Basalt school earns national recognition |

Basalt school earns national recognition

BASALT – Basalt Middle School received one of the highest praises in the land this month when it was selected for the Schools to Watch national program.

The school applied for the recognition this academic year and attracted attention because of drastic improvement in Colorado Student Assessment Program tests. A committee of Colorado middle school educators visited the school in February and interviewed a student panel and a parent panel and visited every classroom to help gauge the school’s achievement.

Basalt Middle School was one of only three middle schools in Colorado that were named first-year recipients of the Schools to Watch designation, which lasts for three years and can be renewed, according to Principal Jeremy Voss. All told, there are 14 middle schools in Colorado and 279 nationwide that have received the recognition, according to the Schools to Watch program.

Morale among students, teachers and administrators has soared since learning of the award last week. “It’s been good. It validated a lot of hard work,” Voss said.

The school works to create a culture as a great place to work, Voss said, so this recognition indicates that effort is paying off. The Schools to Watch program, in its assessment of schools, uses criteria of academic excellence, school responsiveness to the needs and interests of adolescents, strong leadership, teachers who work together to improve curriculum and instruction, and a collective commitment to assessment and accountability to bring about continuous improvement.

Julie Riggins, a seventh-grade math teacher, said teachers and principals are on the same page at the school.

“I think our school works so well because of the atmosphere of compassion that the principals create,” Riggins said. “This climate is felt by me especially in the support the principals have for teacher ideas.”

Voss said teachers and administrators believe academic achievement is tied to effort. A student’s ability to learn is affected by luck, effort, natural intelligence and the people around them. Effort is the only factor that typically can be controlled, Voss noted, So the school tracks effort and achievement and adjusts education as needed.

Basalt Middle School will get official recognition through the Colorado Trailblazer Schools to Watch program at the end of March. All schools from across the country that are newly recognized in the program will be honored in a gala celebration in Washington, D.C., on June 21. In addition, school representatives will be asked to share stories of their successful education practices at various national, regional and state conferences.

The school’s enrollment is 420 this year. It is expected to increase to 430 and 450 in the next two years, respectively, based on elementary school enrollments. Voss said enrollment remained steady through the recession and aftermath.

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