Orange County Middle Schools: Teachers At Pioneer Middle School Earn Top County Marks By Making Sure “No One Falls Through The Cracks”

california-distinguished-school2Five years ago, Pioneer Middle School was a “good” school. It boasted solid standardized test scores, motivated and involved students, and a diverse palette of non-academic offerings.

But administrators at the Tustin school believed Pioneer had the potential to be one of the best public middle schools in the nation, an academic powerhouse where all students achieved at their personal best and no one fell through the cracks.

They shared this ambitious vision with the faculty and, working as a team, began the hard work of radically changing the school’s culture.

“We had always been a good school for most students, but we decided we wanted to be a great school for all students,” Principal Mike Mattos said. “We asked ourselves, ‘How can we create a system that guarantees every kid gets that experience?’ ”

Pioneer’s staff took the next few years to develop and refine a series of customized, targeted intervention strategies that would catch every student and maximize use of the instructional day.

Today, no one falls through the cracks at Pioneer – they simply can’t, teachers say, and test scores prove it. Pioneer’s Academic Performance Index score, an overall gauge of a school’s scholastic showing, has shot up by 70 points over the past five years, to 938, and the school received a coveted federal Blue Ribbon award last year.

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