Basalt Celebrates School to Watch Designation!

Students and staff came together on Thursday, April 12 at Basalt Middle School to celebrate and signify their 2012 Colorado Trailblazer School to Watch designation.

Mary Jones, Western Slope Regional Representative of the Colorado Association of Middle Level Education (CAMLE) presented the banner on behalf of the Colorado School to Watch program“We knew from reviewing their student achievement scores that Basalt had the results to back up their success, but it was not until the school site visit that our team was convinced that Basalt Middle School was indeed a School to Watch,” reported Diane Lauer, State Coordinator of the Colorado Schools to Watch program. Mary Jones led the school site application review team which included David Russell, principal of 2011 School to Watch Gypsum Creek Middle School; Terrie Requa principal of Mount Garfield Middle School, JB Phillips, assistant principal of 2008 School to Watch Bookcliff Middle School;  and Yogi Cherp, assistant principal from East Middle School in Grand Junction.

The CAMLE site review team, which spent a day at Basalt Middle School late February, found an entire school engineered to ensure success for each and student. “Basalt’s approach of embedding the work of Carol Dweck’s growth mindset philosophy has created a school culture like the Little Engine that Could – every student ‘knows they can’ achieve – it’s pretty incredible,” explained Mary Jones.  CAMLE President Joe Cushing added, “this school effectively implements a number of replicable practices that other educators can come, watch, and take back to their own schools.  We are looking forward their presentation at our annual conference on November 3 at Altona Middle School in Longmont, CO. Educators across the state will be able to learn from their example.”

Accepting the banner on behalf of the Basalt community was principal Jeremy Voss along with his staff and student community. Basalt Middle School serves 409 students in the 5th-8th grades.  Basalt Middle School is part of the Roaring Fork District, located north of Aspen and south of Glenwood Springs.  Their student population is 57% Hispanic, 42% White, 45% qualify for free/reduced school lunches, and 16% are English language learners.

The Colorado Department of Education also recognized Basalt Middle School this year for demonstrating high levels of student achievement growth. Designated as a Governor’s Distinguished Improvement Award Winner, Basalt’s students perform in the top 8% of schools across the state in the area of academic growth.

Basalt Middle School will be nationally recognized at the National School to Watch Conference during a gala celebration in Washington, DC on June 21, 2012.  There, nearly 500 attendees, mostly representatives from Schools to Watch across the country, will present their replicable practices, learn from one another, and advocate on Capitol Hill for strong programs that support the young adolescent.

Below are some of the positive practices that have resulted in a strong trajectory of success for students and staff at Basalt Middle School:

  • Basalt’s school culture is extremely positive and focused on possibilities rather than barriers.
  • Teachers build great relationships with students so that the focus of classes in almost entirely on learning.
  • Teachers set daily learning goals for students based on the standards.
  • Rubrics are provided to students before learning.  These rubrics are posted on a district Wiki on the internet.
  • Each essential learning objective (ELO) is unpacked so that students are aware of what they need to know and do to demonstrate proficiency.  Essential vocabulary is also tied to each ELO.
  • Students are grouped by their academic level, not their age, and must show proficiency to move on.  Multiple opportunities to demonstrate proficiency are provided.
  • Students track their own proficiency through the standards.
  • In grade 5, 6, and 7 teachers teach across two disciplines, allowing for connections across the content areas.  For example, 5th grade teachers have a two-hour literacy and social studies block called integrated literacy.
  • Building literacy skills is emphasized across disciplines.  Students read and write in a variety of classes throughout the day.
  • Learning is language and literacy rich, integration of cooperative grouping and using questioning strategies are compelling
  • Science classes are very hands-on; students are frequently in lab situations.
  • Teachers are grouped into teams. 5th grade pod and 6th grade pods cluster; within those teams, teachers have classes meeting the needs of a variety of learning levels.
  • All students take at least two quarters of art.
  • 40% of Basalt  students are enrolled in band.
  • Teachers frequently use technology to support learning and foster student engagement; students use clickers, an array of internet resources, and hands on materials to increase student engagement.
  • Basalt uses the theme HOT – Honor, Ownership, and Tolerance.  Tolerance is directly taught to all members of the Basalt learning community.
  • Because Basalt is largely bi-cultural, Latino and Anglo, they have a Latino parent liaison and provide an array of bilingual resources for parents and students.
  • Teachers utilize materials that honor a variety of cultures in their classrooms.

Educators interested in connecting or visiting Basalt Middle School should contact, Jeremy Voss, principal at 970.384.5900.

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