Crossett Middle School is the first school in southeast Arkansas to be selected as a Diamond School to Watch.
The school was chosen to be among a select group of schools designated as model schools in the state and in the nation. The honor is part of a program started by the National Forum to Accelerate Middle-Grades Reform.
A nationally trained team of evaluators with extensive expertise in middle level education visited Crossett to review the school's status, observe the school in action, and examine school documents. They also had unlimited access to parents, students, and teachers as they conducted interviews to learn more about the school. After the visit, the evaluation team unanimously agreed that Crossett Middle School fits the definition of being a school that is conscientiously moving to fully meet the nationally endorsed criteria of high performing middle schools and that it has made marked progress in meeting all the criteria, including measurable gains in the achievement of all students over time.
"It's very rewarding to receive such state and national recognition when you see day in and day out how hard the teachers work and how much they care," said Crossett Principal Lou Gregorio.
The criteria of the Schools to Watch program focuses on three areas: academic excellence, developmental responsiveness, and social equity. Among the more than 37 areas reviewed, evaluators looked at whether all students are expected to meet high academic standards and whether the curriculum is rigorous and non-repetitive.
They also looked at whether teachers offered students challenging and engaging activities. In the area of developmental responsiveness, evaluators analyzed whether the school creates a personalized environment and groups students and adults in small learning communities that feature stable, close, and mutually respectful relationships. They considered whether teachers foster curiosity and creativity and whether students have the opportunities to pose questions, reflect on their experiences, and participate in decisions. In the area of social equity, the evaluators looked at whether the school welcomes and encourages the active participation of all of its families and whether the school values diversity, civility, service, and democratic citizenship.
"The culture of the school is very positive and constructive," Gregorio said. "The students enjoy attending school at Crossett, and the parents are very satisfied. There is a culture that makes this school work."
After having demonstrated the school excels in using these best practices for educating middle school students, Crossett is one of 61 schools across the nation that are designated Schools to Watch. Crossett Middle School will be nationally recognized in Washington, D.C., in June.