Parent Advocacy Handbook: Middle School (Grades 7-8)

Middle School (Ages 12 to 14)

Most middle schools in FCPS are for students in grades 7 and 8. Three middle schools include students in grade 6 (Glasgow MS, Holmes MS, and Poe MS), and three middle schools are part of larger secondary schools, which include students from grades 7 to 12 (Robinson SS, Hayfield SS, and Lake Braddock SS). Middle schools are larger, both in physical size and in student enrollment, than most elementary schools. Students come from a wider geographic area than in elementary school. 

Middle school may be the first experience a student has with multiple teachers and the team approach to instruction. Middle school also brings new rules and expectations regarding academics and student behavior. Middle school is not the same as elementary school.

Middle School:  What is it all About?

  • The school day in most FCPS middle schools begins at 7:30 a.m. and ends at 2:15 p.m. (Hours for students who attend secondary schools may vary.) The school day includes time for classes in core subjects and electives, lunch, and embedded remediation and enrichment time, which may serve as a homeroom, study hall, etc., depending on the individual school. Middle school classes may meet on a daily basis, or every-other day, if the middle school uses block scheduling. 
  • Middle school students take classes in English, math, social studies, science, physical education (including health and family life education), with a different teacher for each subject. In addition, students may take elective courses in fine arts, career and technical education, and world language. Students choose middle school courses in the spring before 7th and 8th Grades.
  • Middle school is organized around a team approach where students on the same team share the same teachers in English, social studies, science, and math. This helps students bond with classmates and helps teachers get to know, and work together with, the students on their team.
  • Academics are more rigorous in middle school. Middle school students are expected to take more responsibility for keeping track of their assignments and their school work. 
  • Middle school is an often exciting, and sometimes overwhelming, experience for many students. Middle school students must learn to navigate a new building full of students who are bigger and older, to use a locker and remember its combination, and to get to each class in the time allowed. They also are expected to use a planner to keep track of their assignments, and to change their clothes for physical education class. Meanwhile, they are meeting a lot of new people, making new friends, and trying to figure out where they fit in to this new place.
  • Middle school can be a difficult time for teens and parents as adolescents go through many social, emotional, and biological changes. Parents must learn how to provide guidance and assistance to their students while also allowing for increased independence and personal responsibility both in and outside of the school building. Your middle school staff is a resource to help you meet these challenges.

Middle School - Who is in the Building?

Main Office

  • Principal
  • Assistant Principals
  • Office Staff

Classroom

  • Classroom teachers (by subject matter)
  • English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) teachers
  • Special Education (SPED) teachers
  • Instructional assistants

Student Support Staff

  • Director of student services
  • School counselors
  • School librarian
  • School psychologist
  • Social worker
  • Speech/language pathologist
  • School health aide
  • Parent liaison
  • Department chair
  • Equity lead teacher

Other Staff

  • Cafeteria staff
  • Custodial staff
  • SBTS (school-Based technology specialist)
  • SRO (student resource officer)
     

Be an Advocate

For parents, your middle school child may seem to change on a daily, if not sometimes hourly basis. During adolescence, brains grow at different rates. Friends have more influence, and some students experience their first boyfriend or girlfriend. Parents need now more than earlier to stay engaged with their student, to know their friends, and to help them find activities in the community and at school that will keep them engaged and interested in school and the world around them. As your child adjusts to a new routine and new and different expectations for schoolwork and behavior in middle school, it is important that you provide support to your child and that you advocate on his or her behalf when questions or concerns arise.

