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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.
High Desert School

Redesignated: 2015, 2018, 2022

Designated 2012

Acton-Agua Dulce Unified School District

Los Angeles County

Michelle Van Ornum, Principal

3620 Antelope Woods Road, Acton, CA 93510


School Characteristics

Community: Rural. Enrollment: 278. Grade Levels: 6-8. Schedule: Eighty-minute block schedule for English/Mathematics for seventh and eighth grade with four core classes, one P.E, Class and one elective. Sixth grade self-contained schedule with elective/PE rotations.

School Demographics

Free/Reduced Lunch: 42%; English Learners: 16%.

Replicable Practices

  • High Desert has multiple methods of assessment and student recognition including GPA, reading and math growth, and character recognition through the lens of the Medal of Honor Character Development program.

  • Students choose from a variety of STEAM elective courses including: Robotics/Forensics, TV/Video Production, Google Apps and Coding, Game Design, Visual and Performing Arts, Journalism, Hands-on Environmental Science, ASB and Yearbook.

  • Professional development and common prep times provide opportunities for teachers to meet in grade level and department teams to analyze student data and performance, and plan for timely interventions.

  • To assure student success at each grade level vertical articulation between elementary, middle and high schools teachers meet two-three times per year to discuss trends, identify needs and share promising practices.

  • The introduction of Google Classroom, new Chromebook carts for every classroom, technology-based adoptions, and extensive staff development has resulted in a more student centered learning environment focused on academic vocabulary, reading comprehension and interactive inquiry and reflection.

  • Intervention programs such as lunchtime learning labs, after school tutorial assistance, Learning Lab assistance, and one to one small group support within the general education classroom support student learning.

  • A robust video production elective allows students to explore video editing, gain technical knowledge by running video equipment, experience public speaking, and set a positive example.

  • Sixth grade students participate in a rotation of dance, piano, and science lessons weekly while seventh and eighth graders self-select electives.

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