Hampton Middle School named 2019 School to Watch
Hampton Township Middle School has been named a 2019 School to Watch, a notable commendation that recognizes growth, progress and various strengths through the National Forum to Accelerate Middle Grades Reform.
The Schools to Watch program, initiated in 1999, recognizes those schools across the state and nation that fit the National Forum’s criteria for academic excellence, and for being developmentally responsive and socially equitable, according to the Schools to Watch website.
Marlynn Lux, principal at HMS, said the distinction “confirms what I already knew about our extraordinary middle school” and that it was a “testament to the staff’s hard work and commitment to their students.”
Hampton joins one of 38 other previously recognized schools in the state.
Lux, Superintendent of Schools Dr. Michael Loughead and Middle School Assistant Principal Dr. Michael Silbaugh decided to apply for the designation in 2017 and initiated a School Improvement process last January, said Lux.
This included all teachers completing a self-study rating rubric to identify their school’s strengths and areas for growth.
After sharing and analyzing the results to the self-study, they formed a 12-member Schools to Watch Vision Team.
By working together and seeking HMS staff for input and suggestions, the team ultimately created a new HMS vision statement.
This followed holding a professional development for teachers last fall to brainstorm ways that they were already achieving and could further achieve that vision, said Lux.
“While this may sound somewhat cliché, I truly view us as a family at HMS. I have felt this way for the 10 years I have been an administrator at HMS. Teachers and staff care about one another and their students and will do whatever it takes to help them be successful. There is a very high level of respect that exists between teachers, staff, students, and administration,” said Lux.
A school must submit an application to show how they met the multiple criteria required by the National Forum, according to Bruce Vosburgh, state director for the Pennsylvania Association for Middle Level Education. This also includes an intense site visit to each school, where they observe classrooms, interview staff and students, and look at data, lessons and student work.
“It really captures the best practices in the school,” said Vosburgh.
The designation only lasts for three years, so schools would need to apply again as Vosburgh said “we want to see continuous growth.”
This distinction can be achieved by any school no matter where it’s located or its resources. For instance, a school may not have the best test scores in the state, but it can demonstrate continuous growth and progress and receive the commendation, said Vosburgh.
Vosburgh was personally impressed by the Hampton Middle School arts program and that there were frequent, if not daily, opportunities for students to participate in physical education.
Most notably, he said he could feel the good vibes when walking into the school.
“You get a really good sense in the building of a positive learning atmosphere between staff and students,” he said.
Loughead said they were also noted for use of technology, including the “balance and rigor and how we’re using it appropriately.”
This included the ability for students and teachers to access innovative and creative spaces, using things such as Google Calendar, according to Gwen Cohen, of the Schools to Watch program.
Other strengths included academics, providing an appropriate middle school experience, and social equity among its students, said Loughead.
Also, just a few of the notable mentions included student club and activities to explore passions, tutorial periods and extra help before and after school, and opportunities that allows teachers opportunities to grow professionally, according to the district.
“We received glowing, glowing results,” said Loughead.
HMS teacher Jay D’Ambrosio, said the work of the Schools to Watch vision team included putting concepts into words and then effectively on a poster.
“Through this process we were able to clarify and enhance our focus as a middle school, which will help us prepare the next generation for both the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead,” he said.
The HMS distinction was administered through the Pennsylvania 2018 Don Eichon Schools to Watch program.
Schools granted the honor will be recognized at the Pennsylvania Association for Middle Level Education State Conference at the Penn State Conference Center in State College on Feb. 24.
They also will be recognized nationally with other Schools to Watch from across the country during the Forum’s National Schools to Watch Conference on June 27 to 29, according to the school district website.
Natalie Beneviat is a Tribune-Review contributor.