At Home

  • Talk to your child. Check in every day and ask them to tell you about their day. Sometimes it helps to ask them one thing that interested them during the day.
  • Make sure your child gets enough sleep at night (9 – 9 ½ hours per night is recommended) and starts the day with a healthy breakfast.
  • Talk with your child about the normal changes that come with puberty. Students will discuss adolescent development as part of the Family Life Education (FLE) portion of the physical education curriculum, but need to hear from you and know that they can come to you with any questions or concerns they may have as they continue to grow and mature.
  • Establish a daily routine. Middle school starts earlier in the morning (usually between 7 and 8 a.m.) than elementary school, which can be an adjustment for many students.
  • Establish an after-school plan. Middle schools end in mid-afternoon, and your child may be coming home alone for the first time. Discuss your expectations with your child. When will homework completed? How should relaxation time be used (for example, do you want to limit screen time)? Are there household and personal chores or obligations to complete? Are visitors allowed when you are not present?
  • Plan for student homework. When will your student do their homework? (Same time every day or does it need to change because of after-school activities?) Where will your student do their homework? (Establish a clean space with no distractions, e.g., desk, table, community room, library.) How long for homework? (Learn each teacher’s expectations for homework. What is minimum amount of time teacher expects be spent on homework?)
  • Do your parent homework! Mark important school dates (e.g., middle school orientation; first day of school; Back to School Night) and all school holidays in your personal calendar or planner. Keep a copy of your child’s daily class schedule handy, so that you know who their teachers are, what period each class meets, and where each class is located. Some questions to ask yourself: Do I know my school’s bell schedule? Is there block scheduling? What team is my child on?
  • Check course information in FCPS 24-7: Parent View regularly. Make sure that the teachers is posting their syllabus and other materials so that you can help your student develop habits to stay on top of this. Check this information regularly, and especially prior to the end of the quarter, when grades are coming out. Check on the teacher’s schedule and encourage your student to take advantage of extra help time.
  • At the beginning of every school year, discuss with your child FCPS’s Student Rights and Responsibilities. Students will talk about this important document in school but also need to hear from you about your expectations regarding their rights and their behavior in school. Speak with your child as well about your desire to be told about any social cruelty (e.g., teasing, bullying, etc.)
  • Monitor school and class attendance. Absences from school may be a sign that your student is losing interest in school; is struggling with school work; is dealing with conflicts or other social situations with classmates; or is dealing with other academic, physical, psychological, or emotional challenges. Your middle school staff can be of assistance. Ask for help if you need it.
  • Help your child with planning and time management. Ask to see their planner. Ensure that your student is developing strong study skills by checking that class assignments are entered into the planner and that all assignment have been completed. Use your FCPS 24-7 Learning Parent View account to check assignments and to email teachers.
  • Establish rules and boundaries for use of electronic devices (e.g., smartphones, tablets, and computers) and check in regularly with your child regarding screen time. You may need to limit screen time (e.g., television, video games, and movies, etc.), especially during the school week. Continue to monitor and moderate your child’s use of social media (e.g., Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, Facebook, etc.) and any increased need to use electronic communications.
  • Monitor your student’s progress report (report card). If your child is at risk of failing and not meeting the promotion benchmarks, you should meet with your child’s teacher and counselor to see that a focused remediation plan is established.
  • Encourage your child’s development of special interests and talents outside of school, including activities that include the child in various social circles (e.g., with groups of friends and peers in non-academic activities, on outside sports teams, in activities at their personal place of worship, etc.). Your local community center, recreation center, library, house of worship, etc., may provide options. Investigate these options early. Don’t miss out because you waited too long to check them out. 

At School

  • Encourage your student to advocate for themselves and to contact their teachers when they have questions or concerns. If you must contact a teacher, keep in mind that middle school teachers are responsible for the learning of many more students, for many different classes, than elementary school teachers. In dealing with your child's teacher, they may not be familiar with your culture, expectations or concerns. So it is important that you share information about your goals and concerns about your child.
  • Contact your child’s counselor if there is information about your child that the counselor needs to know (such as special needs, health concerns, and family circumstances). If you think that your child may have unique needs, such as a developmental delay, an intellectual disability, a serious emotional disability, a specific learning disability, or for other reasons would benefit from special education services, ask your student’s counselor for assistance and guidance. The Special Education Handbook for Parents is an important reference for parents of students with disabilities.
  • Attend Back to School Night (BTSN) to meet all of your child’s teachers and learn about each teacher’s expectations. BTSN is very important for middle school parents because your child not has many teachers–not just one.
  • Be involved with your child’s Academic and Career Plan (available through Naviance Student). This plan helps your child develop academic and personal goals and an action plan that is SMART: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-Bound. This goal-setting and reflection process involves you, your child’s teachers, and school counselor, and incorporates goal setting and academic and career planning. Work with your child’s counselor to help your student select appropriate and challenging courses. This required planning begins in grade 7 and continues through high school. You can view information on your child’s plan through your FCPS 24-7 Learning: Parent View account.
  • Ask about specialized programs that may be of interest or assistance, such as International Baccalaureate Middle Years Program; AVID; College Partnership; and summer enrichment. Pay attention to deadlines.
  • Ensure that your student takes a sufficiently rigorous Math class. Some students are ready to take high-school level math classes in middle school (e.g., Algebra 1, Geometry, etc.). 
  • Volunteer at your school, if time permits. Many middle school students who welcomed their parents’ participation in daily life in elementary school do not want their parents around during the middle school day. Don’t take it personally. Unlike elementary school teachers, middle school teachers are less likely to use classroom volunteers. But, there may be other ways to help your school that do not involve being in the classroom. Parents can help in the main office, in the library, in the clinic, or serve as a mentor. The school will let you know its needs. 
  • Get involved with the Parent Teacher Group (PTA/PTSA) at your school. Plan on attending these monthly meetings. They are a good way to learn about your child’s school and what is going on in middle school that your child may not be sharing with you.

