by Shawn Nowlin
Being named to the Association for Middle-Level Education’s (AMLE) Schools of Distinction Program is no easy feat to accomplish. Just to be considered, faculty and other school personnel must complete an evaluation that measures their application of characteristics of successful middle-grade schools and their improvement plans.
The AMLE program has four primary objectives. In addition to recognizing schools committed to implementing the essential attributes of successful middle-grade schools, the program also provides schools that support young adolescents with the resources to support their continuous improvement journeys as well as create a network of schools that can support each other and highlight communities doing exceptional daily work that often goes unnoticed.
More than 100 schools across the nation applied this year, but only 12 passed the rigorous evaluation: Belmont Ridge Middle School, Leesburg, VA; Coastal Middle School, Savannah, GA; Douglas Middle School, Douglas, WY; Laveen Elementary School, Laveen, AZ; Lee County East Middle School, Leesburg, GA; Lee County West Middle School, Leesburg, GA; River Bend Middle School, Sterling, VA; Ridgeview Charter Middle School, Sandy Springs, GA; Seaman Middle School, Topeka, KS; Smart’s Mill Middle School Leesburg, VA and Upson-Lee Middle School, Thomaston, GA.
Also on that prestigious list is Roanoke’s Community School.
Located on Williamson Road, the Community School serves students between the ages of 11 and 14, with multi-age classrooms that foster environments to promote teamwork and individual achievement in the classroom. Serving the Roanoke Valley community for more than five decades, more than 36 percent of its students receive some type of financial aid. Many of the Community School’s educators have over 15 years of experience. Most classes have between eight and 14 students, something that Executive Director Linda Roth attributes to the school’s success over the years.
Speaking on behalf of the school, Roth said, “We are honored to be recognized by the AMLE as a School of Distinction for the many ways we encourage our students to be engaged and empowered to explore their gifts. Community School has been educating students in the Roanoke Valley for over 50 years and it’s very rewarding to know that going forward we have the support of AMLE to help us continue our growth and success.”
All four of Paul Cook’s grandchildren attended Community School. When asked if he regrets making that decision, he replied, “Absolutely not! Within a few weeks, I noticed a significant difference in their communication skills as well as an improvement in their overall mannerisms.”