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. Schools must show they are academically excellent — these schools challenge all students to use their minds well. They are developmentally responsive — these schools are sensitive to the unique developmental challenges of early adolescence. They are socially equitable — these schools are democratic and fair, providing every student with high-quality teachers, resources, and supports.
“It’s significant that more than a third of the new honorees are from Riverside and San Bernardino counties” said Irvin Howard, co-director of Schools to Watch and a longtime educator specializing in the middle grades.
Besides Sunnymead, other Inland winners are Vista Heights Middle School in Moreno Valley (a California GEAR UP School), San Gorgonio Middle School in Beaumont, Curtis Middle School in San Bernardino and Serrano Middle School in Highland.
Having worked with these two schools for five years and seen the staff’s commitment to building a college going culture, I am gratified to see the recognition of this effort rewarded. -Jon Sides, California GEAR UP Whole School Services Coach.
“What it shows is there are finally some schools in the Inland Empire that are making the cut,” said Howard, a professor emeritus of education at Cal State San Bernardino. “A lot of these schools that have made it have known about the criteria and have been working on it for a few years. We can’t just focus on academics,” he said. “We have to focus on the whole child.”
Since 2001, California GEAR UP has served as a member of the California Middle Grades Alliance (CMGA), a collaborative partnership of 10 organizations in support of high quality middle grades education. The Schools to Watch program provides the opportunity to recognize and honor the outstanding work of schools and districts throughout California. These Moreno Valley GEAR UP schools join the class of 2016 Schools to Watch that promote academic excellence and social equity for ALL students. -Shelley Davis, Director California GEAR UP
The winning schools are meeting the challenge by putting kids on teams in which counselors and teachers help them with classes as well as family and personal issues.