North Washington Elementary named 2013 Kentucky School to Watch

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By Special to The Sun

North Washington Elementary School was recently named to the 2013 Kentucky Schools to Watch list.

At this time, there are about 400 schools nationally that have been designated as schools to watch and 13 schools currently designated in Kentucky. The Schools to Watch program, in 19 states, is part of an initiative developed and guided by the National Forum to Accelerate Middle-Grades Reform. Schools are recognized for a three-year period; then, at the end of that period must reapply in order to maintain their designation as a STW.

The first step in applying for the STW designation requires that a school complete an online self-study based on the 37 criteria set by the National Forum for high-performing middle grades schools. Then, an extensive written application that includes an analysis of the data from the online self-study must be submitted by the school staff by in October. The school’s written application is reviewed by 4-8 members of the Kentucky Schools to Watch team who determine whether a school should be visited by a team of reviewers. In February a team of 3 educators, all with middle grades experience, visited the school talking with students, teachers, administrators, and parents; observing in classrooms and all common areas of the school; and reviewing various school documents (e.g., achievement data, suspension rates, lesson plans, student work, sample assessments).

North Washington Elementary School was selected for its academic excellence, responsiveness to the needs and interests of young adolescents, and commitment to helping all students achieve at high levels. In addition, the school has strong leadership, teachers who work together to ensure that all students are learning, and an organization that sustains continuous improvement and achievement. “This school is a true community of learning.  All middle grades students are provided with a safe welcoming environment and effective instruction. The staff  works extremely hard to address the needs of the whole child. It was a pleasure being in this school and talking with students, teachers, and parents” said Fran Salyers, Kentucky Schools to Watch program co-director.  

Launched in 1999, the Schools to Watch program identifies middle-grades schools across the country that are meeting or exceeding the criteria developed by the National Forum. In 2002, the National Forum began working with states to replicate the Schools to Watch program as a way to introduce the Forum’s criteria for high-performance and to identify middle-grades schools that meet or exceed that criteria. Kentucky joined the program in 2003.

“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,” said 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.”

In Kentucky, the Kentucky Middle School Association and Eastern Kentucky University are partners in sponsoring the program.