Making Middle Grades Work: BMS selected for national honor

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By Tom Wilmoth
and Staff Reports

    Bedford Middle School’s staff have been putting in some hard work—and it’s paying off.
    This week it was announced BMS has been selected as an Outstanding Making Middle Grades Work (MMGW) School.
    This award is based on the success of local school leaders and teachers in improving school practices and increasing the quality of experiences provided to students. The award was presented today by Dave Spence, president of the Southern Regional Education Board (SREB), at the 27th Annual High Schools That Work Staff Development Conference in Charlotte N.C.
    Spence praised the school for its achievement, pointing out that it takes dedication and hard work on the part of state, district and school leaders, and teachers to make progress in preparing students for success in high school, further studies, work and citizenship. He presented the award before an audience of more than 4,000 educators from across the nation attending the HSTW Conference.
    Bedford Middle School was one of only nine MMGW schools in the nation to receive the 2013 Outstanding School Award.
    “I’m very pleased to have an award of this type for the hard work the staff has been doing,” Bedford Middle School Principal Rhetta Watkins said.
    Those efforts have included opportunities for professional development on increasing the rigor for student achievement and instructional strategies they can implement.
    “The instructors are having more opportunities to work on research-based strategies to help the students be more successful in the classroom,” Watkins said. Their training has included engaging the students to learn to problem solve, make inferences, analyze and evaluate.
    Watkins said these are critical skills students will need in jobs or at college.
    “They need to have the skills to be prepared for both of those areas,” she said. “Critical thinking and problem solving are very crucial.”
    The middle school was invited to participate in the program by Liberty High School. “Having both schools work together was a win-win situation for the students,” she said.
    Watkins, and Bedford Middle School staff members Dr. Marvin McGinnis and Megan Bond were also scheduled to present an in-service at the conference on the literacy program called Literacy Design Collaborative.
    Watkins said the school will celebrate the honor with the staff when it returns in August for the upcoming school year.
    To be recognized as an Outstanding MMGW School, a school had to be nominated by the MMGW state coordinator or by an SREB director for a noteworthy accomplishment such as improving achievement, improving the quality of robust assignments, fully implementing the MMGW design, implementing a signature feature, or extensively implementing the Gates’ Literacy Design Collaborative and/or Mathematics Design Collaborative.
    Bedford Middle School piloted the Literacy Design Collaborative in selected classrooms. Students demonstrated increased student achievement using this model. The Literacy Design Collaborative engages students in reading, comprehending, analyzing, interpreting and responding to complex texts.
    “This school has shown what can be accomplished to raise student achievement by deeply implementing the Making Middle Grades Work model for strengthening curriculum and instruction,” said SREB Senior Vice President Gene Bottoms. “The school illustrates the spirit of change that Making Middle Grades Work advocates to get students ready for challenging academic and career/technical courses in high school.”
    “Research shows that the ninth grade is a critical transition point for students,” Bottoms said. “Students who struggle in the ninth grade are much more likely to drop out of high school. For that reason, schools in the SREB Making Middle Grades Work initiative devote time and effort in preparing students to be successful in high school.” 
    More than 450 middle grades schools in 21 states participate in the MMGW school improvement initiative to create a culture of high expectations and prepare middle grades students for challenging high school courses and productive careers.
    The largest SREB program, High Schools That Work is a national, comprehensive school improvement design based on the premise that most students can master rigorous academic and career/technical studies if school leaders and teachers create a school environment that motivates all students to make the effort to succeed.
    The HSTW initiative is the nation’s first large-scale effort to engage state, district and school leaders in partnership with teachers, students, parents and the community to equip all students with the knowledge and skills needed to graduate from high school and succeed in college and the workplace. More than 1,100 high schools in 30 states and the District of Columbia participate in the HSTW school improvement initiative.