“We’re absolutely thrilled,” said Principal Kirsten Jobb. “This is a great accomplishment.”
Jobb and her staff received the good news earlier this month after a representative from the California League of Middle Schools visited the campus to check out Edna Hill’s programs, which initially helped it earn the Schools to Watch designation in 2007. Schools are up for redesignation every three years.
As one of only 27 middle schools in the state to currently hold the title, Edna Hill has demonstrated that it puts programs in place to foster academic excellence, developmental responsiveness and social equality, which are essential to student success.
State Superintendent Jack O’Connell wrote in a press release that Schools to Watch represents a commitment to excellence: “These middle schools teach deeply to standards, assess ongoing student progress, and use data to make decisions. They develop confident and capable adolescent citizens, differentiate instruction for all learners, and provide effective interventions to struggling students and English learners.”
One key prerequisite for being named a School to Watch is establishing replicable programs that can easily be implemented at other schools. All Brentwood middle school students start their day with an 18-minute advisory period. Through this program, which was first established at Edna Hill, students meet with the same homeroom teacher for all three years of their junior high career. During these short sessions each morning, teachers use lesson plans that teach life skills such as goal setting and conflict management.
“Through the advisory period, students establish their own Individual Learning Plan,” said Vice Principal Amy Wallace. “The students set short-term and long-term goals for themselves and work toward one specific goal each quarter. This allows the students to take ownership of their education. They get to see how what they learn at Edna Hill will be applied in life after middle school, whether it’s in high school, college or in the workplace.
“Middle school isn’t just this snapshot in time. This is the time when students are establishing habits that they’ll have for the rest of their lives. They’re setting out on this journey toward their future, and the middle school years provide that foundation. It’s a crucial time developmentally.”
Jobb said the advisory period helps students create a relationship with a teacher who will be there to guide them during their stay at Edna Hill: “The support system established during the advisory period helps create a safety net that promotes students’ intellectual and emotional development.”
Representatives from other Bay Area schools have visited Edna Hill since it was first designated as a School to Watch in 2007 to see what makes the school so unique. Jobb said many schools have inquired about the Passing on Apparel for Student Success program, which provides clothes to students in need so that they can be dressed for success and ready to learn. The advisory program and the transition program Welcome Everybody (WEB) have also been of interest to other schools.
While the developmental programs have gained much attention, Wallace said Edna Hill’s next goal is to refine curriculum to help create more cross-curricular projects that will help students find connections between the topics they learn in class, such as combining math and science lessons into one project.
“Our work is never done,” Wallace said. “There are always places where we can improve our programs to offer the best to our students. Being redesignated as a School to Watch is a confirmation of our success, and it motivates us to keep moving forward. It validates all the hard work done by the staff as well as the students. The students take pride in knowing that they attend a School to Watch because the designation not only honors the teachers and staff, but it reflects the students’ accomplishments as well.”
Edna Hill will be honored at the California League of Middle School’s annual conference in February.