Middle School Programs

All middle schools provide the following services to students who require them:

  • Special Education. FCPS provides specialized services for students with disabilities.
  • ESOL Services. ESOL helps children who speak other languages learn to read and understand English so they can succeed in school.
  • Honors Classes. Honors classes offer additional academic rigor for middle school students in Math, English, Science, and Social Studies. Honors classes are open to all students who request them.

In addition, some middle schools offer the following academic programs and services.

  • Full-Time Advanced Academic Program (AAP) Level IV Program. Students who are eligible for Level IV AAP Center placement may participate in a Level IV center program at the middle school level. Consult the boundary locator to identify the middle school in your region that offers a Level IV Center Program. Students who are eligible for Level IV center placement also have the option of taking a full honors program at their local middle school, if they choose not to attend the Level IV center school.
  • International Baccalaureate Middle Years Program (IBMYP). The IBMYP “encourages students to embrace and understand connections between traditional subjects and the real world and become critical and reflective thinkers.” IBMYP is offered at five middle schools in FCPS, and in four high schools. Students may continue with IBMYP in grades 9 and 10 in preparation for the International Baccalaureate (IB) program in grades 11 and 12. The  Students can earn an IBMYP Certificate at the end of 10th grade.
  • Career and Technical Education (CTE). Middle schools offer courses that teach students technical applications of many occupations. These courses can help your student prepare for higher education and for entry-level employment.
  • Middle School Immersion Transition Program. Students who successfully complete the FCPS elementary school language immersion program are offered immersion classes at some middle schools in grades 7 and 8 to continue their world language studies. Students who complete Immersion 1 and 2 in middle school earn two high school language credits and enter the third-year of that language in grade 9.
  • Young Scholars Program (YS). YS is “designed to find and nurture academic potential in students from historically underrepresented populations,” and to increase their proportions in advanced academics in grades K-8. YS is offered at three middle schools: Glasgow; Holmes; and Poe. 
  • College Success Program: The College Success Program prepares students for success in higher education. Some (but not all) of the programs are for students who will be the first in their family to attend college and who do not have the financial means to attend college without significant financial support. The four College Success programs for middle school students are:
    • Achievement Via Individual Determination (AVID). AVID’s mission is to close the achievement gap by preparing all students for college readiness and success in a global society. AVID is an elective course that teaches students study skills, and offers motivational activities and the opportunity to explore college and career options. For more information, speak to the AVID coordinator at your middle school. (Not all middle schools offer AVID.)
    • Early Identification Program (EIP). EIP is a cooperative program between George Mason University (GMU) and FCPS that offers a multi-year college preparation program to students who will be the first in their families to attend college. EIP offers academic support and explores college options during the school year and offers a three-week academic program at GMU during the summer.
    • College and Career Exploration Club (CCE)/College Partnership Program (CPP). Some middle schools offer the CPP’s College and Career Exploration Club (CCE) as an after-school program. 8th graders may apply for the high school CPP through the CCE. CPP assists high school students from groups traditionally underrepresented in higher education navigate the college admissions process by providing monthly sessions and workshops. The CCE is open to all students.

If your school does not offer a program that you would like started for your student, contact your school’s principal.


Resources for Middle School Parents


Parent-Teacher Groups. Many schools have a PTA/PTO that works to ensure students receive a high-quality education and the necessary supports to grow academically. Many PTAs are run by parents and provide educational and financial assistance to schools. Some offer before and after-school programs for students as well. The PTA is a great resource for parents. You can learn a lot about what is going on at your middle school through your PTA.

Parent Resource Center Library. The Parent Resource Center Library is a lending-library that offers parents and professionals books, journals, periodicals, and videos to assist them in better understanding children with special needs, family interaction, education, and roles and responsibilities in the special education process.

