Character Education Counts!

October 21-27 is National Character Counts Week

This is a fantastic time to increase our awareness of best practices for developing positive relationships and  promoting a positive school culture.

During our annual CAMLE Schools to Watch Conference, held on Saturday, November 3, Russell Middle School will be presenting a session on Unleashing Student Performance by Improving Attitude and EffortRussell Middle School was designated as a National School of Character in 2012.

According to the Character Education Partnership, comprehensive Character Education addresses many tough issues in education while developing a positive school climate. Schools that focus on character are able to transform their school cultures, reduce discipline referrals, increase academic achievement for all learners, develop global citizens, and improve job satisfaction and retention among teachers. Character education includes a broad range of educational approaches such as whole child education, service learning, social-emotional learning, and civic education. All share the goal of  helping young people become responsible, caring, and contributing citizens.

Learn more about Russell’s innovative approach to support character education at the CAMLE Conference.

Register online!

Peer to Peer Learning

If teachers learn best from other teachers, then schools must learn best from other schools…  

With this core belief in mind, the Colorado Association of Middle Level Education (CAMLE) organized a Peer to Peer Learning Experience to bring interested middle level educators to the 2011 Colorado School to Watch designees Russell, Jenkins and Altona Middle School where they could learn replicable practices that could set their own school on a trajectory of success – just like the schools they visited.  The School to Watch school site visits were held on Tuesday November 15 and Thursday November 17.  Over fifty Colorado educators traveled nearly 1500 miles to visit these Colorado Schools to Watch in located in Colorado Springs (District 11) and Longmont (St. Vrain Valley Schools).

The School to Watch visitors began their day learning about the rich, research based practices that have propelled student learning through strong organizational practices, best first instruction, and sustained focus on continuous improvement.  Guests at Russell Middle gleaned knowledge related to their exemplary implementation of Response to Intervention (RtI) programming that included Positive Behavior Intervention Support (PBiS) and Character Education strategies.  While visiting Jenkins Middle School, guests interacted with students who spoke first hand regarding the engaging instructional strategies implemented by the whole staff professional study. Finally, visitors to Altona Middle School were immersed in the school’s culture of excellence, focus and precision in execution.

Here is what the attendees had to say about their peer to peer learning experience:

“I had the privilege to attend the Altona Middle School site visit and I was blown away. For over ten years I have thought it is all about teacher: my lessons, my units – and in one day I learned that what it really takes is a strong system. I looked at their lessons and units, and they are basically the same.  But, our school doesn’t operate systemically and strategically like Altona. Thank you for allowing me to visit this amazing school!”

“I learned more in one day about RtI by visiting Russell Middle School than I did in over two years training in my own district. I really appreciated understanding their systemic approach to providing interventions. I came away with a lot of ideas for supporting students who need additional help.”

“My favorite part was hearing the Altona mantra, “Every year we do ONE thing and we do ONE thing really well.  It seems like the staff has the focus and the time to devote to excellence, and it shows.”

“We saw high level instructional practices and systemwide supports throughout the Jenkins Middle School.  The students could explain exactly how the teachers are working to enhance their instructional practices.  We saw a whole school learning community in action. It’s not surprising this is a Schools to Watch. Our team now has new ideas we can implement when we get back to school tomorrow.”

If you are interested in learning more about Russell, Jenkins, and Altona Middle Schools or the Schools to Watch program follow the hyperlinks embedded in this post to contact each school and set up your visit.  These are Colorado’s Schools to Watch!

Field Trip! Visit Our Newest Schools to Watch

What is better than a field trip with your closest colleagues? 

