March 1, 2017
Middle school principals accept Schools to Watch awards
Principals Dan O'Rourke and Joseph DeMar accepted the Schools to Watch Awards on behalf of Boyce Middle School and Fort Couch Middle School, respectively. The schools were recognized at the Pennsylvania Association for Middle Level Education State Conference on Feb. 26, 2017, in State College. This marks the fourth time that both schools have earned this honor.
In addition, Mr. O'Rourke and Matt Henderson, STEAM teacher at Boyce, delivered a presentation on the STEAM Design course and the Innovation Hub @ Boyce. Mr. DeMar and a team from Fort Couch - including Erin Peterson, assistant principal; Lauren Madia, school counselor; and Mike Davia, special education teacher - gave a presentation on the school's program of customized learning.
Jan. 11, 2017
USC middle schools named Schools to Watch
Boyce and Fort Couch middle schools in the Upper St. Clair School District have been named Pennsylvania Don Eichhorn Schools to Watch. This marks the fourth time that the USC middle schools have earned this honor – a feat accomplished by only two other Pennsylvania schools.
Schools to Watch is an initiative of the National Forum to Accelerate Middle-Grades Reform. Boyce and Fort Couch are among 38 schools in Pennsylvania that have earned this distinction since the program’s inception in 1999.
“We are honored and excited for our middle schools to receive their fourth Schools to Watch designation,” Dr. Patrick T. O’Toole, superintendent of schools, said. “This is an outstanding award for our staff, students and the entire Upper St. Clair community.”
Schools are recognized for a three-year period, and at the end of three years, they must demonstrate progress on specific goals in order to be re-designated. Unlike the Blue Ribbon recognition program, “Schools to Watch” requires schools to not just identify strengths, but to also focus on areas for continuous improvement; thus the three year re-designation.
“The Schools to Watch process allows us to look deeper into our school practices educationally, athletically and within the arts,” Joseph DeMar, Fort Couch Middle School principal, said. “We have an amazing school community that is so deserving of this recognition for its dedication, desire and commitment to excellence.”
The National Forum identifies Schools to Watch based on three overriding principles of high-performing middle-grades schools:
“We congratulate these schools for being places that do great things for all of their students. These schools demonstrate that high-performing middle grades schools are places that focus on academic growth and achievement. They are also places that recognize the importance of meeting the needs of all of their students and ensure that every child has access to a challenging, high-quality education,” Bruce Vosburgh, president of the National Forum, said. “In addition each school has strong leadership, teachers who work together to improve curriculum and instruction, and a commitment to assessment and accountability to bring about continuous improvement.”
- 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.
Boyce and Fort Couch first earned Schools to Watch honors in 2008. The schools were re-designated as Schools To Watch in 2011, 2014 and 2017. Selection was based on a written application that required schools to show how they met criteria developed by the National Forum. Schools that appeared to meet the criteria were then visited by state teams, which observed classrooms, interviewed administrators, teachers, students, and parents, and looked at achievement data, suspension rates, quality of lessons, and student work.
“The application process involves all staff members, and is a great way to reflect on the things we are doing well and to identify areas for potential growth,” Dan O’Rourke, Boyce Middle School principal, said. “It provides an opportunity for us to really focus on middle level education and systems to support middle school students.”
In addition to being named Schools to Watch, Boyce and Fort Couch are National Blue Ribbon Schools. Boyce was recognized with the 1991-92 Blue Ribbon Award. Fort Couch is one of only eight schools in the nation to have earned four Blue Ribbon Awards: 1986-87, 1992-93, 2001-02 and 2012-13.
“Honors such as Schools to Watch are important because our families, staff members and students get an opportunity to have their efforts rewarded and recognized,” Mr. O’Rourke said. “These types of honors solidify the outstanding work that is done in our schools, and provides an opportunity for us to celebrate our successes.”
A total of 11 Pennsylvania middle schools met the Schools to Watch criteria for 2017 and will be recognized at the Pennsylvania Association for Middle Level Education State Conference on Feb. 26, 2017, in State College. In addition, they will be recognized nationally at the National Forum’s National Schools to Watch Conference on June 22-24, 2017, in Washington, D.C.
Launched in 1999, Schools to Watch began as a national program to identify middle-grades schools across the country that were meeting or exceeding 37 researched based criteria developed by the National Forum. Seventeen states have trained Schools to Watch State Teams, with more than 400 schools recognized across the country.
“We are pleased that our Schools to Watch program has shown that schools can meet high academic expectations while preserving a commitment of healthy development and equity for all students,” Ericka Uskali, National Forum executive director, said. “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.”
The National Forum sponsors the Schools to Watch program along with the Association for Middle Level Education, the National Association for Elementary School Principals, the National Association of Secondary School Principals, Learning Forward, ASCD, and State Schools to Watch affiliates.