Eight visitors to New Albany Middle School earlier this month could put the school in the national spotlight.

Eight visitors to New Albany Middle School earlier this month could put the school in the national spotlight.

Representatives from Ohio Schools to Watch visited the middle school Dec. 10 as part of a site visit that could result in the school being honored as an Ohio Middle School to Watch.

Middle school principal Andrew Culp said the school applied for the honor in the fall and met criteria, including passing state tests and meeting adequate yearly progress (AYP).

"We are fortunate enough to meet criteria and did apply," he said. "The application was due in mid-September. We turned that in, and of the 10 middle schools in the state that applied, four of the 10 schools did get site visits."

Superintendent Steve Castle mentioned the visit during the December school board meeting, saying the middle school would be notified if it receives the honor next month.

"Only four (schools) in Ohio are being considered," he told the school board.

During the Dec. 10 visit, professors from Otterbein, Ohio Department of Education representatives and National Middle School Association representatives evaluated the school.

"The eight members did a variety of things, including meeting with varying grade-level teams, special-education teachers and the special-education building coordinator, intervention specialists, the director of teaching and learning, the superintendent, the principal, assistant principal, teachers," Culp said. "They were seeking to witness evidence that Best Practices are occurring at our schools as we've outlined in our application."

According to ODE's Web site, Ohio Schools to Watch is a partnership among the Ohio Department of Education, the Ohio Middle School Association, Otterbein College and the Ohio Federation of Teachers. The program recognizes "diverse, high-performing, growth-oriented middle grade schools," the site stated, and finds schools that demonstrate such values as academic excellence, developmental responsiveness and social equity.

Locally, Bexley, Worthington's Kilbourne and Dublin's Grizzell middle schools have been named schools to watch in the past.

Culp said he should find out soon, and if the middle school is named an Ohio School to Watch, it would be a great honor for staff and students.

"It would be quite an honor and a huge validation to our days and years of really hard work on such a dedicated staff's part," he said, "and such an affirmation to students and parents who are unconditionally supportive to the school."

While the recognition would take New Albany Middle School to national conferences and put practices before others, Culp said, it also would give the school a valuable resource.

"It will also mean the group that came to visit will provide us with feedback on areas we can improve in," he said. "It's always helpful in an organization always yearning to improve. While it would be an honor, it is a process and recognition of that process and the constant desire to grow and improve as an organization."