Should Your Teen Change Schools? How to Decide

Changing schools is a big decision and not one to take lightly — especially if the transition is happening mid-year. This is especially true for middle and high school students — adolescence is such an important time of emotional, social, and academic growth, and transitions during this time can be challenging.

However, there are some circumstances where a change is warranted, and even necessary. Whether you’re considering a switch due to a shift in family circumstances or because you’re dissatisfied with their current school, here are some tips to help you make your decision.

Is changing schools the right decision?

Research shows moving schools can affect a student’s development, both for better and worse. Some studies on student mobility have shown that changing schools frequently can negatively impact students’ engagement, self-perception and grades.

This seems to be particularly true for students in grades 8-12, so it’s important to carefully consider the pros and cons before switching middle or high schools.

Depending on your student’s and family’s situation, the positives of transferring to a new school will outweigh any drawbacks.

Possible downsides of switching schools can include:

  • • Disruption to the class, as well as your student’s and family’s routine.
  • • Changing schools can make it challenging to build strong relationships within the school community, including teachers, administrators, and peers.
  • • It can be tough for your teen or preteen to find his or her place in a new social circle.
  • • Curriculum varies from school to school and different classes move at different paces. It can take some time to get up to speed academically at a new school.

These downsides, and others, are why many experts recommend not switching between middle and high school if it can be avoided. AZ Compass Prep minimizes these sometimes difficult transitions by serving students in grades 7-12.

By staying at AZ Compass Prep through middle and high school, students benefit from a stable school community throughout these formative years. We also share our campus with our K-6 partner school Vector Prep & Arts, which makes the move from 6th to 7th grade a smooth transition.

When should your student change schools?

Your family circumstances have changed

If your family moves to a new location, changing schools is likely unavoidable. Likewise, if your student was attending private school, a job loss or financial hardship might mean a switch to public school is necessary. The good news is there are outstanding tuition-free public school options available to your family.

Your child is unhappy

If your child is unhappy, it’s important to find out why. Lots of kids will resist going to school sometimes, or claim to “hate school.” Some kids have more trouble making friends than others, or feel like they don’t fit in socially.

But if they never have anything good to say at the end of the day, if they pretend to be sick every day, or if their mood has dramatically shifted — then it might be a sign that something bigger is going on.

They’re not progressing

Whether they’re not challenged, or they’re struggling, if your teen isn’t making progress, that’s cause for concern. Your child’s middle or high school should be helping them learn, grow, and develop in lots of ways — academically, socially, emotionally. If that’s not happening, or if they’re regressing in some way, it’s time to look at why.

Safety concerns

Your child’s safety is of the utmost importance. If they aren’t safe due to the location of the school, bullying, or questionable peer groups, a switch may be warranted.

Their needs are not addressed

There are a variety of needs your child might have that are not being addressed by a school. Some of these may include:

  • • Not challenged / too easy
  • • Struggling academically
  • • No creative outlets
  • • No sports / extracurricular activities
  • • Unsupported learning disabilities or special needs
  • • Social isolation or trouble fitting in

One of these issues doesn’t necessarily mean a change is needed. There may be other options, such as switching classes, participating in extracurricular activities or sports outside of school, switching to a gifted program, or determining if they would benefit from an IEP.

What to consider when switching to a new middle or high school

There are some important factors to consider when researching new schools and preparing for a transition. These include:

Their feelings – How do they feel about switching schools? If the transition to a new school is unwanted (but unavoidable) how can you help make it a positive experience?

Their relationships – How will you support your teen in making new friends at school and/or maintaining existing friendships?

The quality of education your teen will receive – What is the school’s approach to academics? How do they help prepare students to be college and career-ready?

The quality of teachers – How does the school support their teachers? Is professional development and training available to support and empower them to be effective?

Class size – What is the maximum number of students in a classroom? Are there enough staff members available to give your student individualized attention?

Availability of sports, arts and other extracurricular activities – Students benefit enormously from arts education, including visual and performing arts, as well as athletics. These activities teach students to see the world in new ways, develop teamwork and communication skills, and build strong and healthy bodies.

How to make a mid-year switch positive

Start a conversation

Discuss the move as a family and talk to your student about how they feel about the transition. Keep the lines of communication open throughout — as you visit schools and and as they settle in at the new one.

Focus on the positives

Focus on all the new experiences your student will have and new friends they’ll make. This is important whether the switch is happening due to a negative experience at their previous school, or for other reasons.

If your student isn’t happy about the transition, talk to them about how it’s OK to be sad about leaving their old school (change is always hard!) but it can also be exciting to start something new!

Schedule a visit

Make a plan to visit the new school for a tour. Meet the administrators and new teacher if possible and let your student ask any questions they have about the new school.

Maintain existing relationships with friends

Help your student maintain existing friendships from their old school. Arrange times to get together, and encourage them to text, call or email each other — especially if distance is a factor.

Pick an activity

Choosing a sport to play, or picking a music, dance, art, or theatre class is a great way to explore a new skill and make friends at the new school. At AZ Compass Prep, both arts and athletics are integrated into each day’s schedule — and our athletic program is among the best in the state.

Our dedicated coaching staff consists of highly qualified professionals who provide the best opportunity for every student-athlete. Students can choose from Football and Flag Football, Basketball, Co-Ed Soccer, and Baseball.

Get involved

Get involved in the school community by attending a game, performance or other event. With a top-ranked athletic program, it’s always fun to root on our Dragons!

We’re also big believers in parent participation and we encourage parents to attend our Parent Action Team meetings.

Final thoughts

We know there’s a lot to think about when you’re considering a change of schools. As you consider your options, we want you to know that we’re here to help.

Contact us to learn more about our school community or schedule a time to visit. We’d be happy to answer all your questions and share information about how our programs can support your child’s character development as well as academic, arts, and athletic goals.

If you’re ready to enroll, start your application here. It’s not too late to join us for the 2021-2022 school year!

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