Though it was a warm, humid evening in our nation’s capital city, an electric atmosphere enveloped the honorees at the National Forum’s Annual School to Watch Gala Celebration Dinner held at the Marriott Crystal Gateway hotel. 103 middle grades schools were designated and recognized at the National School to Watch Conference this June, 2012.
This was an opportunity for our three new Colorado Trailblazer Schools to Watch to be nationally recognized and honored. On Thursday evening, June 21, Basalt Middle School, Fort Morgan Middle School and Wellington Middle School were designated as first time Schools to Watch. On Saturday, June 23, Holmes Middle School was honored for their second redesignation, which translates to a trajectory of success evidenced for 9 years.
Traveling from Basalt, which is part of the Roaring Fork School District located in Glenwood Springs, Principal Jeremy Voss and Assistant Principal Ty Hayden presented at the conference on Carol Dweck’s work, the growth mindset and how the research has transformed practice in their school. Her book, Mindset, reveals implications for how we raise our children—specifically for how we encourage them, challenge them, and voice our praise.
These non-cognitive components of education are embedded in the National Forum’s criteria of excellence which include Academic Excellence, Developmental Responsiveness, Social Equity and strong Organizational Processes and Structures. Since transforming their system to develop of growth mindsets in their community, Basalt Middle School has become one of Colorado’s top 8% of schools performing in high academic achievement growth.
Wellington Middle School, part of the Poudre School District,was represented by Assistant Principal Jennifer Bradshaw and Principal Alicia Durand who were recently in Washington DC due to the fact that their school was also recognized by the US Department of Education as a Green Ribbon School Winner. Wellington Middle School is located in northeast Colorado and serves students within the community of Wellington, located outside of Fort Collins and up to the state of Wyoming. Dr. Durand and Ms. Bradshaw presented at the National Schools to Watch Conference as well. Their efforts to strengthen student directed learning has merited their community with a record of outstanding achievement and high levels of growth. Wellington has the highest growth of all schools in their district.
This has been part of a process to strengthen vertical articulation with their feeder elementary schools, incorporate goal-setting and metacognitive learning strategies into student toolkits, and conscientious application of rigor and high standards in all content areas. During their presentation they shared how they were able to create a system to maximize the learning potential within their students so that each and every child could successfully complete Algebra I in 8th grade.
Fort Morgan Middle School, located within the Morgan County School District on the eastern Front Range was also able to travel to Washington to accept their designation honor. On hand to accept the award were Assistant Principal Rod Link, music director Cynthia Christensen, Principal Ben Bauman, Literacy teacher Shelli Langford, and Unified Arts teacher Amy Bauer.
Realizing a emerging trajectory of success in an increasingly diverse population, Fort Morgan has created a dynamic learning environment focused on positive community building and strong academic structures. Like the Basalt and Wellington, Fort Morgan is invited to present at the upcoming state Colorado Schools to Watch Conference on November 3, 2012. They have a wide range of replicable practices that can be implemented by other middle schools looking to increase student achievement that include embedded interventions, attention to academic vocabulary instruction, leadership programming for every child, positive behavior supports, and standards based education practices.
Staff from Holmes Middle School, of Colorado Springs District 11, were unable to accept their award in Washington DC this year. First designated in 2006, again in 2009, and a third time in 2012. Holmes has been recognized as a leader in implementing Response to Intervention programming and structures. Their students consistent out-perform other students with similar demographics as evidenced by the Colorado Assessment Program. They maintain that their success is entirely replicable and other schools can takeaway their systems of high expectations, standards based education, pyramid of interventions, attention to data analysis and differentiated instructional strategies to use in their own middle schools.