2016 ‘Schools to Watch’ Model Middle Schools

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State Schools Chief Tom Torlakson Congratulates California’s
2016 “Schools to Watch™—Taking Center Stage” Model Middle Schools

SACRAMENTO—State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson today announced that 13 high-performing California middle schools have been newly designated as model middle grades schools in the 2015–16 Schools to Watch™—Taking Center Stage (STW™—TCS) program.

Torlakson also announced that the sustained progress of 20 previously chosen STW™—TCS schools will allow them to retain their designation.

“These 33 schools excel at keeping students engaged and motivated during this critical juncture in a student’s school career,” Torlakson said. “I congratulate them for their efforts to exceed challenging goals, narrow the achievement gap, and set their students on a solid path toward high school and future success.”

The 13 newly designated STW™—TCS model middle grades schools are:

  • Alder Creek Middle School, Tahoe Truckee Unified School District, Nevada County
  • Curtis Middle School, San Bernardino Unified School District, San Bernardino County
  • Firebaugh Middle School, Firebaugh Las Deltas Unified School District, Fresno County
  • Lake Center Middle School, Little Lake City School District, Los Angeles County
  • Lindero Canyon Middle School, Las Virgenes Unified School District, Ventura County
  • Ross Academy of Creative and Media Arts, ABC Unified School District, Los Angeles County
  • San Gorgonio Middle School, Beaumont Unified School District, Riverside County
  • Serrano Middle School, San Bernardino Unified School District, San Bernardino County
  • South Pointe Middle School, Walnut Valley Unified School District, Los Angeles County
  • Sunnymead Middle School, Moreno Valley Unified School District, Riverside County
  • Vista Heights Middle School, Moreno Valley Unified School District, Riverside County
  • Willis Jepson Middle School, Vacaville Unified School District, Solano County
  • Yorba Linda Middle School, Placentia Yorba Linda Unified School District, Orange County

The 20 re-designated STW™—TCS model middle grades schools are:

  • Canyon Middle School, Castro Valley Unified High School District, Alameda County
  • Edna Hill Middle School, Brentwood Union Elementary School District, Contra Costa County
  • Fairmont School, Sanger Unified School District, Fresno County
  • Frank J. Zamboni Middle School, Paramount Unified School District, Los Angeles County
  • Frank Wright Middle School, Imperial Unified School District, Imperial County
  • Granger Junior High School, Sweetwater Union High School District, San Diego County
  • John Glenn Middle School of International Studies, Desert Sands Unified School District, Riverside County
  • Mistletoe Elementary School, Enterprise Elementary School District, Shasta County
  • Oliver Wendell Holmes Middle School, Los Angeles Unified School District, Los Angeles County
  • Pioneer Middle School, Tustin Unified School District, Orange County
  • Quail Lake Environmental Charter School, Sanger Unified School District, Fresno County
  • Reyburn Intermediary School, Clovis Unified School District, Fresno County
  • Sanger Academy, Sanger Unified School District, Fresno County
  • San Lorenzo Valley Middle School, San Lorenzo Valley Unified School District, Santa Cruz County
  • Scotts Valley Middle School, Scotts Valley Unified School District, Santa Cruz County
  • Sinaloa Middle School, Simi Valley Unified School District, Ventura County
  • Summit Intermediate School, Etiwanda School District, San Bernardino County
  • Thurston Middle School, Laguna Beach Unified School District, Orange County
  • Union Middle School, Union School District, Santa Clara County
  • Vanguard Preparatory School, Apple Valley Unified School District, San Bernardino County

STW™—TCS middle grades schools are high-performing model schools that demonstrate academic excellence, responsiveness to the needs of young adolescents, and social equity. 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.

The STW™—TCS program is sponsored by the California League of Middle Schools (CLMS) External link opens in new window or tab. and the California Department of Education, in partnership with the California Middle Grades Alliance.

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.

All of the schools will be recognized in Sacramento at the California Middle Grades Alliance annual luncheon February 25, 2016, and during the California League of Schools’ Annual Conference North, February 26–28, 2016.

