Schools to Watch (STW) is a program developed by the National Forum to Accelerate Middle-Grades Reform. It aims to establish a national network of high-performing intermediate schools as models for schools struggling to improve student achievement.
On Thursday morning Dr. Irv Howard, Director of the CA STW program, will present a banner during a school assembly to celebrate and commemorate the award. SVUSD Superintendent Clint Harwick, local politicians and media representatives are expected to attend. State School Superintendent Tom Torlakson recently applauded the La Paz achievement.
Only eighteen months ago the teachers at LaPaz circulated a Petition of No Confidence against policies being implemented by Principal Jean Carroll. The petition was signed by 48 teachers, virtually the entire faculty. One question indicated 76% felt the faculty was not pleased “with the current culture of the school and the direction in which it is going.” Only 4% “strongly agreed” with the School’s direction and 17% ”agreed.”
After all, La Paz was already the only four-time California Distinguished Middle School in Orange County and was also a two-time National Blue Ribbon School.
Principal Carroll didn’t comment on the teachers’ rebellious actions at that time, and today she tells the Dispatch the STW award is the result of her outstanding teaching staff. Ms. Carrol’s achievements are notable since she has been a principal for less than four years.
One of the Principal’s initiatives, opposed by teachers, was the implementation of Professional Learning Communities, emphasizing partnerships and small groups. PLC’s are formed to create a collegial environment for continuing teacher education. Teachers collectively analyze student performance and create learning solutions. Today a LaPaz student with trouble on a current assignment may find a teacher intervening with him during the next lunch hour to resolve his difficulty and keep it from snowballing.
A notable improvement has been the closing of the gap in API scores for Hispanic students. Hispanics are about 20% of the 1,000 students.