School Library/Media Center: Your school’s library/media center can provide books, journals, periodicals and videos for your student. The school library staff can assist students in doing research for their classes, offer suggestions of books for independent reading, and provide workshops and presentations on various subjects that may be of interest to your middle schooler. The library also has desktop computers available for students to use during the school day. In addition, the school librarian can help students borrow laptops and MiFi hotspot devices to use at home. 


Common Questions

Who are some of the important people I should know at my child’s school?

There are many dedicated individuals at your child’s high school who are there to work with you and your child to insure student success. These individuals include administrative, instructional (classroom), and support staff. Make sure you know the names of each of these staff members, and how to contact them if necessary.

  • Principal.  Every school has one principal who is the chief administrator and instructional leader.
  • Assistant Principals. Most middle schools are bigger than elementary schools and have more than one assistant principal. Assistant principals in middle school may be responsible for overseeing specific grades and/or subject areas.
  • Teachers. Teachers are responsible for the day-to-day instruction of students. Middle schools have many more teachers than elementary schools, including:
    • Classroom Teachers: Middle School Teachers teach specific subject areas and may see your student every day in class, or if the school has block scheduling for classes, every other day.
    • Special Education Teachers. SPED teachers provide individual instruction or assistance for students with disabilities in and outside the general education classroom.
    • ESOL Teachers. ESOL teachers support students who speak other languages learn to read and understand English so they can succeed in school.
    • Equity Lead Teacher. The equity lead teacher works with the school principal to build relationships and foster a culturally responsive environment at school.
  • Director of Student Services. The Director of Student Services, or DSS, is a member of the school’s leadership team and oversees the student services (or guidance) department, including counselors, social worker, and psychologist.
  • Middle School Counselors. Counselors help oversee students’ academic, social, and emotional progress through middle school. They, for example, consult with parents, teachers, and other staff to help the child’s adjustment to school; monitor student progress; collaborate with the student’s teachers to ensure academic and social-emotional progress; and coordinate student services for children with special needs.  Counselors also may assist students and parents to identify special enrichment and support programs to help with academic work.  Every middle school student is assigned to a specific counselor. (If you have two, or more, children in the same school, they may have different counselors.) Make sure you know who your child’s counselor is and how to contact him or her.
  • School Librarian: Every middle school has its own library that provides special programs and workshops for students and loans books to its students. The school Librarian is another instructional leader in your child’s school, and can assist middle school students in learning how to do research, how to use source materials, and how to find books and reading material of interest to the student. The librarian can help students with access to technology to use at home.
  • Social Worker/Psychologist. School social workers provide services to address the social, emotional, and behavioral needs of students. School psychologists provide family-school collaboration services to help families navigate educational and community systems to support students to address academic, mental health, and behavioral needs.
  • School Health Aide. The School Health Aide provides oversees the School Health Room (often called the “clinic”).
  • Office Assistants/Administrative Assistants. School office assistants take care of scheduling appointments, greeting visitors, and communicating with school staff. If you have questions about registration, bus schedules, school lunches, immunization, or attendance, call the Main Office. Remember they are busiest at the start and end of each day. The designated Student Information Assistant, or SIA, serves as Registrar and oversees student records.
  • Instructional Assistants. Classroom assistants help teachers and students in large classes.
  • After-School Specialist. The after-school specialist develops, implements, monitors, and assesses site-based after-school programs and coordinates after-school activities and programs with regular school-hours programs.
  • Parent Liaisons (PL). Most (but not all) schools have parent liaisons who work with parents and teachers to help your child. They are usually local parents and speak the predominant language of your community.  If your school does not have a PL, and you feel one is needed, start with the principal and ask what you can do to help your school advocate for this added position at the school.
  • School Based Technology Specialist (SBTS). The SBTS provides technical training and tech support to schools and school staff. Your SBTS may be able to assist you if you are having difficulty gaining access to school technology resources for parents.
  • School Security Staff. Middle schools generally have one staff member who oversees safety and security in the school building.
  • Student Resource Officer (SRO). The SRO is a uniformed member of the Fairfax County Police Department, who is assigned to the middle school. 

What classes does my child take in middle school?

Middle school students take classes in English, math, social studies, science, and health and physical education. They also may take courses in world languages; fine arts (music, theater, or visual arts); and career and technical education (CTE), business and information technology, family and consumer services, and/or technology and engineering education.

