Ashe County Middle School received national accolades this month, winning its third School to Watch re-designation in nine years, and a Team to Watch recognition from the N.C. Association for Middle Level Education (NCAMLE).
“The middle school is very proud of this recognition,” said ACMS Business and Technology Teacher Penny Barker, an NCAMLE board member.
To be recognized, Barker said, “A school has to establish academic excellence, developmental responsiveness, social equity, and strong organizational structures and supports. These schools serve as models for other schools throughout not only the state, but also the nation.”
The School to Watch criteria was established as an initiative of the National Forum to Accelerate Middle Grades Reform, an alliance of educators, researchers and foundations funded by a U.S. Department of Education grant, and “committed to promoting the academic performance and healthy development of young adolescents.”
According to their Website, www.middlegradesforum.org, the initiative was launched in 1999 to identify high-performing middle-grade schools and has so far expanded to 18 states. To date, 352 schools have been designated Schools to Watch nationwide, 43 in N.C..
“Although it is very difficult to be recognized as a School to Watch, it is more challenging to sustain growth and progress to receive re-designation,” Barker said.
“You’ve got to have high-quality teachers, the best practices, good decision making,” she said. “It is a great educational accomplishment to sustain that course of growth for nine years, as ACMS has done.”
Ashe County Middle School first received Schools to Watch in 2003 under the leadership of Principal Nancy Reeves, Barker said. The school was later re-designated twice under the leadership of Principal Bobby Ashley.
A third re-designation was awarded in 2012 under current Principal Earl Pennington. Mr. Pennington could not be reached for comment by press time.
The ACMS Encore Team was recently named North Carolina Western Region Team to Watch at the NCAMLE conference in Greensboro. The award is presented to teams which demonstrate outstanding performance in building team identity, curriculum knowledge and integration, student achievement and success, service projects, and special team activities.
Encore Team teaches electives, working closely with core curriculum teachers to meet student’s academic needs, according to Career and Technical Education Coordinator and Co-Team Leader Melanie Jordan. Encore content areas include Art, Band, Spanish, Computer Skills and Applications, Exploring Business, Exploring Careers, Project Lead the Way, Reading 180, and Health and Physical Education.
“It is such a reward to know that administration and peers recognize and appreciate the efforts of others,” Jordan said. “I can say with confidence that each member of our team comes to work each day with the hope of making all students feel important and cared for.”
“It really comes down to the relationships,” she said. ” They know the students well and interact with parents.”