Dec. 12, 2019
Boyce & Fort Couch named Schools to Watch
Boyce and Fort Couch middle schools have been named Pennsylvania Don Eichhorn Schools to Watch 2020. This marks the fifth time that the two Upper St. Clair schools have earned this honor – an accomplishment reached by only two other schools in Pennsylvania.
“The Schools to Watch designation is among the highest honors that a middle school can achieve in the commonwealth,” Dr. John Rozzo, superintendent of schools, said. “To have two schools that have reached that pinnacle for the fifth time is simply outstanding and a resounding testament to our students, faculty, staff and families who share a deep commitment to high quality public education.”
Schools to Watch is an initiative of the National Forum to Accelerate Middle-Grades Reform. Boyce and Fort Couch are among 12 schools to earn this designation or re-designation for 2020. Only 42 middle schools have earned Pennsylvania Schools to Watch designation since the program’s inception in 1999.
“The Schools to Watch achievement is important because it validates the need to continue the middle school model established by its fore founder Dr. Eichhorn,” Joseph DeMar, Fort Couch Middle School principal, said. “Additionally, the teachers and students feel a sense of pride from their hard work. Having their efforts recognized validates their commitment to the students and continues to set a positive tone within the school setting.”
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 re-designation process is based on the schools’ continued growth since their last STW recognition.
“The entire process encourages me as the leader, as well as the staff as a whole, to identify areas of strength and potential opportunities to enhance our current practices,” Dan O’Rourke, Boyce Middle School principal, said. “The Schools to Watch committee looks for consistent improvement, and while we are excited to receive the award again, we must now turn our focus to the next steps of staying at the cutting edge of providing students with a world-class education.”
State leaders selected each school for its academic excellence, developmental responsiveness, social equity, and organizational structures and processes.
“We congratulate these schools for being places that do great things for all of their students. 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,” Bruce Vosburgh, Pennsylvania Schools to Watch director, said. “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.”
The selection process is based on a written application that required schools to show how they met criteria developed by the National Forum to Accelerate Middle Grades Reform. 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.
“Upper St. Clair truly embraces the middle school philosophy, and this recognition simply would not happen if we did not employ best practices to support middle level learners,” Mr. O’Rourke said. “Awards like this are not possible without a supportive school board and central office administration, parents and a community that place a high value on education, dedicated staff members, and outstanding students. I could not be more proud of the students and staff at Boyce Middle School.”
Boyce and Fort Couch first earned Schools to Watch honors in 2008. The schools were re-designated as Schools To Watch in 2011, 2014, 2017 and now for 2020.
“Obtaining the schools to watch award multiple years shows the strong connection built between teachers, students, and our USC community,” Mr. DeMar said. “Working together to educate the whole child through their transesence years is vital to a child's self-esteem and formulating a strong educational foundation.”
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 has earned four Blue Ribbon Awards: 1986-87, 1992-93, 2001-02 and 2012-13.
The 12 Pennsylvania STW schools for 2020 will be recognized at the Pennsylvania Association for Middle Level Education State Conference on March 1, 2020, at the Toftrees Resort in State College. They will also be recognized nationally with all the other recognized STW schools across the country June 24-27, 2020, at the National Forum’s National Schools to Watch Conference in Washington, D.C.
“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 to Watch are indeed special; they make education so exciting that students and teachers don’t want to miss a day. 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.”
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 650 schools recognized across the country. The Forum developed a web site (www.middlegradesforum.org) that features online tours of schools, as well as detailed information about the selection criteria used in the recognition program.
In addition to the National Forum, the Pennsylvania Schools to Watch program partners with the Pennsylvania Association for Middle Level Education, Duquesne University, Edinboro University, Kutztown University and the Horace Mann Service Corporation.