Over the last several years, CAMLE has sponsored Schools to Watch Site Visits in order to promote collegial networking and experiential learning in our high performing middle schools across the state.  Anyone can attend a School to Watch Site Visit.  We are excited to announce that registration is open for Fall Visits to the following schools:

Tuesday, November 15
Russell Middle School & Jenkins Middle School in Colorado Springs (District 11)

  • AM visit Russell Middle School
  • Lunch Provided onsite
  • PM visit Jenkins Middle School
  • Highlights – Best First Instruction focusing on Total Participation Student Engagement Strategies; Job-embedded professional development strategies; whole school professional development study framework, exemplary Response to Intervention (RtI) implementation; exemplary Positive Behavior Intervention Support (PBiS) implementation, award-winning Character Education programming

Thursday, November 17
Altona Middle School in Longmont (St. Vrain)

  • AM/PM visit Altona Middle School
  • Lunch Provided onsite
  • Highlights – Systemic grading policies; systemic parent communication policies; Best First Instruction focusing on Teach Like a Champion Strategies; strong formative assessment strategies; aligned curriculum using Understanding by Design mapping, exemplary whole school vision, mission and values; exemplary use of Professional Study Teams to promote instructional alignment.
Registration Costs $50 per person
Lunch is provided
All attendees earn 7 CDE recertification hours  

Russell Middle School Showcased by ASCD Whole Child Initiative

A whole child approach to education ensures that each child, in each school and in each community, is healthy, safe, engaged, supported, and challenged.

ASCD released today a new national resource highlighting top performing schools embracing Whole Child approaches to support student learning.

ASCD ‘s Whole Child Initiative is centered around the belief that each child, in every school and community deserves to be healthy, safe, engaged, supported, and challenged.  The demands of the 21st century require a new approach to education and students’ comprehensive needs must be met in order to ensure that our youth are fully prepared for college, career, and citizenship.

Russell Middle School, a Colorado School to Watch, is one of the schools highlighted by in this new resource.

Setting the stage for student engagement, performance, and growth is what Charles M. Russell Middle School of the Performing Arts and Sciences in Colorado Springs, Colo., is all about! Through the integration of Positive Behavior Intervention Support (PBIS), Response to Intervention (RTI), and character education, the school has escalated the growth and achievement of its students as it incorporates academic practices with global and cultural awareness and helps to instill a moral compass within each student. Designated as a Colorado School of Character for the past two years as well as a School to Watch® by whole child partner the National Forum to Accelerate Middle-Grades Reform, it’s clear that Russell Middle School truly values creating an invaluable experience at school for its students.

Visitors to the Whole Child resource have opportunities to access a national map of schools educators can resource for support. The ASCD interactive map will serve as a hub for users across the globe to find people, schools, and communities exhibiting whole child practices by clicking on a geographical location and finding examples nearby.

We’d like to give a great shout out to Russell for the amazing things they do for kids!  And, hope that educators and Colorado and beyond find this tool a great resource.

You can follow the Whole Child initiative on Twitter.


5 “Schools to Watch” Share their Replicable Practices

On Thursday, July 28, 5 Colorado Trailblazer “Schools to Watch” presented replicable, high performance practices to their colleagues and peers at the Colorado Association of School Executives (CASE) Annual Conference in Breckenridge, Colorado.  The five Trailblazer “Schools to Watch” that presented were:

  • Altona Middle – Longmont
  • Jenkins Middle – Colorado Springs
  • Hotchkiss K-8 – Hotchkiss
  • Mead Middle – Mead
  • Russell Middle – Colorado Springs

Each of these schools been recognized for demonstrating a trajectory of success in the areas of academic excellence, developmental responsiveness, social equity and strong organizational structures.

During the session, each school shared 2-3 replicable practices and their case studies during the round-robin share session.  The following slide show kicked off the event:

Case Studies

Hotchkiss K-8




Information was also presented on how to become a Colorado Trailblazer School to Watch”.  It was explained that the application is a three part process:

  • the application itself – to report student achievement and discipline data
  • the school self-rating – using the National Forum’s criteria of high performing middle grades practices
  • the evidence of criteria – to list the practices in place within the applying school aligned with each criteria.
A copy of the School Self Rating was shared with the participants.
Finally, all attendees were invited to SAVE the DATE for our upcoming Colorado “Schools to Watch” Conference to be held on September 17 at Otho Stuart Middle School in Commerce City (Brighton School District)