Arkansas ‘School to Watch’ Attracts National Notice

In a state that boasts the world’s only diamond-producing site open to public prospecting, one of Arkansas’ brightest jewels can be found without digging: Cabot Middle School North has been named an Arkansas Diamond School to Watch, and the Strategic Instruction Model sparkles as one of the school’s areas of academic excellence.

For three years, Content Enhancement Routines have been fixtures in every general education classroom. Learning Strategies became part of the school’s offerings in 2007-2008.

“Teachers are teaching and planning lessons in chunks and overarching concepts,” says Renee Calhoon, the school’s principal and a certified SIM Professional Developer in Content Enhancement. “More students feel equipped with tools to use in general education classrooms.”

Students at Cabot Middle School north are more motivated to learn now that SIM has taken root in the school’s culture. They have a clear understanding of what they need to know to master the content of their classes, and their performance on tests has improved. Equally important, students have a greater voice in their academic pursuits.

These achievements combined with the other facets of academic excellence found in the school brought Cabot Middle School North to the attention of the Schools to Watch initiative. Since 1999, the National Forum to Accelerate Middle-Grades Reform has judged schools on 37 points, including achievement data, suspension rates, lesson quality, and student work. The program recognized the Arkansas school for academic excellence, response to social development of its students, and social equity for all students.

“Our school was also found to possess strong leadership, teachers who work together to improve curriculum and instruction, and a commitment to assessment and accountability to bring about continuous improvement,” Calhoon says.

Cabot Middle School North has no intention of resting on its Schools to Watch laurels. Under Calhoon’s leadership, staff members aim to increase the number of Content Enhancement Routines and Learning Strategies in regular use in the school’s classrooms and to eventually establish all five levels of the Content Literacy Continuum.

—First published in 30 x 30: Thirty Stories of Success, Hope, and Innovation, © 2008, University of Kansas Center for Research on Learning.