to get out to the Portland area again - it was beautiful!

Thanks, Lori, for joining and introducing yourself. I've heard good things about Link Crew. You might consider blogging about your experience with that program. It could benefit our members.

Our school recently started Link Crew. An overview of what that has looked like this year is as follows:


 At JHS, there are 110 Link Crew students who are partnered with 560 freshmen. For every group of 10-12 freshmen, there are two Link Leaders.   

  • Upperclassmen are trained and equipped through one of the four Link Crew classes.
  • Link leaders conduct weekly one-on-one check-ins with each member of their crew.
  • Link leaders conduct monthly follow-ups with their entire group.
  • Link Crew hosts a monthly social event for the entire freshmen class.
  • Link leaders partner with local restaurants to bring every freshmen lunch at least once this year.




Leaders meet with their students to check on social and academic progress while conveying important information such as scheduling, using resources, combating bullying, figuring GPA, etc. Leaders have made multiple referrals for tutoring, counseling, and discipline.  


Monthly Events:

By hosting special events Link Leaders help the freshmen develop lasting, positive memories and friendships.  Link Crew has already hosted the following events:

  • August – Freshmen Orientation              
  • September – Tailgate Party                  
  • October – Bonfire
  • November – Thanksgiving Feast
  • December – Coca and Cram
  • January – Link Crew Luau
  • February – Inside>Out; The Gauntlet
  • March – Talent Show
  • April – Ho Down Throw Down Rodeo
  • May – Spring Field Day Barbecue


* Research shows that Link Crew reduces absences and disciplinary referrals, engages students in 

  extracurricular activities, and increases graduation rates.

**Freshmen discipline referrals in the first semester at JHS have decreased by 14.3% compared to last year.  The number of D's & F’s among freshmen this year compared to last year for has decreased while A's and B's have increased.

We do not have a school budget for Link Crew, but students in the LC classes have met with CEO's of companies and presented their need. It has been much bigger than I ever imagined. Link Leaders have made me a very proud freshman principal. I have been able to step out of the box and let them take charge. I am there to assist in whatever area they need or stand back in awe as I see all of their hard work and planning produce results. For more information on Link Crew, a year-long freshman transition program, visit

Rather than having a separate building or wing that separates freshmen from the rest of the high school, Link Crew is a year-long transition program that encourages juniors and seniors to become mentors to the freshman. I cannot say enough good about it. It has been a year of project-based learning for Link Leaders. 



Hello everyone,

My name is Darrell Medley and I am principal of Orange Preparatory Academy in Orange Township, NJ.  We are a middle school that services grade 8 and 9.  I have the best of both worlds. (NOT).  We restructured three years ago from a 7-8 middle school to our current configuration.  This has been a very difficult transition. Everything Scott talks about from attendance, to failures, to low motivation happens with our freshman.  I am looking to be a part of this community and see if I can generate some ideas to make my freshman class better. 

I am in my 14th year as an educator.  I started out as a counselor in 99 and vice principal in 09 and principal in 2012.  I am looking forward to being a part of this community.

Thanks for joining, Darrell, and thanks for attending my session.  It was nice to meet you today.  Feel free to share any ideas you have for the good of the network.


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