Carmel Valley Middle School in a class of its own

Carmel Valley Middle School is among the best-achieving middle schools in the state and tops in San Diego County.

The school's top ranking comes courtesy of their Academic Performance Index score of 961. The California Department of Education index is on a scale of 200 to 1,000 and is based on the results of school-wide California standards testing. The school also met its 2008 growth target.

Principal Laurie Francis, who came from Del Mar Hills Academy over the summer, was happy to be walking into such a high-performing setting.

"We're just pleased because our kids are making progress," said Francis. "We've got a good momentum here to take it to the next level. That's an exciting place to be if you're an educator."

Nearly all Carmel Valley elementary schools have cracked the 900 mark this year, with Sage Canyon School scoring the highest of all schools in Carmel Valley with 968. Solana Pacific is close behind with 963, followed by Torrey Hills at 959 and Ocean Air at 956.

Keeping it up

Francis said with a high 900 score, now comes the pressure of maintaining it. She said that her teaching staff is well prepared to keep students performing at that high level.

"The staff is absolutely outstanding," said Francis, noting that the teachers work hard to keep students engaged and on task.

History teacher Jason Sowers, who was there when the school opened in 2000, said the staff works well together and meets monthly to assess how each student is learning.

Sowers said the students at Carmel Valley are fun and eager to learn and succeed. He said they are advocates for themselves and not afraid to ask for help when they need it.

"They amaze me," said Sowers. " Every year I am more and more amazed at what they are capable of doing."

Excellent electives

Carmel Valley's varied elective programs allow students to explore different interests.

There is Spanish and French language, a drama program that is prepping to put on their first play of the year and a "robust" music program with more than 250 musicians playing in one of the school's several bands.

Carmel Valley takes advantage of their close proximity to the Boys and Girls Club next door, participating in their Big Eight Middle School Sports Program. Throughout the year, the Bobcats compete in volleyball, cross country, flag football, golf, basketball, field hockey, track and wrestling.

Club culture

Lunchtime at Carmel Valley brims with club activity. Clubs get students together who share interests in everything from classic films to origami.

The school's Buddies Club pairs up each student with one with special needs - they participate in yearly tournaments in various sports.

Club Live gets students to commit to a healthy, drug-free lifestyle, last weekend they went as a group to Magic Mountain.

Francis wanted to acknowledge their "sister school" Earl Warren Middle, the other middle school option for parents in the San Dieguito Union High School District. With an API of 924, they are also considered high performing and with an enrollment of 650 it offers a smaller school experience.

Francis said it's nice for parents and students to have options, something that isn't always common in the public school system.

   
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