The California Department of Education is seeking middle schools to become Schools to Watch–Taking Center Stage model schools.
The purpose for designating a school as a Schools to Watch model is to recognize that it is on a trajectory toward becoming a high performing middle grades school. It is not simply an award for a job well done. Once recognized, the school becomes an open book for middle grades educators in California, across the nation, and around the globe to see first-hand key structures and practices for successfully educating early adolescents.
The first step of three in becoming a model school in California is meeting the application requirements, which are based on continuous academic improvement and growth schoolwide. Visit www.cde.ca.gov/ci/gs/mg/stw.asp for the application requirements and more information.
The second step, after meeting the application requirements, is for the entire staff to conduct a self-assessment based on the criteria found in the School Self-Study and Rating Rubric. The criteria in the rubric were established by the National Forum to Accelerate Middle-Grades Reform. The SSRR and its tools are also found at www.cde.ca.gov/ci/gs/mg/stw.asp. The schools are not required to have the highest ratings in all areas, but demonstrate that they are working toward such excellence.
The third step in becoming a model school is to download the 2012 STW–TCS application, available on the California League of Middle Schools website at www.clms.net. You can also view profiles of the 32 current STW–TCS model schools and read about the benefits of your school becoming one.
The criteria in the self-study rubric are divided into the same four areas as CDE’s 12 Recommendations for Middle Grades Success: Academic Excellence, Developmental Responsiveness, Social Equity, and Organizational Structures and Processes. The strategies that comprise these recommendations and the National Forum to Accelerate Middle Grades Reform’s 37 criteria in the self-study rubric address what has been known about middle grades students for more than a century. They are neither older elementary school, nor younger high school students. They are unique because of the dramatic developmental changes they are undergoing during this period. Therefore, educating these students requires radically different approaches to keep them engaged in school.
In the 1960s, the “Father of Middle Schools,” William Alexander, recognized that junior high schools failed to bridge the gap between elementary and high schools. Alexander’s response was to create middle schools. Yet even today, many middle schools and other schools that house middle grades students, lack the understanding as to how to meet the unique academic and developmental needs of their young adolescents – elements that would greatly improve student achievement. Schools to Watch are exemplary models of what Alexander envisioned as instructional strategies with 11- to 14-year-old needs in mind.
Deadline for submission is Oct. 5. Questions can be directed to Marsha Robinson, education programs consultant, Middle Grades Improvement Office, CDE, (916) 319-0352 or email@example.com.