All Livermore Middle Schools are Schools to Watch
February 28, 2023 - Livermore, CA - Two Livermore Valley Joint Unified School District middle schools, East Avenue and William Mendenhall, have been recognized as 2023 Schools to Watch. East and Mendenhall join 34 other high-performing California schools newly recognized for exceptional middle grade programs that support students in building their confidence, discovering their interests, and working toward their academic and life goals. With the recognition of Andrew N. Christensen Middle School in 2022, all three LVJUSD middle schools have now earned the Schools to Watch distinction. “Middle school is a formative and sometimes challenging time for students. 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,” expressed LVJUSD Superintendent Chris Van Schaack.
At East, Principal Jesse Hansen attributed his school’s recognition to three major areas of focus: building trust, connection, and community with students; recognizing students for positive behavior; and creating consistent 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. 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,” shared Hansen. Over the past year, East has grown its number of clubs, extracurricular activities, and community events to increase involvement.
Similar to East, Mendenhall has also prioritized connecting students to school through the strengthening of interpersonal bonds between students and staff, the expansion of elective offerings related to student interests, and the focus on increased participation in student-driven leadership activities and clubs promoted on Mustang Report video broadcasts. Mendenhall’s Schools to Watch status can also be ascribed to its focus on student achievement. Mendenhall has developed collaborative approaches to assessment and instruction by grade level and subject that have resulted in improved outcomes for students academically. “We believe that all students should be supported and challenged in order to meet and exceed their educational goals,” remarked Principal Tammy Rankin.
Both schools will be recognized at the California Schools to Watch Celebration on March 9, 2023, sponsored by the California Department of Education, California League of Schools, and the California Middle Grades Alliance, in association with the National Forum. Schools must complete an extensive application and host a site visit by middle grades experts to earn a designation and are re-evaluated every three years to retain their designation. For more information about the program, visit the California Schools to Watch web page.
For a complete list of 2023 Schools to Watch designees, see the California Department of Education (CDE) press release from State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond.
Photos courtesy of LVJUSD
Photo #1: Vice Principal Holly Ellison (far left) and Principal Jesse Hansen (far right) with East Avenue students excited about their Schools to Watch recognition.
Photo #2: Vice Principal Mary Grace (far left) and Principal Tammy Rankin (far right) and students representing those who helped to make Mendenhall a School to Watch.