|Page 3 of 5 < >|
Unstuck in the Middle
Farmwell Station Middle School
Ashburn, Loudoun County, 1,060 students, grades 6 to 8; principal Sherryl Loya (two years); 10.4 percent low income, 66 percent white, 10 percent black, 9.5 percent Hispanic, 13 percent Asian; 54 percent completed algebra.
Many of the middle schools praised by readers have been around for decades. In rapidly growing Loudoun County, such venerable institutions are harder to find, but in just nine years Farmwell Station has developed a reputation for good teaching and thoroughly preparing students for the county's demanding high schools.
Tracy Rossi said that when she decided sales and marketing work was just not feeding her soul, she got a master's degree in teaching and found what she calls her "dream job" teaching life sciences to seventh-graders at Farmwell Station. Susan Godfrey, a math teacher, said "students feel invested in the school. At Farmwell we offer a very challenging curriculum and many, many extracurricular activities as well." It is among 112 Schools to Watch, recognized for academic strength, democratic values and sensitivity to adolescents by the National Forum to Accelerate Middle-Grades Reform.
Robert Frost Middle School
Rockville, Montgomery County, 1,152 students, grades 6 to 8; principal Joey Jones (five years); 3 percent low income, 56 percent white, 4 percent black, 6 percent Hispanic, 34 percent Asian; 70 percent completed algebra.
Frost has great teachers and motivated students, but what separates it from many other fine suburban campuses is its playful side, students and parents said. Every spring, the school presents the Dessert Theatre, a musical with a chance at a part for everyone -- and cakes, tarts and pies heaped on tables for the audience.
English teacher Joe Ballmann organizes annual foosball tournaments in his classroom that draw huge crowds. The Weather Club has attained cult status: Future forecasters check the barometer, measure the wind and report the news of impending storms -- and maybe even that there will be no school the next day!
All is presided over by unforgettable principal Joey Jones. "He is a huge guy," said eighth-grader Callista Stoop, "but never intimidating because of the enormous smile on his face."
Green Acres School
Rockville, 130 students, grades 5 to 8; principal Peter Braverman (four years); tuition $22,500; 76 percent white, 6 percent black, 8 percent Hispanic, 10 percent Asian; 92 percent completed algebra.
It is a small private school with a reputation for finding just the formula that works for each child. Linda Youngentob said she chose Green Acres because she loved the pre-kindergarten and kindergarten. But now with children ages 10, 13 and 17 (a Green Acres graduate), "I realize that the real gem of Green Acres is the middle school."
Amy Niles, another parent, agreed. "Green Acres' successful placement with area high schools, both public and private, is testimony to the fact that the school grows very successful students," she said.
The middle-schoolers' unique place at the top of the school's hierarchy also has benefits. "After the school musical, you can see the younger kids lining up to get the autographs of the seventh- and eighth-graders," Youngen-tob said.
Gunston Middle School
Arlington County, 586 students, grades 6 to 8; principal Margaret "Madge" Gill (four years); 52 percent low income, 24 percent white, 23 percent black, 46 percent Hispanic, 7 percent Asian; 32 percent completed algebra.