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Northley receives its Schools to Watch recognition

Schools to watch banner awarded Northley Middle School (NMS) Principal Mr. Joel Alutius finally received the official banner celebrating their second designation in as a Don Eichhorn Schools: “Schools to Watch” (PA STW) as part of the recognition program developed by the National Forum to Accelerate Middle-Grades Reform in partnership with the Pennsylvania Association for Middle Level Education (PAMLE), Duquesne University, Edinboro University, Kutztown University, and the Horace Mann Service Corporation. The Pennsylvania “Schools to Watch” leadership team had announced that Northley Middle School was one of ten re-designated schools recognized at the Pennsylvania Association for Middle Level Education State Conference at the Toftrees Resort in State College on March 1, 2020. 

They were also to be recognized nationally with all the other recognized STW schools across the country in Washington, DC at the National Forum’s National Schools to Watch Conference on June 24-27, 2020.  That event, unfortunately was postponed.

Instead, Bruce Vosburgh, Director, Pennsylvania Don Eichhorn Schools: Schools To Watch personally delivered the recognition to Northley on Wednesday, July 22.  Additionally, a special message from the School's to Watch PA team was also sent via YouTube.

State leaders select each school for its Academic Excellence, Developmental Responsiveness, Social Equity and Organizational Structures and Processes. 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.

Bruce Vosburgh PA State STW Director, stated, “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.”

The Schools to Watch 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. 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.

Principal Joel Alutius noted the tremendous job the committee members responsible for the appllcation did to ensure redesignation. Michelle Ritz, Nicole Armbruster, Gina Ragan and Lisa Pasceri were all part of the committee.

“I am extremely happy for the Northley family," said Mr. Alutius. "Our parents, students and teachers are working together to create a positive environment for all students to achieve their best. This designation confirms this community’s commitment to the WE ARE spirit.”

Dr. George Steinhoff, Penn-Delco Superintendent, agrees: "This award affirms what those of us familiar with Northley already happily know: it’s a fantastic school with a super dedicated staff and great kids," he said.   "Nevertheless, having an objective and expert third party assign an award of distinction to the work that they do at NMS is certainly cause for Viking and Penn Delco pride." 

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.  Northly was recognized for re-designation (2) this year as it was initially recognized in 2014 and 2017. 

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. The Forum developed a web site that features online tours of schools, as well as detailed information about the selection criteria used in the recognition program. There are now 17 states across the country, which have trained Schools to Watch State Teams, with more than 650 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,” said Ericka Uskali, National Forum Executive Director. 

“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,” Uskali said.