The Freshman Transition Network

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Share this video with your students and get the feedback. Perhaps a writing assignment of "how this might apply to your life" or "how does this message apply to your life's goals" would be an excellent starter for conversation.

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Comment by Bill Betzen on July 16, 2011 at 11:48am

I could not agree more.  I also agree that in many suburban and middle/upper class public schools that a focus on the future is a more or less normal ingredient already present in many forms.  It is only in schools wherein the large majority of students are on the free school lunch program that we have families enduring stresses that hinder a more common focus into the future. That is where this archive "time capsule" project shows the most benefit.  


Several years ago I had the opportunity for a long talk with one of my favorite college professors who is also very involved in teaching at an exclusive Dallas preperatory school. I shared with him the School Archive Project and he laughed.  His prep-school students are exceptionally future focused. This project would have no place in his school. I can certaily understand that.   How much of your audience on this blog are from schools wherein the majority of the students qualify for free lunch programs?   In all of Dallas ISD the percentage for the entire district for students on the free lunch program is 89%.  My school is 94%.


To reinforce the truth of a holistic approach needed in 9th grade transition, you may want to study the graph I made for all of Dallas ISD this past January.  It is online and explained in detail at but I have inserted a copy of it here.  Even though the School Archive Project is only in 2 of the 32 DISD high schools, you can see that all of our numbers are improving significantly, especially the 9th grade transition rate.  That improvement means that 2 and 3 years from now we will continue to see graduation rates that are rising significantly.  We just passed the 50% mark a year ago for having "attrition based" graduation numbers that equalled over 50% of the full 9th grade enrollment from 4 years earlier. Due to the virtual elimination of the 9th grade bulge, (see  Dallas ISD will pass a 60% "attrition based" graduation rate calculated this same way within the next 4 years!  It takes everything and everyone working together for this to happen among 155,000 students.


Comment by Scott Habeeb on July 16, 2011 at 10:23am
Bill - thanks for so often sharing with others your idea regarding the time capsule.  Please don't ever think that any of the ideas expressed on this site are opposed to that.  Transitioning 9th graders into successful high school students takes a holistic approach.  Excellent classroom teaching - strong and loving relationships with teachers - lessons about life (such as what could be taught by this video) - etc.  There really is no one-size-fits-all solution.  The answer is anything and everything that works.
Comment by Bill Betzen on July 16, 2011 at 5:34am

I agree that this is a good video for provoking thought, but the problem is that the distant future a decade or more away is not real for the average inner city middle school student. They cannot visualize such a passage of time. Getting through the week, or maybe the month, demands all their attention. With parents in two jobs they struggle to pay bills. We have to be more physical.  That is why we started the 500-pound vault idea as a 10-year time capsule bolted to the floor in the school lobby.


The first time period is only while they are in middle school.  Their parents write them a letter about their goals for them the first month in middle school.  Then they write a letter to themselves using that letter about their own goals for middle school.  Those two letters are placed into the same self-addressed envelope and into the vault for the years they are in middle school.  Then whenever they pass the vault under the spotlights each day they may be reminded of the two letters to them inside the vault. 

The last month of middle school those letters are returned to the students and both are rewritten.  Parents write about their goals for 10 years into the future for their child, and again the student uses this letter to write to themselves.  This time we do the ceremony with the group photo of students holding their envelope. Students then place their own self-addressed envelope, with both letters inside, into the vault, on the shelf for their class.


Since we have now been doing this for 7 years our first class reunion is only three years away. It will be great to see how many come back for the reunion and to retrieve their envelopes and speak with our then current students about their recommendations for success.   The progress will continue.   Our high school graduation rates have already gone from 33% in 2006 to well over 62% this past year.  Before our first reunion they should be over 70%!  We must make the future real!  You can see our annual report for 2010 at


This video would be a good start for our letter writing.

Comment by Scott Habeeb on February 1, 2010 at 1:01pm
Glad it worked for you!
Comment by Cat Mejia on February 1, 2010 at 12:47pm
I've been showing this video to my classes today. It goes very well with my Do Now which is to think about their goals for the new semester (long term as well as short term). Overwhelmingly, the response has been very positive. Both from a writing perspective (the mechanics of how it was written) as well as the message that is being given. Thank you for sharing this video.

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