For more information about the STW™—TCS program, please visit the CLMS High Performing Middle School Models External link opens in new window or tab.Web page.

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Tom Torlakson — State Superintendent of Public Instruction
Communications Division, Room 5206, 916-319-0818, Fax 916-319-0100

Last Reviewed: Monday, February 8, 2016

GEAR UP Education Trust Award Success Story: Angela Sanchez

Angela Sanchez Profile

Angela is now a Program Analyst, College Readiness & Retention for the ECMC Foundation in Los Angeles.

Angela wasn’t even sure she was going to finish high school. Today, she is an undergrad and grad degree holder from her dream school (UCLA), a successful higher education professional, and is an inspiring example of focusing on college dreams early on.

Sanchez says that, without scholarship support, her life today would have been very different. The first scholarship she ever received was a GEAR UP Education Trust Award as a student at Toll Middle School in Glendale, CA, a California GEAR UP school.

Back in 2005, when she received the award, she already knew she was going to college but wasn’t sure how she was going to afford it. This award opened her eyes to the world of scholarships and financial aid, a pathway she followed successfully and is a debt free graduate degree holder as a result.

“An investment in a student is something that pays tenfold,” said Sanchez, a UCLA Alumni Scholar who has earned numerous other scholarships and awards for research, academic excellence and community service, including the Chancellor’s Service Award, the UCLA Distinguished Senior Award, the Carey McWilliams Award for Scholarly Distinction and a Strauss Foundation Scholarship, to name a few. Angela says “There is no greater gift than education.”

We asked Angela for some advice for our GEAR UP schools and teachers regarding best practices for supporting and inspiring students like her.  Of course her perspective was perfect:

Middle school students are at a tipping point age because high school is too late to start thinking about college. The key is to establish a college-going culture in middle school, and saturate every aspect of the student experience with future goals and college information. Saturation is key: college pennants, college fairs, anything that leads to conversations with students about college‘. You have to incubate early, make that connection early.

When Angela was in middle school she was vaguely aware her school was a GEAR UP school, but it was not until her social studies teacher Dr. Vandermey encouraged her to apply did she realize the opportunity GEAR UP affords. Upon receiving the notification that she was a recipient of the $2000 California GEAR UP Education Trust Award, she couldn’t believe it. The path to college had begun.

Angela talks about how her teachers had an impact on her future.

My geometry classroom had A-G requirements displayed prominently. That daily reminder contributed to the immersive college going environment that became normal for me. This should be normal for all students in middle school, especially for first generation students like me.

Angela strongly believes in building the relationship between student and teachers and breaking down walls that can remain throughout a students academic experience.

Teachers and students have to relate, teachers should give students the ability to build meaningful relationships so they can talk about things other than the lesson plan. Students don’t always have people at home that can support them in the same way as teachers are a tremendous college resource. If students don’t have a positive experience with their middle school its teachers early on, they are less likely to break down those walls later in their academic career, such as going to professors office hours, and potentially missing out on a successful college experience.

In November of 2007, Angela was coping with the reality that she and her father were homeless after being evicted from their Glendale home on her 17th birthday. Angela never wavered in her desire to do her very best in and out of school and to remain optimistic. That life lesson is one that Angela now shares with students who are experiencing homelessness.

“Education has always been important to me because it represented a springboard out of my current situation,” said Sanchez, who eventually completed high school with a 4.23 GPA despite not having stable housing between 2007-2009, she was accepted to eight colleges and universities in 2009. Her first choice was UCLA.

Angela graduated debt-free, and attributes that to her focus on finding scholarships and financial aid wherever she could. Being an outstanding student certainly helped her achieve competitive scholarships and grants, she attributes her awareness of how to find the awards to her early successes an ETA recipient. According to Angela “it opened an entire world to me”.

She used the ETA money for tuition, but says that one of the great benefits to this GEAR UP award was the flexibility of what the funds could be used for. Most grants and scholarships have a very narrow use, but the Education Trust Award funds helped her create a strategy to fully fund her education without gaps.

