Two Livermore Valley Joint Unified School District (LVJUSD) middle schools, East Avenue and William Mendenhall, have been designated as 2023 California Schools to Watch.
Sponsored by the California League of Schools, California Department of Education, and the California Middle Grades Alliance, the Schools to Watch program recognizes middle schools for efforts in helping students build confidence, develop new interests, and work toward achieving academic and life goals.
The program is sponsored nationally by the National Forum to Accelerate Middle Grades Reform.
The two LVJUSD middle schools were among 36 in California to receive Schools to Watch designation for the first time this year. They join the only other LVJUSD middle school, Andrew N. Christensen, which received Schools to Watch designation in 2022.
Another 40 California middle schools also had their Schools to Watch designations renewed this year, bringing the total number of schools currently recognized in the program to 186, according to the state Department of Education.
Schools must be reevaluated every three years to retain their designation.
“Middle school is a formative and sometimes challenging time for students,” said LVJUSD Supt. Chris Van Schaack. “We are immensely proud that all three of our middle schools have been recognized for their efforts to create effective and sustainable systems of support that will help students excel both academically and socially.”
East Avenue Principal Jesse Hansen attributed the recognition to the school’s efforts to build trust, connection, and community with students; recognize students for positive behavior; and create school-wide strategies to assess and respond to students’ academic needs.
“When students feel a sense of trust and connection with their teachers, school staff, and peers, it leads to improved behavior and academic outcomes,” Hansen said. “Asking for help related to their learning or with personal challenges is much more likely to happen when students feel that sense of belonging at school.”
Mendenhall has also focused on strengthening interpersonal bonds between students and staff, the expansion of elective offerings, and increased participation in student-driven leadership activities and clubs, according to Principal Tammy Rankin.
“We believe that all students should be supported and challenged in order to meet and exceed their educational goals,” Rankin said.