There’s a suburban myth gaining strength and negatively impacting the performance index of thirteen-year-olds everywhere. This myth, both simple and dead-wrong, claims middle school doesn’t matter.

The middle school doesn’t matter mindset walks side-by-side students stubbornly withholding sincere effort, stunting their intellectual growth, rebuffing homework and stifling engaged classroom behavior. By adopting the philosophy of middle school irrelevance, young teens release themselves from accountability while lowering parental expectations. Operating under the assumption that middle school doesn’t matter is an error far too many students make.

Middle school matters; here’s why:

Student growth is born from consistency, not from stop-and-go expectations. Rumor has it, that it takes 22 days to form a habit. Once formed, habits become hard to break. Imagine the parental hangover stemming from a year of permissive middle school slacking. To assume your student will easily reframe their academic routine once in high school is a mistake. And while adopting your 8th grader’s mindset may create temporary peace at home, it results in residual conflict, when you eventually require elevated academic performance in high school. In short, the habits formed in middle school, either good or bad, will be hard to shake once in high school. Thus, the work it takes now to enforce a solid study routine, will have a strong ROI in the years to come.

Middle school academics translate directly into high academic opportunity. Middle school grades are like dominos, and impact high school class placement. They have the power to dictate a student’s entire course progression, either positively or negatively. Sometimes the impact is direct, in the form of prerequisites used to gatekeep honors level courses. For example, gaining placement into a 9th grade honors level math class, might require an A in their 8th grade math class. Other times, the impact is indirect. For example, foreign language classes often provide opportunity for acceleration following successful performance on an entrance exam; exams unpassable on the heels of subpar middle school experience. While colleges don’t evaluate middle school transcripts, they do see the ripple by way of the high school course progression.

Middle school is a pace lap for high school. Academic success is a marathon, not a sprint. Simply stated, taking years off from effort (as happens in 8th grade) can stunt intellectual growth and decrease the odds of a successful high school academic career. Attempting to validate the prioritization of specific school years over others is a slippery slope. While certain years hold more value for post-secondary institutions, accepting lower thresholds of effort leads to unanticipated consequences, specifically with academic inertia. Momentum is a critical ingredient to student success. Students in motion, tend to stay in motion; while students at a dead stop, have a tough time getting going again. Students do better with consistency; consistency in routine; consistency in their study habits; and consistency in expectations and interventions from their parents.