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Two Hawthorne School District middle schools recognized as California Schools to Watch

February 16, 2023

Two Hawthorne School District Middle Schools

Two Hawthorne School District middle schools have been recognized as 2023 California Schools to Watch, a prestigious distinction given to only 77 middle-grades schools across the state.

Last week, the California League of Educators announced that Hawthorne Middle School would be redesignated and Prairie Vista Middle School would be designated for the first time as a California Schools to Watch. At the national level, only 600 schools across the US have been awarded the Schools to Watch designation.

“Congratulations to these schools for building systems that support all students from all backgrounds and who bring a wealth of individual and family assets,” said State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond in a press release. “These middle grades students attend programs that help them believe in themselves, discover their interests, and work toward their academic, life, and career goals. These middle schools are exceptional role models of how educational innovation and an enthusiastic school community can keep students engaged and learning through a critical stage in their K–12 journey.”

Schools recognized for the honor must demonstrate support for the whole child through academic excellence, social equity, developmental responsiveness, and systems that foster innovation. Those that are redesignated demonstrate sustained progress for three years following their initial recognition.

“We’re thrilled to see our schools receive recognition for their exceptional teaching and learning practices,” said Superintendent Dr. Brian Markarian. “This distinct honor is reflective of the high-quality programming and commitment to excellence at these two schools and across the District, and we look forward to further engagement between the District and the California Schools to Watch program.”

Hawthorne Middle School’s redesignation comes as a result of advancement in areas including teacher collaboration, academic programming, student academic support, and school climate. During the application process, Hawthorne Middle School highlighted their science lab, Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE), Project Lead the Way (PLTW), Two-Way Bilingual Immersion (TWBI), learning loss mitigation programs, the expansive student support team, and more. A student panel interviewed during the application process described Hawthorne Middle School as “amazing”, “great,” “wise,” and “determined.”

“As the new principal at Hawthorne Middle School, the Schools to Watch application process provided an opportunity for me to learn more about HMS, gain insight about programs that make HMS great, and collaborate with staff to plan for the visit,” said Hawthorne Middle School Principal Martha Castellanos. “It was truly a team effort and a testament to the ongoing work of our site staff as we deliver an exceptional education to our students.”

Prairie Vista Middle School received the designation for the first time through this process. Feedback from the Schools to Watch evaluators included positive comments about the middle school’s ability to connect students to school, student leadership, the visual and performing arts program, academic intervention opportunities, and overall instruction.

“Our parents were extremely supportive in their comments to the team, and told them stories about their childrens' success here at PVMS,” said Prairie Vista Middle School Principal Wendy Ostensen. “It is a great honor and I am very proud and appreciative of our PVMS community.”

About Schools to Watch

Schools to Watch is a national network of over 600 schools in 17 states. California is the largest state participant, with lead agencies for the program including the California Department of Education and the California League of Schools.

Schools that apply to become Schools to Watch in the fall submit an application that is reviewed by experienced middle-grades experts in their state. If the application is approved, the school hosts a validation visit with Schools to Watch evaluators, who observe classrooms throughout the day and meet with staff, students, parents, and community partners to validate the application. Should the school meet the qualifications, the school becomes a California School to Watch in March and a National School to Watch in June.

Representatives from Hawthorne School District will attend the California Schools to Watch Celebrations in Monterey, with district leaders being recognized on March 9 and school teams being recognized on March 10 as California Schools to Watch. Representatives from the California Department of Education and the California Middle Grades Alliance, partners in the state-level program with the California League of Educators, will be part of these events.

School teams will then go to Washington, DC, from June 22-24 for recognition as National Schools to Watch by the National Forum, the nonprofit organization that oversees the national program.