Early Adopter of RtI: Holmes Earns School to Watch Designation for the 3rd Time

Sustaining high levels of student growth and academic achievement over time, Holmes Middle School has earned the distinction of being designated a Colorado Trailblazer “School to Watch” for the 3rd time.

“I first visited Holmes Middle School in 2006.  I was deeply impressed with the organizational structures they had in place to ensure that each and every child found success.  It was several years later that I discovered what they were doing had a name: Response to Intervention,” remarked Diane Lauer, State Coordinator of the Colorado School to Watch program.

Ms. Lauer led the initial site visit team in 2006 which led to Holmes’ first School to Watch designation. Since that initial designation, Holmes Middle School has hosted the annual conference of the Colorado Association of Middle Level Education (CAMLE), a statewide conference for middle level educators organized by the sponsors of the Colorado School to Watch program, earned a second designation as a Colorado Trailblazer School to Watch, and graciously welcomed hundreds of visitors desiring to learn more about creating an environment that secures excellence in the middle grades.

The empowering structures and educational design at Holmes has also been recognized by the International Center for Leadership in Education which named Holmes a Model School of Excellence. Additionally, the RTI Action Network commended Holmes for their pioneering efforts to incorporate Response to Instruction and Intervention strategies systemically within their school.

“Holmes Middle School is our second Colorado  ‘School to Watch’ that has earned the designation three times,” added State Coordinator, Diane Lauer, “it is incredibly difficult to sustain excellence through leadership transitions, internal programatic change, and external pressures of statewide reform.  Holmes is to be commended for their ability to hold true to their mission of providing a high quality education for their students and ensuring that each child increases his/her skills during their time at Holmes.”

Principal, Rob Utter

Accepting the 2012 Colorado Trailblazer School to Watch banner was Principal Rob Utter on Tuesday, April 17. The entire staff gathered for the celebration that validated their passion and efforts to create high quality learning experiences for young adolescents. After accepting their honor, the staff used the collaborative time to continue their reflections on student progress as uncovered by reviewing behavior data, and connect their current work to their next year instructional goals.

On June 23, Holmes Middle School will be honored at the closing ceremony during the National School to Watch Conference in Washington, DC for their three-time redesignation distinction. The National School to Watch program is organized by the National Forum to Accelerate Middle Grades Reform. The National Forum has been identifying Schools to Watch across our nation since 2002.  Holmes Middle School will be accompanied by 50 other middle schools in Washington, DC that will be recognized for their excellence and commitment to success in educating young adolescents during the conference.

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

  • Many teachers are learning and practicing the use of parallel assessment.  This allows kids to retake tests and learn at their own pace.
  • Teachers, students, and parents seem very aware of assessment data in the building.  They all take great pride in scores that their school receives.
  • Unified School Improvement Plan is collaborately created among the administration and teachers.
  • Students have many support opportunities.
  • There are tutorial/intervention classes, and teachers are available at lunch, before and after school for students to get the extra support they need.
  • The school schedule allows teachers to collaborate and plan as both cores and horizontal content teams.  Teachers really appreciate this time and consider it a valuable part of their day.
  • High levels of staff enthusiasm-positive culture throughout the building.
  • Very strong exploratory classes that students and parents value. Differentiation strategies are employed routinely in these classrooms.
  • The teachers feel a great deal of support from administration and feel respected enough to try new ideas and techniques in their classes.
  • The school collects, analyzes, and uses data to make decisions.  This is especially evident when creating the master schedule, and with interventions within the building.
  • The staff see barriers as challenges, not problems.  In all the teacher groups there was a positive attitude about change and making the best learning environment for their students.

Educators interested in learning more about Holmes Middle School may contact Principal Rob Utter at 719-328-3800.

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