Over the last five years, Principal Michael Hejducek said he and his staff at Fort Settlement Middle School have searched tirelessly for ways to evolve.
The efforts have not gone unnoticed, and honors keep piling up.
Last week, Fort Settlement was designated a 2020 Texas School to Watch by the National Forum to Accelerate Middle-Grades Reform, according to a news release from Fort Bend ISD. This comes just six months after the Sugar Land middle school achieved the area’s high water mark in Texas-based Children at Risk’s rankings, coming in sixth among Houston-area middle schools and 19th in the state.
“Receiving this distinction validates that Fort Settlement is committed to meeting the unique needs of our students by fostering a community of academic excellence and social responsibility,” Hejducek said Friday.
According to its website, the National Forum to Accelerate Middle-Grades Reform is an “alliance of educators, researchers, national associations and officers of professional organizations and foundations committed to promoting academic performance and healthy development of young adolescents.” Fort Settlement is one of 45 Texas schools to receive the distinction since its implementation in 1999, and the first FBISD campus to receive it.
“We congratulate Michael Hejducek and his staff, students and parents for being a campus that does great things for
all of their students,” said Billy Pringle, the State Director for Schools to Watch in Texas and the Associate Executive Director for Middle-Level Services for the Texas Association of Secondary School Principals.
The Schools to Watch selection process was based on a written application requiring schools to show how they met 37 researched-based criteria developed by the organization over at least a three-year period. After evaluators looked at rolling achievement data such as test scores, suspension rates, quality of lessons and student work, those appearing to meet the criteria received subsequent visits from state teams.
Teams observed classrooms and interviewed stakeholders – including administrators, teachers, students and parents – to determine how schools were facilitating such performance and improvements.
“What makes us stand out are our programs and trainings that allow teachers to be innovative in their instructional delivery, the opportunity students have to express their opinions in a respectful and productive manner, and the active role our parents play in our school decision making,” Hejducek said.
Over the last several years, Hejducek said Fort Settlement has implemented programs aimed at facilitating social and academic improvement while preparing students for the next step in their lives. Among new programs phased in recently include the development of school Impact teams, “Falcon Watch” student monitoring, continued implementation of character education, blended learning and accountable dialogue between all students and faculty.
“In the past five years, we have studied ways to increase student engagement, improve teacher instructional delivery, and foster community support,” Hejducek said. “…The task has been for us to intertwine these programs so that teachers are able to effectively deliver instruction in a variety of ways.”
Hejducek and Fort Settlement will be recognized at the Making Middle School Matter Symposium, which is hosted by the Texas Association of Secondary School Principals from March 1-3. But that’s not what matters to Hejducek.
“The payoff comes when teachers feel valued, the community is involved, and the school embraces the opportunity for student success to move beyond academics and high test scores,” he said.
Fort Settlement will also be honored along with all other national Schools to Watch at the National Forum Schools to Watch Conference June 24-27 in Washington, D.C.
“These Schools to Watch are indeed special. They make education so exciting that students and teachers don’t want to miss a day,” National Forum Executive Director Ericka Uskali said in a statement. “These schools have proven that it is possible to overcome barriers in achieving excellence, and any middle-level school in any state can truly learn from their examples.”