The basic sequencing for core courses in middle school is:

Seventh Grade Eighth Grade
English 7 English 8
U.S. History 7 Civics 8
Investigations in Environmental Science  Investigating Matter & Energy
Math 7 Options Math 8 Options
*All core courses also offer an option to take the course as a more rigorous honors course.

Does it matter what math course my child takes in middle school?

Some parents may assume that they do not need to think about what mathematics courses their student will take until high school. However, many experts agree that this process must start in middle school. Most students take math through algebra 2 in high school. Students interested in advanced classes have many options. The basic math sequence available for high school mathematics in FCPS is as follows:

High School Math Sequence
Year 1 Algebra 1 or Algebra 1 Honors
Year 2 Geometry or Geometry Honors
Year 3 Algebra 2 or Algebra 2 Honors
Year 4 Pre-Calculus
Year 5 Advanced Placement Calculus (AB/BC)
Year 6 Multi-Variable Calculus

All students do not, and cannot, complete this sequence before they graduate. Some additional options, which will meet the graduation requirements for a Standard Diploma, follow.

Option 1:

Satisfies Standard Diploma Requirements

Year 1

Year 2

Year 3

Algebra 1
or
Algebra 1 Honors

Geometry
or
Geometry Honors

Algebra 2
or
Algebra 2 Honors

Option 2:

Year 1

Year 2

Year 3

Year 4

Algebra 1 Part 1

Algebra 1

Geometry

Algebra 2
or
Computer Science (with a career concentration completer)

Option 3:

Year 1

Year 2

Year 3

Year 4

Algebra

Geometry Part 1

Geometry

Algebra 2
or
Computer Science (with a career concentration completer)

Students who are planning on earning an International Baccalaureate diploma have a different math sequence. Some IB options follow:

 

Option 1:

Year 1

Year 2

Year 3

Year 4

Geometry*
or
Geometry Honors

Algebra 2
or
Algebra 2 Honors

Precalculus

IB Math Studies SL

Option 2:

Year 1

Year 2

Year 3

Year 4

Geometry*
or
Geometry Honors

Algebra 2
or
Algebra 2 Honors

IB Math Studies SL 1

IB Math Studies SL 2

Option 3:

Year 1

Year 2

Year 3

Year 4

Geometry*
or
Geometry Honors

Algebra 2 Trig Honors

IB Math HL 1

IB Math HL 2

Option 4:

Year 1

Year 2

Year 3

Year 4

Algebra 2 Trig Honors*

IB Math HL 1

AP BC Calculus
or
IB Math HL 2

IB Math HL 2

Many students in FCPS begin taking high-school mathematics in middle school–the vast majority do so in 8th grade with Algebra 1. Some students begin the high school math sequence in 7th grade. If your student took advanced math 6 in elementary school, they likely took the Iowa Algebra Aptitude Test to measure their readiness for algebra 1 in grade 7. Note: If your child is considering Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology (TJHSST) for high school, he or she MUST be enrolled in algebra 1 or higher-level math in Grade 8 to be eligible to apply to TJHSST. Algebra 1, part 1 does not satisfy the math prerequisite for applying to TJHSST.

How are students evaluated and graded in middle school?

Middle school teachers may use a combination of various tools to measure your child’s progress in the subject matter of their class offering, including:

  • Teacher-made quizzes, tests, and examinations.
  • In-class assignments and exercises.
  • Classroom participation.
  • Homework assignments.
  • Special projects.

Progress reports (report cards) are sent home four times a year at the end of each quarter. You are responsible for signing and returning progress reports. Middle school students may receive a grade ranging from A through F.

Grade 4.0 scale 100 Point Scale Definition
A 3.8-4.0 93-100 Designates the status of a student who consistently demonstrates accurate and complete knowledge of content and skills specified in the FCPS Program of Studies (POS) and applies that knowledge to solve problems in a variety of settings.
A- 3.4-3.7 90-92
B+ 3.1-3.3 87-89 Designates the status of a student who demonstrates knowledge of content and skills specified in the FCPS POS, with some improvement needed in accuracy and/or consistency in performance, applying that knowledge to solve problems in a variety of settings.
B 2.8-3.0 83-86
B- 2.4-2.7 80-82
C+ 2.1-2.3 77-79 Designates the status of a student who demonstrates knowledge of basic content and skills specified in the FCPS POS, but requires additional practice and instructional experiences to acquire skills necessary to solve problems.
C 1.8-2.0 73-76
C- 1.4-1.7 70-72
D+ 1.1-1.3 67-69 Designates the status of a student who needs significant practice and instructional experiences to acquire the knowledge of basic content and skills specified in the FCPS POS necessary to solve problems. As a final mark, it is not necessarily sufficient to meet the prerequisite requirements
D 0.8-1.0 64-66
F 0-0.7 Below 64 Designates the status of a student who has not demonstrated the basic knowledge of content and/or skills specified in the FCPS POS and requires additional practice and instructional experiences in order to succeed.

