Kennett Middle School a ‘School to Watch’

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School receives national recognition for academics

By P.J. D’Annunzio, Staff Writer,

NEW GARDEN — One hundred exemplary middle-grades schools in Arkansas, California, Colorado, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan,  New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Texas, Utah and Virginia have been named “Schools to Watch” as part of a recognition program developed by the National Forum to Accelerate Middle-Grades Reform.

“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.” Kennett Middle School Assistant Principal Karen Gerlach said. “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.”

For the ever-growing Kennett Consolidated School District, this particular feather in the cap further solidifies the district’s position as an academic contender in the region, as well as garnering marks for most improved over a near decade-long rejuvenation effort.  

“These schools demonstrate that high-performing middle grades schools have a clear focus on academic growth and achievement. They also recognize the importance of meeting the needs of all of their students and ensuring that each and every child has access to a rigorous, high-quality education. We are proud to have these schools serve as models from which others can learn,” Linda Hopping, Chair of the National Forum’s Schools to Watch Oversight Committee stated. 

Selection is based on a written application that requires schools to show how they met criteria developed by the Forum.  Schools that appeared to meet the criteria were then visited by state teams who 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 repeat the process in order to be re-designated.  Thirty-nine of the one hundred schools recognized have maintained or increased their levels of excellence and are being re-designated. The schools vary in size from several hundred to several thousand students and represent urban, suburban, and rural communities.

“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,” Forum Executive Director Dr. Deborah Kasak said. “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-grades school in any state can truly learn from their example.”

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 STW process provided the framework for the successful Investing in Innovation (I3) Development grant received in October 2010 from the U. S. Department of Education.  The National Forum’s The Schools to Watch School Transformation Network concentrates on assisting 18 persistently low-performing middle grades schools in CA, IL and NC.

KMS’s administration vows to maintain their level of academic excellence, to offer students the best education possible, and to keep expectations high so that even when the three-year term is up, they will still be a school worth watching.   

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