CAMLE Announces 2021 “Colorado Trailblazer Schools to Watch”

The Colorado Association of Middle Level Education is proud to honor two outstanding schools as 2021 Colorado Trailblazer Schools to Watch. These schools will be recognized at the National Schools to Watch “Virtual” Conference in June 2021.

Altona Middle School – Longmont, St. Vrain Valley Schools
Fountain Middle School School – Fountain, Fountain-Fort Carson School District 8

“These schools demonstrate that high-performance is the result of intentional focus on the whole child. An inclusive environment that cultivates student inquiry, student empowerment, and intellectual rigor results in a dynamic school where students thrive!” explained Julie Shue, State Co-Director of the Colorado Schools to Watch program. “Each of these schools excel in providing active and engaging student learning for every child. The faculty in these schools work collaboratively to provide a world class education, endeavoring to implement supports and challenge to advance learning for the young adolescents they serve. They have built a powerful, high quality middle grades program that is a model for our state.”

Altona Middle School, located in Longmont, Colorado is part of the St. Vrain Valley Schools and enrolls 815 students in grades 6-8.  Altona has earned the John Irwin Award of Excellence eleven times, and the Governor’s Distinguished School Award six times. The Altona community has come together to prepare each student to be a leader and obtain key 21st century skills such as self-reliance and academic competence so that they can thrive in an increasingly complex world. Rigorous teaching and learning is evident through a deep implementation of evidence based instructional strategies and comprehensive instructional design. Teachers engage in routine collaboration using Impact Teams as a structure to elevate and continuously improve their instruction. The daily schedule provides ample time for student inquiry and project-based learning often supported in their innovative IDEALab. Students access a wide range of extra curricular and co-curricular learning options including, but not limited to, Cyberpatriots, Democracy Day, Shark Tank, Science Olympiad, River Watch, Green Team Jeremy LaCrosse leads the staff at Altona Middle School.

Fountain Middle School located in Fountain, Colorado is part of the Fountain-Fort Carson School District 8 and enrolls 1080 students in grades 6-8.  According to NICHE® 2019 Best School Districts in Colorado, Fountain-Fort Carson School District was rated as the top school district for Diversity in Colorado. Fountain-Fort Carson School District has the unique privilege of serving the children of our Armed Services through Fort Carson Army instillation. As such, approximately 70% of students are children of past and active military parents. The Fountain community has united to be able to provide comprehensive programing specific to individual student needs and interests. YouScience, Naviance tools, their comprehensive MTSS Framework, and their Post-Secondary Readiness Framework grant teachers, counselors, and administrators the ability to ensure all students have equal access to interest-based coursework and experiences that align with potential career pathways. Fountain offers a significant athletics and activities program that includes a wide range of offerings for students as part of their extra and co-curricular program. Collectively, these offerings are designed to keep students as connected to school as possible. Two specific opportunities worth noting are Sources of Strength and Where Everybody Belongs (WEB). Each program is designed to foster student agency and leadership through team building and service-learning opportunities, WEB Wednesday meet-ups, after school social gatherings, and other community projects. Dr. Bill Dallas leads the staff at Fountain Middle School.

Selection is based on a written application that requires schools to show how they met criteria developed by the Forum: Academic Excellence, Developmental Responsiveness, Social Equity, and Strong Organizational Structures. State teams organized by the Colorado Schools to Watch ( program conduct site visits in order to affirm that they have indeed met the rigorous requirements of the award. These teams observe classrooms, interview administrators, teachers, and parents, review achievement data, suspension rates, instructional quality, 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.

“These Schools to Watch are special; they make education so exciting that students and teachers don’t want to miss a day. They have proven that it is possible to achieve a high degree of educational excellence, and any middle-level school can truly learn from their example,” said Ran Barnes, President of the National Forum. “We are pleased that our Schools to Watch program has shown that schools can meet high academic expectations while preserving a commitment to healthy development and equity for all students,” Barnes 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 ( that features online tours of schools, as well as detailed information about the selection criteria used in the recognition program. Nineteen states are currently involved in the program and the addition of these schools raises the total number of Schools to Watch to over 400 nationwide.

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.

The National Forum to Accelerate Middle-Grades Reform is an alliance of 65 educators, researchers, national associations, and officers of professional organizations and foundations dedicated to improving education in the middle grades. (

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