2012 Colorado Trailblazer Schools to Watch Revealed

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Basalt Middle School, Fort Morgan Middle School, and Wellington Middle School were designated as a 2012 Colorado Trailblazer “School to Watch” as part of a recognition program developed by the National Forum to Accelerate Middle-Grades Reform.  Holmes Middle School was redesignated for the third time, the second school in the state of Colorado to achieve a third designation.

State leaders from the Colorado Association of Middle Level Educators (CAMLE) use the criteria of academic excellence, school responsiveness to the needs and interests of young adolescents, strong leadership, teachers who work together to improve curriculum and instruction, and a collective commitment to assessment and accountability to bring about continuous improvement.

Diane Lauer, State Coordinator of the Colorado Trailblazer “Schools to Watch” program stated, “We congratulate these schools for creating an outstanding learning environment where students thrive. This school clearly recognizes the importance of meeting the needs of all of their students and ensuring that every child has access to a rigorous, high-quality education.”   At the end of this month, these schools will take their place as four of fourteen Colorado and 279 middle schools nationwide to have earned this designation.

Each of these schools will be honored during a gala celebration in Washington, D.C on June 21, 2012 along with the otherdesignated “Schools to Watch” from across the nation. They will have the opportunity to meet with their U.S. Representatives on Capitol Hill and join the national conversation related to accelerating educational reform.  Furthermore, each will be asked to present at various national, regional and state conferences to share their stories of success.

Selection is based on a written application that required schools to show how they met criteria developed by the Forum.  Finalists are chosen and visited by state teams who observe classrooms, interview administrators, teachers, and parents, and look at student achievement data, suspension rates, quality of lessons, and student work. Schools are recognized for a three-year period, and at the end of three years must repeat the process in order to be re-designated.

“We are pleased that our national Schools to Watch program demonstrates that schools can meet high academic expectations while preserving a commitment to healthy development and equity for all students,” said Dr. Deborah Kasak, Forum executive director.  “These Schools to Watch are indeed special; they make education so exciting that students and teachers don’t want to miss a day.  These schools have proven that it is possible to overcome barriers to achieving excellence, and any middle-level school in any state can truly learn from their examples,” Kasak said.

Launched in 1999, Schools to Watch began as a national program to identify middle-grades schools across the country that were meeting or exceeding 37 criteria developed by the Forum. The Forum developed a web site (http://schoolstowatch.org) that features online tours of schools, as well as detailed information about the selection criteria used in the recognition program.

In 2002, the Forum began working with states to replicate the Schools to Watch program as a way to introduce the Forum’s criteria for high-performance and identify middle grades schools that meet or exceed that criteria. Different education organizations have taken the lead in each state, but all have received training and support from the Forum to implement their Schools to Watch programs. All are planning in-state recognition ceremonies.

The National Forum sponsors the Schools to Watch state program with the support of members, the National Association for Elementary School Principals, the National Association of Secondary School Principals, the Association of Middle Level Education, Learning Forward, and the State Schools to Watch programs.

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