Board Support & Communications Specialist
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MILPITAS, CA - Rancho Milpitas Middle School will retain its designation as a model middle grade school in the 2016-17 Schools to Watch-Taking Center Stage program, according to an announcement from the California League of Schools, State Superintendent of Public Instruction, and the California Middle Grades Alliance on January 23.
"Rancho’s fourth consecutive redesignation as a State and National School To Watch is a validation of our collaborative work that continues to be carried out,” Principal Casey McMurray said.
Honored middle grade schools are high-performing model schools that demonstrate academic excellence, responsiveness to the needs of young adolescents, and social equity, according to an official statement from the California League of Schools and Schools to Watch-Taking Center Stage office. These schools host visitors from California and around the world who are looking to learn practices they can use to improve their middle grades schools and close the achievement gap.
To earn this designation, schools must complete an extensive application that is reviewed by middle grades experts. In order to retain the designation, each school is re-evaluated every three years.
When comparing the same cohort of students going from seventh to eighth grade from 2014-15 to 2015-16, Rancho has had a 113 percent growth rate in English language arts and 63 percent in math for its English Learner (EL) students, according to Principal McMurray. He emphasized this was the top performance in terms of growth of all subgroups at Rancho.
There are many school practices that can be cited for the positive progress, specifically over the last two years, including expanding the English Language Development (ELD) teacher from being part-time to full-time. This has enabled the school to offer two additional sections of ELD. Other coherent and cohesive investments have included the use of technology tools such as Google Docs, Newsela, iReady, and YouTube; supporting a Professional Learning Community for three EL teachers; expanding a teacher’s job to encompass EL Site Support for professional development; and strategic advisory classes.
“We love our students and we strive to know each of them well and to help them be successful,” Principal McMurray said. “To that end, Rancho provides multiple opportunities and supports to maintain a caring and positive campus environment."
Rancho staff and Principal McMurray will be among 30 schools recognized in Sacramento at the California Middle Grades Alliance annual luncheon February 23, and during the California League of Schools' Annual Conference North, February 24 to 26. All of these schools will receive their national recognition in Washington, D.C. June 21 to 24.
The Schools to Watch-Taking Center Stage program is sponsored by the California League of Schools and the California Department of Education, in partnership with the California Middle Grades Alliance.