“Youths, no matter what their financial situation or living condition, need to see that they are entitled to quality postsecondary education as much as anyone.” said Angela.

“I really enjoy advocating for education and being a voice for students who are normally overlooked,” said Angela. She now shares a home with her father in Highland Park in northeast Los Angeles and plans to pursue an advanced degree in the future.

Angela was my delightful  luncheon companion at a major event in Los Angeles for Latino students and their families.  The subject of GEAR UP arose and Angela indicated that it had supported her financially in receiving her baccalaureate from UCLA.  When I inquired I learned that, in fact, Angela had been the recipient of an Education Trust Award from the California GEAR UP Program back in 2005.  She, along with over 5,000 of her counterparts, have, or are, achieving their higher educational goals through their participation as middle school students in the California GEAR UP Program.  Congratulations to Angela and all the other Education Trust Award members.

-Penny Edgert, Executive Director, California GEAR UP/ICC

“For students who come from backgrounds such as my own, who are often disadvantaged, underprivileged and overlooked, I’d like to see not only their acceptance, but their retention at universities,” she said.

She hopes this journey starts in middle school just like it did for her.

Angela was featured in the “Let There Be” UCLA centennial campaign.

Angela established the first university faction of the nonprofit ‘School on Wheels’ at UCLA, assisting K-12 homeless students with tutors and in navigating postsecondary education. Ms. Sanchez has created college admissions and financial aid workshops tailored to the students’ needs. In addition, she’s a recruitment, student training, donor and community relations, and development volunteer. She continues her work for student advocacy at ECMC Foundation, college access and student retention.

For more information on the California GEAR UP Education Trust Awards, please visit our website.

EdTrust West: New Community-Based Data & Research Hub in San Bernardino County

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Ed Trust–West is excited to announce that we’re partnering with a number of civil rights, education, and social justice organizations to launch our first Community-Based Data & Research Hub in San Bernardino County. California’s move toward local control, the redesign of our state’s accountability system, and the implementation of the California State Standards provide a unique opportunity to help increase capacity of community stakeholders and support their current advocacy efforts through data, research, budget and policy analysis.

“In the age of local control, we must help communities make certain that local systems do what’s best for California’s Black, Brown, and poor students,” said Ed Trust–West Executive Director Ryan Smith. “We must commit more support and resources to those on the front lines – community-based organizations, parents, teachers, and students – to realize the true vision of equity for all students. The San Bernardino Hub serves as an important first step to achieve more meaningful and effective local decision making.”

To support existing efforts throughout the state, Ed Trust–West will first focus on San Bernardino County, collaborating with community-based organizations to create data and research tools that bolster existing advocacy efforts. This project would not be possible without our partners – a big thank you to Congregations Organized for Prophet Engagement (COPE), Inland Congregations United for Change (ICUC), ACLU of Southern California, Youth Action Project, Inc. (YAP), BLU Educational Foundation, San Bernardino Branch NAACP, LULAC of the Inland Empire, DELAC of San Bernardino City USD, San Bernardino City USD African American Advisory Council, and the Latino Education & Advocacy Days (LEAD) Organization

“We are thrilled to work with our partners and The Education Trust–West as they reinforce our community efforts for San Bernardino’s low-income students and students of color. This Hub will be a powerful tool in engaging decision makers and strengthening our work serving students and the broader community,” said Reverend J. Samuel Casey, Executive Director of COPE.

Last week, Ed Trust–West kicked off this collaboration by providing a Data Equity Walk and presentation on the state of educational equity in San Bernardino, hosted by the LEAD Program at CSU San Bernardino. Check out pictures here.

We are also excited to announce that Marcelino “Mars” Serna, an Inland Empire native, will serve as Ed Trust–West’s Southern California Regional Manager supporting this hub. Mr. Serna most recently served as the Coordinator of Family and Community Engagement for Fontana Unified School District. He has over 29 years’ experience working in the public sector. He received his Bachelor’s Degree in Public Administration from California State University, San Bernardino and his Master’s Degree from University of Redlands in Management.

View full presentation here. 

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