Reid Middle School earns 'Spotlight School' designation

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PITTSFIELD — Reid Middle School capped off its school year with a renewed designation as a "Spotlight School," accredited by the New England League of Middle Schools.

Members of the NELMS Spotlight School Team, along with Pittsfield Public School officials, Reid staff and students were on hand for a June 2 ceremony held in the school's library. The announcement included the fact that Reid is among 34 schools in the New England region to earn this distinction for its efforts to improve school climate and culture, and commitment to helping all students succeed.

"What we're really about is putting students first, with adults helping them to move forward," said Principal Linda Whitacre. "To be one of 34 schools to have this is quite an honor."

The NELMS Spotlight School program is an elective school assessment process, that involves the submission of a series of self-assessment surveys and providing additional supporting documentation, along with a $300 application fee. NELMS representatives then review the materials and make the selection of schools that will advance in the review and accreditation process. Schools that are selected for further review receive a site visit from NELMS representatives who conduct interviews with faculty staff and students.

Bill Ivey, the Massachusetts Regional IV representative for NELMS, co-reviewed Reid in March, and attended this month's accreditation ceremony.

"We spent the entire day here with a full agenda," he said. "We saw a deep sense of pride from pretty much everyone we talked to." He said the teacher and administrator leadership team structure also stood out at the school.

NELMS accreditation is also based on criteria set forth by two other middle school studies, the "This We Believe: Keys to Educating Young Adolescents" position paper from the Association for Middle Level Education, and the "Turning Points 2000: Educating Adolescents in the 21st Century," 1989 report published by the Carnegie Corp.

During the ceremony, various educators and school leaders also touted some of the school's strengths, including:

• The development and implementation of a "station-based learning model" that allows math and English language arts students to work both independently and in small groups to address assignments, while the teacher monitors and moderates activities from the back of the classroom.

• The designation of a data team that meets regularly to analyze data collected from students exams and establishes data-based goals for students and grade levels.

• The designation of an intervention and support staff to implement a "response-to-intervention" protocol and curriculum to support students with specific behavioral and learning needs.

• The development and implementation of orientation programs to help students transition into middle school and bridge out to high school.

• The continuation and enhancement of community and family outreach programs and initiatives, including a partnership with Berkshire Health Systems.

"Reid has helped me to set goals beyond the classroom while providing a safe, positive learning environment," said Student Council President Wyatt George, an eighth-grader.

Seth Christopher, a member of the intervention team, said that "an important aspect of school success is behavioral and mental health." He said that each middle school team and classroom has monthly meetings with students to check in on their well-being and help build a relationship of trust with their students.

"It is evident every day that our school continues to make progress and is committed to effective instruction, collaboration, and teaming." said Whitacre, who is finishing her second year of leadership with the school.

With the renewed Spotlight School designation, which the school will hold until 2019, Reid now serves as a model school, listed with NELMS as an exemplary place for other school leaders to visit. In reciprocation, Reid must agree to host visitors, maintain accurate records and complete NELMS surveys, supply lists of their best practices and collaborate with other NELMS schools to develop best practices, and participate in other New England school conferences and initiatives.

Asked why she felt it was worth the school's time and energy to go through such a rigorous process, she said, "I believe [the staff and students] deserved the recognition. They're involved in not only working hard through the school, but throughout the community. We have a great enthusiasm to put forth new ideas and thinking around curriculum and climate."

Contact Jenn Smith at 413-496-6239.


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