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High Desert, Castaic Middle Schools Named To State's 'Schools To Watch' List

tt-smallState Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson today announced that four high-performing California schools are newly designated model middle schools in the Schools to Watch - Taking Center Stage program. Another 11 high-performing California schools will also retain their model middle grades schools status under the same program.

High Desert School in Acton-Agua Dulce was one of the newly-named schools and Castaic Middle School in Castaic was named for its ninth consecutive year.


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“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.”

High Desert School, part of the Acton-Agua Dulce School District, is one of the four newly designated schools. Administrators have worked very hard to turn their school around and close the achievement gap. 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.

The other three schools receiving designation are Granite Ridge Intermediate (Clovis Unified School District, Fresno, Fresno County);  Katherine L. Albiani Middle School (Elk Grove Unified School District, Elk Grove, Sacramento County); and Olive Peirce Middle School (Ramona City Unified School District, Ramona, San Diego County).

Receiving re-designation as model middle schools are:

  • Castaic Middle School (Castaic Union School District, Castaic, Los Angeles County);
  • Culver City Middle School (Culver City Unified School District, Culver City, Los Angeles County);
  • Clark Intermediate (Clovis Unified School District, Clovis, Fresno County);
  • Dartmouth Middle School (Union Elementary School District, San Jose, Santa Clara County);
  • Gaspar de Portola (San Diego Unified School District, San Diego, San Diego County);
  • McKinleyville Middle School (McKinleyville Union School District, McKinleyville, Humboldt County);
  • R.H. Dana Middle School (Wiseburn School District, Hawthorne, Los Angeles County);
  • Silverado Middle School (Dry Creek Joint Elementary School District, Roseville, Sacramento and Placer counties);
  • Tincher Preparatory (Long Beach Unified School District, Long Beach, Los Angeles County);
  • Toby Johnson Middle School (Elk Grove Unified School District, Elk Grove, Sacramento County); and
  • Torch Middle School (Bassett Unified School District, City of Industry, Los Angeles County).

The STWTCS 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. 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.

In order to be named a STW—TCS model middle school, school administrators must conduct a self-study evaluation and complete an extensive narrative application. Each site is then reviewed by a team of middle grades experts. In order to retain the designation, each school is re-evaluated every three years.

The 11 redesignated schools named today were reviewed in September 2011 and are among 32 others selected in previous cycles since 2003 as STW—TCS designees. Castaic, Culver City, and Silverado middle schools have been STW—TCS schools for nine years. Gaspar de Portola, McKinleyville, R.H. Dana, and Toby Johnson middle schools have been STW—TCS schools for six years.

All of the schools will be formally recognized at the California Middle Grades Alliance annual luncheon on February 23, 2012, and during the California League of Middle Schools conference February 24-26, 2012. Both events will be in Sacramento. At that time, the schools will have an opportunity to showcase their accomplishments and network with other middle grades educators from around the state.

For more information about the Schools to Watch - Taking Center Stage model school program, visit the California Department of Education Web site at http://www.cde.ca.gov/ci/gs/mg/stw.asp. If reporters would like to contact the school, they may download the contact information through our California School Directory at http://www.cde.ca.gov/re/sd/.