State designates OPMS a model middle school

In an email Monday morning to all Ramona Unified School District employees, Supt. Robert Graeff sent “a royal congratulations” to the staff, parents and students at Olive Peirce Middle School for being selected one of only four middle schools in the state to be designated a “School to Watch."

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson made the announcement in a news release Monday morning.

“This distinction is a huge honor for the school and for the entire district,” said Graeff. “To achieve the status of a ‘School to Watch,’ a school is expected to establish norms, structures and organizational arrangements to support and sustain their trajectory toward excellence. How proud we all are of the tremendous work at our comprehensive middle school. Congratulations on receiving this tremendous honor!”

Torlakson announced that the four high-performing California schools are newly designated model middle schools in the Schools to Watch™−Taking Center Stage (STW™−TCS) program. Another 11 high-performing California schools will retain their model middle grades schools status under the same program.

“I commend the students, their parents, teachers, and administrators for their efforts in helping make these 15 schools models of excellence,” Torlakson said. “Their success is amazing, especially considering they are swimming against the tide of massive budget cuts, crowded classrooms, and school employee layoffs.”

In addition to Olive Peirce Middle School, school receiving the designation are:

•Granite Ridge Intermediate (Clovis Unified School District, Fresno, Fresno County) is the fifth middle grades school in the district to receive the STW™−TCS designation. Clovis Unified is the first district in the state to have all its middle grades schools receive this designation. The school’s achievement gap has narrowed 37 points on the state’s standardized tests under Principal Norm Anderson’s leadership since it opened in 2008. Anderson was also recently selected Fresno County’s Administrator of the Year.

•High Desert School (Acton-Agua Unified School District, Acton, Los Angeles County) is a small rural school. Administrators have worked hard to turn their school around and close the achievement gap, Torlakson stated. Hispanic students’ scores on the state’s standardized tests have climbed 88 points in the past two years, while socioeconomically disadvantaged students have gained 81 points since 2007.

•Katherine L. Albiani Middle School (Elk Grove Unified School District, Elk Grove, Sacramento County) is the second middle school in the district to receive the STW™—TCS designation. The achievement gap of students has narrowed by more than 30 points on the state’s standardized tests since 2007.

In Olive Peirce Middle School, students continue to make gains in all subgroups on the state’s standardized tests, said Torlakson. The school has gained 53 points since 2007, while socioeconomically disadvantaged students have gained 71 points.

The STW™—TCS program identifies high-performing school models that demonstrate academic excellence, developmental responsiveness to the needs and interests of young adolescents, social equity, and organizational support.

STW™—TCS model schools host visitors from California and around the world who are looking for replicable practices that will help them improve their middle grades schools and close the achievement gap.

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