By Courtney Essett
LIZTON — LIZTON — It’s been a big year for the teachers, students, and staff at Tri-West Middle School. The school was recently named a four star school by the state and has now earned national recognition as a 2011 School to Watch.
Dr. Tony Bennett, Indiana superintendent of public instruction, visited the school Tuesday morning to congratulate Principal Ron Ward, Northwest Hendricks Schools Superintendent Rusty King, as well as TWMS teachers, students, and staff.
“We are all very happy; we’re all very thrilled that you’re getting what you’re getting,” Bennett said.
TWMS was one of four Indiana middle schools given the honor of a being a School to Watch in 2011. Eastwood Middle, Northview Middle, and Westlane Middle schools, all of Indianapolis, were also named.
Schools to Watch is a national initiative launched by the National Forum to Accelerate Middle Grades Reform in 1999. Indiana joined the state program in 2009 and has since had seven schools that have been recognized.
The forum identifies schools across the country who exemplify its criteria for high performance. That criteria demands that schools are academically excellent, developmentally responsive, and socially equitable.
According to the website at schoolstowatch.org, these criteria mean schools must challenge all students to use their minds well, be sensitive to the unique developmental challenges of early adolescence, and be democratic and fair, providing every student with high-quality teachers, resources, and support.
“It’s quite an honor to be selected and know that the things we’re trying to accomplish here with our students are recognized at the state and national level,” Ward said.
Much of the hard work students and teachers have put in at TWMS helped Northwest Hendricks Schools become the fifth highest scoring district in the state on the latest round of ISTEP testing.
“This is a high performing school, a school that’s deep rooted in high expectations, a school that has your best interest at heart,” Bennett told the students. “Our job is to make sure all schools look like your school.”
Bennett’s stop at Tri-West was one of many, as he planned to visit schools in Southern Indiana later Tuesday. Measures and talks to reform education throughout the state have been hotbed topics as educators and lawmakers face off on the future of the system.
“We live in a period where education is under scrutiny,” Bennett said. “Teachers, I want you to hear thank you. We’re proud of what you do. We honor what you do.”
Students at the school-wide assembly gave their teachers a standing ovation as King, Bennett, and Ward praised them for their leadership and hard work.
King said, “I’ve been here for about 14 years and it’s a great system to be a part of. I do value highly the teachers and their dedication here, as well as the students.”
Ward and the teachers who formed the committee to apply for recognition in the program will travel to Washington, D.C., in June to make a presentation on TWMS during the 2011 Schools to Watch Conference. A banner bestowed to the school from the Schools to Watch Program will hang from a bannister in the entryway of the school.