Middle School students also may receive a mark of:

  • Incomplete (I) - when, for example, a student has excused absences and are unable to complete assignments during the marking period but will complete assignments.
  • No Mark (NM) - when, for example, a student has been diagnosed with a medical issue which prevents them from completing work or there are other circumstances in which prolonged absences hinder a student’s ability to complete work.

My child is struggling (academically, socially, etc.) in middle school. Where can I get help?

If your middle school student is struggling in a class, encourage them to begin to advocate for themselves and speak to their teacher. If they are uncomfortable doing so, help them to brainstorm possible questions they might ask, such as: I am confused about what is going on in class, can you help me? Why did I get the grade I received? Is there anything I can do to improve my grade? Can I make up assignments?

If you are concerned about your middle schooler’s development, are concerned about their social life at school, or you believe that your child may be treated differently by teachers or students, or may be subject to bullying or harassment, speak with your student’s school counselor or with your school’s Director of Student Services.

Does FCPS offer any after-school programs for middle school students?

FCPS does not offer child care for middle school students. The School-Age Child Care Program (SACC), is a school-based program that cares for elementary-school children before and after school. Every middle school does offer after-school programs for their students, so that students have available activities where they can feel safe and reduce the potential for risk-taking behaviors. Late buses are available for students who ride the school bus to and from school, but usually not on all weekdays.

During these after-school programs, students can receive extra academic help from their teachers, participate in clubs and other school activities, and/or get involved in other high-quality activities focused on their age group. Every school program is unique to that school. You can find out more about your school’s after-school offerings on the school’s individual website. Speak with your school principal to advocate for additional programs.

Fairfax County also offers after-school programs at four Teen Centers in locations is northern, southern, eastern, and western Fairfax County. (Some towns or municipalities within Fairfax also may offer programs for their middle school students.) Fairfax County Teen Centers are open weekdays after school, and also on Friday and Saturday evenings. Transportation from local middle schools may be offered. Check with your school.

In addition, Fairfax County operates Drop in Centers on Friday and Saturday evenings at various elementary school sites across Fairfax County.

 

Can my middle school student take high school courses?

Middle school students may take high school credit courses in grades 7 and 8. Students do so, most often, in math and world language courses, which often are offered at their middle school. Middle school students also may take the following high school courses online, through FCPS Online: geometry; algebra 2; precalculus; Korean 1, 2, 3; Spanish 1, 2, 3; Chinese 1, 2, 3.

Any high school credit courses taken in middle school become part of your child’s high school transcript and are included when grade point average (GPA) is determined in high school.

After your child has completed a high school credit course in middle school, you have the right to request that the course (and grade given) be expunged, or removed, from the student’s record. Your student then can re-take the course when he or she may be better prepared for its rigor. If you wish to do this, you must request that the course be expunged in writing to the middle school or high school the student will attend the following year and prior to the end of the first nine weeks of the school year. NOTE: If your child takes a high school course in summer school during the summer after 8th grade, that summer school course cannot be expunged from their high school transcript.

What important testing in middle school do I need to know about?

All middle school students take various assessments and standardized tests. Students in grade 7 and 8 all take the Horizon Division wide Formative Assessments in reading and math, in November through December, to measure their knowledge of course content standards prior to taking the Standards of Learning tests. In addition, students take state-mandated Standards of Learning (SOL) standardized tests in grade 7 (reading and math) and in grade 8 (writing, reading, math, science, and civics).

Middle school students also may take specialized testing that is important for students taking high school level courses, and/or for students interested in certain advanced academic opportunities. These include:

Testing to High School Credit Courses
Seventh or Eighth Grade Algebra 1 (or High Math) SOL
Middle School students who take algebra 1 or higher-level high school math classes, must take and pass the SOL for that course to receive a verified credit for the class on their high school transcripts.
Testing for TJHSST Admissions
Eighth Grade TJHSST Admissions Test
Students who apply to TJHSST for 9th grade must take the TJHSST Admissions Test in the fall of 8th grade.
ALERT: Students must apply to TJHSST first to be eligible to sit for the admissions test. For information regarding the admissions process and current year deadlines and test dates, visit the TJHSST Testing webpage.
 

