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California Schools to Watch is a statewide program implemented by the California League
of Educators, California Department of Education, California Middle Grades Alliance, National Forum, and the California Schools to Watch model schools.
Bernice Ayer Middle School

Redesignated: 2008, 2011, 2014, 2018, 2024

Designated 2005

Capistrano Unified School District

Orange County

Nick Stever, Principal

1271 Sarmentoso, San Clemente, CA 92673


School Characteristics

Community: Urban fringe of a large city. Enrollment 894. Grades 6-8. Schedule: Modified block schedule with longer periods two days per week and additional “Educational Support Period” three times per week. “0” Period interventions offered.

School Demographics

Free/Reduced Lunch; 15%; English Learners: 13%.

Replicable Practices

  • Bernice Ayer teachers have collectively identified priority standards, “unwrapped” the standards, created learning targets, and designed common formative assessments that can be analyzed during one hour per week of embedded collaboration time as well as during professional development days and released time.

  • Reading, speaking, and listening skills are integrated into all content areas including physical education and elective classes.

  • Teachers, trained in reflective learning walks, visit classrooms, gather data, and engage in reflective discussions about promising practices.

  • Students are provided extended learning time with the modified block schedule two times per week facilitating project-based learning, hands-on exploration and labs, and research-based inquiry.

  • Students in need of additional support benefit from the co-teaching model with the special education teacher as well as the “Educational Support Period” which allows for priority standards to be re-taught as well as enrichment.

  • School counselors work with interns and partner with the local Soroptomists to provide specialized mentoring and counseling and support services to groups of students regularly. Support groups include Transforming Power, Brain Waves, Stress Reduction, and the Happy and Healthy Lunch Group. Additionally, in the Peer Assistance Leadership class students are trained as mentors and share relevant issues and skills with all students as well as supporting the “New Student Lunch Program”.

  • Working with the Orange County Sheriff’s Department, staff partner with local law enforcement to mentor and support families. Families participate in educational presentations provided by the school counselor, sheriff deputies, and the PTA on topics such as suicide prevention, drug awareness, and general parenting strategies.

  • ”Book Break” is a literacy program provided twice weekly that focuses on providing students with structured time for reading as well as tutoring.

  • A Dual Immersion Program offers students teaching in the core content in both English and Spanish.

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