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Castaic Middle School makes the grade

Named 'School to Watch' a third time

Posted: February 11, 2009 12:36 a.m.
Updated: February 11, 2009 8:00 a.m.

Eighth-grade student Amber Pech takes notes about acids and bases in Mr. Matt Rubin's science class Monday morning.

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Castaic Middle School was named a "School to Watch" earlier this month, the third time the school has won the award from the state.

"I think that we have a very dedicated group of teachers and there's a commitment on our campus to our students," said Matt Rubin, a science teacher at the school of sixth- through eighth-graders.

"I think a lot of that comes from just really feeling invested and part of the community and doing whatever we need to do to make our students succeed," Rubin said.

The "Schools to Watch" award goes to model middle schools that succeed at meeting the needs of their middle-grade students, building a strong record of student achievement and significantly narrowing the achievement gap, according to state Schools Chief Jack O'Connell. Castaic has won the award in 2003, 2006 and 2009.

"Our staff and students have worked very hard in an exciting and challenging middle-school program to demonstrate strong student achievement," said Principal Ellen Edeburn. "This recognition is an affirmation of the fine work so many have done in the school, district and larger community."

Castaic, the only three-grade middle school in the Santa Clarita Valley, recently launched a coteaching program that pairs a special education teacher with a general education teacher to help struggling students.

The school offers many student clubs, before- and after-school programs for performing and visual arts and for the student-run television channel.

The "Schools to Watch achievement is given in conjunction with the National Forum to Accelerate Middle Grades Reform, and in partnership with the California Middle Grades Alliance.

Representatives from Castaic Middle School will receive their recognition award from O'Connell at the California League of Middle Schools conference in San Diego on March 13.

In June, they will travel to Washington, D.C., to receive their national recognition award.

Rubin, who has taught at the middle school for six years, credits the school's mix of student leadership and character-building programs for student success.

Every month, the school introduces a characteristic based on John Wooden's Pyramid of Success, Rubin said.

February's trait is self-control and posters illustrating self-control dot the Castaic school.

At the end of the month, teachers nominate students who best demonstrate the skill. The winners receive an ice cream party and certificates, he said.

"I think you have to realize that students don't leave their lives at the door of your classroom," said Rubin, who has been named Educator of the Year. "When they come in, everything that's going on in their outside world comes with them."

The role of the middle school comes at crucial time in a student's life.

"There is research showing that a student's success in eighth grade is one of the biggest determiners if they are going to graduate high school," Rubin said.

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