English Language Learners also take the WIDA ACCESS test for ELLs every year to measure yearly English-language proficiency. WIDA testing occurs every year between January and March.

When should we start thinking about high school?

Your teen may already be thinking about high school and taking classes for high school credit while in middle school, especially classes in mathematics and world languages. Encourage your student to think about the high school classes that will best prepare them for college and consult with their guidance counselor. Make sure you are knowledgeable about the classes your student needs to take at each grade level to be ready for high school and beyond.

In 8th grade, your student’s middle school may offer an opportunity for students to visit their local high school during the school day to learn more about their high school. Encourage your child to take advantage of this opportunity.

8th graders begin selecting their high school classes in February of 8th grade. Talk to your student’s counselor if you have questions about course selection.

In spring of 8th grade, talk with your student about what activities they may be interested in pursuing in high school. If your student wants to play sports, make sure you are aware of the requirements and deadlines for sports participation. If your child wants to play a fall sport, you will need to make sure that they have a sports physical after May of that calendar year. Plan ahead.

If your student is interested in a high school program that is not at your local high school, speak with your counselor about the possibility of pupil placement at another school that offers the program.

If your student in interested in applying to TJHSST, planning ahead is important. Students apply to TJHSST in the fall (late September) of their 8th grade year. Applicants must be enrolled in at least Algebra 1 in grade 8 and have a GPA of 3.0 in their core subjects to apply. Timely application registers the student to take the TJ Admissions Test, which is administered in November. To prepare for the test, many students either study on their own or take a test preparation class (some beginning in 7th grade). For more information on TJHSST and test preparation, speak with your student’s counselor.

Is it too early to be thinking about life after high school?

Preparation for life beyond high school (college, technical school, vocational careers, etc.) starts at kindergarten, when students begin to build the strong foundation that will help prepare them for the future. In middle school, students can select elective courses that may allow them to learn more about their areas of interest moving forward. Encourage your student to ask questions, try new things, and learn about the many options that are possible in high school and beyond. See the “Thinking Beyond High School” section of this Handbook for more information on preparing for life after FCPS.

What can my middle schooler do during the summer?

There are many opportunities for summer learning and summer fun for middle school students.

FCPS and Fairfax County both offer summer opportunities for younger teens. Some of these programs are free of charge, or charge a minimal fee.

Summer Reading: Encourage your middle schooler to read during the summer. For the first time, your middle school student may have required summer reading to prepare for the coming school year.

FCPS Summer Programs: FCPS operates various summer programs for middle school students looking for academic and/or enrichment opportunities. Spaces in some of these programs are limited and may fill quickly. Pay attention to deadlines and requirements for admission. 

  • Credit Recovery Academy (Grades 7-12) is an online program where students may recover one high school course credit through this summer program. Speak with your child’s counselor about this program.
  • ESOL Language and Literacy Connections is a free online class for middle school English Learners who wish to develop their academic, reading, and writing skills.
  • FCPS Online Campus offers online courses for middle school students who have expunged a high school math course or want to recover a course credit and take a high school math class again. $ (reduced fees available)
  • Tech Adventure Camp (grades 5-7).
  • Institute for the Arts.
  • TJHSST Middle School Institute (grades 7-8) offers four one-week programs in STEM. Registration begins in late April. $ Some transportation available.

Fairfax County Programs: Fairfax County also offers summer programs and opportunities for middle school students. 

  • VIP Sports, Fitness, and Technology Camp for Middle Schoolers is a five-week fun and fitness camp sponsored by FCPS and the Fairfax County Department of Neighborhood and Community Services for rising 7th and 8th graders. There are numerous programs operating at various middle schools in FCPS and students attend based on school attendance areas. ($50 for 5 weeks) Transportation provided from feeder middle schools and some elementary schools. Contact the after-school specialist at your child’s school if there are any payment concerns.
  • TRS Summer Camp (ages 13-22) offers special events, arts activities, sensory play, games, sports, field trips, and music activities for students with developmental disabilities, intellectual disabilities, autism spectrum disorder, physical disabilities, emotional disabilities, learning disabilities, and/or attention deficit disorders. Registration begins in March. $ (fee variances and scholarships available).