Academic Mindsets and Behaviors, Prior Achievement, and the Transition to Middle School

The transition to middle school is an important time in students’ academic journey, and poor performance in middle school is a strong signal of future negative academic outcomes. This is true particularly for Black and Latinx students.

To better understand how academic mindsets and behaviors are associated with and may even drive academic outcomes during the transition to middle school, REL West researchers examined the relationship between students’ self-reported academic mindsets and behaviors in grade 5 and the probability of low performance at the end of their first semester of grade 6. The study followed 19,336 students transitioning to middle school from school years 2016-17 to 2017-18 in Nevada’s Clark County School District.

Findings show that grade 5 students with higher levels of self-reported positive academic mindsets and behaviors were less likely to have a low GPA in their first semester of middle school. This finding was particularly significant for low-achieving students in grade 5 even after differences in individual grade 5 test scores were accounted for.

The findings suggest that education stakeholders might want to consider incorporating supports for positive academic mindsets and behaviors into strategies to improve preparation and support for the transition to middle school, particularly for low-achieving students.

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