Jackson Middle School has received national recognition for its implementation of a program called “Making Middle Grades Work.”

More than 450 schools in 21 states received awards during a conference in Nashville, Tennessee, earlier this month. Jackson Principal Jason Holt accepted the award from Dr. Gene Bottoms, senior vice president of the Southern Regional Education Board, also known as SREB. Bottoms also founded the middle school intuitive, also known as MMGW.

That approach is described overall as an organizational approach to using curriculum in the classroom, but also focusing on other broader efforts.

“Jackson has focused on the ‘voice’ component,” Holt said. “This allows the community, the students and the parents to feel more invested in this program” and student-learning.

Just six schools in the full region – Jackson among them – were cited for “being recognized in 2014 with an MMGW Depth of Implementation Award – an honor given to schools that deeply implement the MMGW design and provide engaging academic and rigorous curriculum,” according to a press release.

All Aiken County middle schools have introduced the structure, said Joy Shealy, the School District’s middle schools academic officer. Two key practices emphasize classroom engagement and a tie-in with science, technology, engineering and math, also referred to as STEM.

“They support our effort as a district, focusing on innovative practices involving STEM,” Shealy said. “The biggest thing is that the award shows the efforts the faculty has taken to ensure all the students are in rigorous instruction.”

The school also has strived to include more parents, Holt said – as well as nearby Savannah River Remediation, Savannah River Nuclear Solutions and the MOX project.

“They have been so willing to help us with their engineering buddies,” Holt said.

The middle school illustrated the spirit of change and performance gains that help students get ready for challenging academic and career courses in high school, Bottoms said in the press release.

Senior writer Rob Novit is the Aiken Standard’s education reporter and has been with the newspaper since September 2001. He is a native of Walterboro and majored in journalism at the University of Georgia.