Good things are happening at Sierra Middle School, which is not surprising, given that it’s part of the respected Douglas County School District. Sierra also has solid, above-the-Colorado-average test scores. But it has many telling little details that you should look for when you’re evaluating schools for your kids.
A library is the window into a school’s soul, and Sierra’s is one you’ll want to stop by and see. Three renovated spaces support student learning in cutting-edge ways. Along with an excellent selection of good, old-fashioned, printed books, the library boasts e-books and much more. Using grant money and fundraising proceeds, librarians Stephanie Meurer and Jennifer Milstead have transformed the space from one of silent, independent work into a gathering place for students to discuss, create, and wonder. Computers, digital still and video cameras, LCD projectors, and document cameras are available for school-related projects. Kindles are also on hand for students to check out. Various sets of Kindles are downloaded with popular science fiction and fantasy, adventure, and mystery.
Another good thing: an active Destination Imagination program. This wonderful extracurricular activity taps into teamwork and, yes, lots of imagination and creative problem solving. Last year’s team from Sierra qualified to compete in the Destination Imagination Global Finals at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville. At the state tournament, Sierra’s team earned a Renaissance Award, given to teams that exhibit outstanding design, engineering, execution, or performance.
Have a gifted kiddo? You’re in luck—Sierra provides advanced math and language arts classes for gifted and talented students. A budding violinist or thespian? Choose from electives such as drama, orchestra, or choir, digital design or electronic publishing, and Chinese, French, or Spanish. Clubs range from chess to knitting to literary pursuits such as Battle of the Books (a book trivia competition) and NaNoWriMo, which challenges writers to crank out a 50,000-word novel in one month. Really.
While test scores will never define a school, they do figure into any evaluation. And Sierra Middle School is definitely ahead of the pack. In 2014, Sierra’s 8th graders scored 7.7% higher in TCAP reading proficiency than the state average, 12.1% higher in math, and 12.1% higher in writing, according to SchoolDigger.com. School Digger also reports that the student/teacher is 20:1, the third best among the nine middle schools in Douglas County School District.
You might also want to check out their YouTube Channel. (See what a technologically savvy school they are?) But the best way to know a school is still to visit it. Take a tour, meet the principal, get a feel for the atmosphere of the place. It’s just a short drive from Stepping Stone, and offers a sturdy, well-founded bridge between elementary school and high school years.