LIVINGSTON, NJ – The Livingston Public Schools’ (LPS) Transition Program, implemented last summer, continues to evolve to keep pace with the changing needs of students looking for a smoother segue from elementary to middle school, middle school to high school, and high school to college, other post-secondary opportunities, work and life.
Director of Guidance and Counseling for LPS Tina Renga and Transition Coordinator Krystie Loeuis together identified certain core commonalities that students generally experience, regardless of their transition stage. Using these as a starting point, Renga and Loeuis crafted the Transition Program based on several areas of focus, they explained at Monday’s Livingston Board of Education (LBOE) meeting.
“Basically the overarching goal in mind is to assist with a seamless transition for students,” said Renga.
Some of the commonalties they noticed involved included a focus on course selection; the need for presentations and school orientation programs that address various aspects of effective transitioning; taking advantage of school tours so students can familiarize themselves with their new environments in advance; and the importance of building relationships with school counselors and Child Study Team members to assist in self-advocacy.
According to Renga, programming in these areas, varying by developmental level, is offered to students across their school year to keep them abreast of the changes they can anticipate before they actually encounter them.
The foundation of the program is built upon what Renga and Loeuis call “transitions practice,” which aids in giving students a sense of stability by making information about how to move through their educational career—taking advantage of educational opportunities appropriate for them without sacrificing their sense of well-being—available on an accessible website and communicating to them which officials at their schools are their primary points of contact for information on transitioning with ease.
Keeping the home-school relationship strong and increasing continuity at all developmental levels so that parents and school professionals are working in tandem also goes a long way in helping students move through the various phases smoothly, said Renga. Keeping the channels of communication between parents and the schools open and fluid so that both of these major influencers in the students’ lives work from a shared understanding of the values and practices involved in successful transitioning helps students and parents experience a greater continuity as students grow, she added.
The Transition Program will be adapted for the 2018-19 school year to further address this need for continuity for students by incorporating a “looping concept” which will begin in sixth-grade.
Currently, students have one guidance counselor for sixth grade and another for seventh and eighth grades. Beginning in 2018, however, a single counselor will transition with sixth graders so they have the opportunity to build upon that existing relationship without change for all three years of their middle-school education.
“This year, we had approximately 25 events for students and parents with the key goal being to provide them with information to help them navigate this process to alleviate some of the anxiety,” said Loeuis. “For parents, we looked at presentations they would most benefit from—those which mirrored presentations that are being given in the school counseling department.”
Select topics included: grade scheduling, course preview day, introduction to the Child Study Team, an overview of the college process, college admission and career panel, military opportunities day and transition to life. Parents were offered a post-presentation survey through which they could offer their suggestions for future topics they would like to see covered.
Future plans for the Transition Program aim to build even stronger support networks by meeting in larger school official groups that include counselors, Child Study Team members, and school point people to share best-of-breed approaches for building out the program; visiting and adding more colleges to the April college and career fair; offering a wider but more targeted array of evening presentations for students and parents; meetings with building principals to gather feedback and input; and annually updating the Transition Program to ensure it continues to meet the needs of the community.