DuBois Area Middle School Honored Again as a “School to Watch”

Shown are members of the DuBois Area Middle School “School to Watch” Committee. Front row, from left, are Diana McMullen, Principal Dr. Marianne Konior, Christine Kline, Sherry Martini and Elaine Suvak. Second row, from left, are Dawna Vanderpool, Mary Lou Trzyna and Julie Baun. Back row, from left, are Nicole Hill, Mandi Bell, Assistant Principal Michael Maholtz and Becky Sensor. Missing from photo are Jessica Stover, Mimi Goodman, Carla D’Urso and Joseph Sensor. (Provided photo)

MECHICSBURG – The DuBois Area Middle School is being honored again as a “School to Watch.”

DAMS is one of two schools in Pennsylvania to be re-designated a second time as a Don Eichhorn Schools: “Schools to Watch” as part of a recognition program developed by the National Forum to Accelerate Middle-Grades Reform.

In partnership with the Pennsylvania Department of Education, the Pennsylvania Association for Middle Level Education, Duquesne University, Edinboro University, Shippensburg University and Horace Mann Service Corporation, the Pennsylvania “Schools to Watch” team announced DuBois Area Middle School and Pine Richland Middle School in Gibsonia have been re-designated a second time. The two schools were among three that were first recognized in 2007, were then re-designated in 2010 and are still on track in 2013.

“I am very proud of our students, staff, parents, and community for their hard work and cooperation in our journey to help our children be successful. Schools to Watch is a three-year recognition, so we must continue to work together to be the best we can be.  Our students deserve the best we can give them in order to be able to compete in the global environment,” DuBois Area Middle School Principal Dr. Konior said.

DuBois Area and Pine Richland are joined this year by four schools who received re-designation and four schools recognized for the first time. Those who were initially recognized in 2010 and received re-designation this year are Cedarbrook Middle School, Charleroi Area Middle School, Dorseyville Middle School and Yellow Breeches Middle School. Those achieving first-time recognition are Elizabeth Forward Middle School, Neshannock Junior High School, Sheffield Area Middle School and South Side Middle School.

Each school was selected by state leaders for its academic excellence, its responsiveness to the needs and interests of young adolescents, and its commitment to helping all students achieve at high levels. In addition, each school has strong leadership, teachers who work together to improve curriculum and instruction, and a commitment to assessment and accountability to bring about continuous improvement.

“We congratulate these schools for being places that do great things for all of their students.  These schools demonstrate that high-performing middle grades schools are places that focus on academic growth and achievement,” said Dr. John Harrison, past president of the National Forum. “They are also places that recognize the importance of meeting the needs of all of their students and ensure that every child has access to a rigorous, high-quality education.”

Chairwoman Linda Hopping, as well as other members of the National Forum Schools to Watch Oversight Committee, explain that selection was based on a written application that required schools to show how they met criteria developed by the National Forum.  Schools that appeared to meet the criteria were then visited by state teams, which observed classrooms, interviewed administrators, teachers, students, and parents, and looked at achievement data, suspension rates, quality of lessons, and student work. 

Schools are recognized for a three-year period, and at the end of three years must demonstrate progress on specific goals in order to be re-designated. Unlike the Blue Ribbon recognition program, “Schools to Watch” requires schools to not just identify strengths, but to also focus on areas for continuous improvement; thus the three year re-designation.

Pennsylvania schools will be recognized at Penn State University on Sunday, Feb. 24. Schools will receive national recognition on Saturday, June 29 in Washington, D.C., at the National Conference of the Association for Middle Level Education. The DuBois Area Middle School will celebrate its accomplishment with students and staff at an assembly in the gymnasium on Monday, April 29 when they will receive the new banner.

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 National 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. There are now 19 states across the country, which have trained Schools to Watch State Teams, with more than 300 schools recognized

“We are pleased that our Schools to Watch program has shown that schools can meet high academic expectations while preserving a commitment of healthy development and equity for all students,” said Dr. Deborah Kasak, National Forum Executive Director.  “These Schools to Watch are indeed special; they make education so exciting that students and teachers don’t want to miss a day.  These schools have proven that it is possible to overcome barriers to achieving excellence, and any middle-level school in any state can truly learn from their examples.”

The National Forum sponsors the Schools to Watch program along with the Association for Middle Level Education, the National Association for Elementary School Principals, the National Association of Secondary School Principals, Learning Forward, ASCD, and State Schools to Watch affiliates.

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