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Middle school matters: Catonsville Middle School


In honor of national Middle Level Education Month, this March we are taking a closer look at Baltimore County Public Schools’ wonderful middle schools. Every day during March, one or two more school profiles will be posted. To see all that have been posted, please click here.

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Principal: Michael Thorne (quoted below)
Feeder elementary schools: Hillcrest, Westchester, and Westowne

School website:

Academic achievements

Catonsville Middle School was named a Maryland Blue Ribbon School.

Last semester, 15% of students earned straight As and 66% placed on the honor roll.

41% of students are enrolled in at least one advanced academics class.

78% of teachers have master’s degrees.

Two teachers at the school are Nationally Board Certified.

Recent awards and grants

In 2011, Principal Thorne was named Maryland Middle School Principal of the Year by the National Association of Secondary School Principals and MetLife.

Last year, Catonsville Middle became a Maryland Green School.

A grant from the Chesapeake Bay Trust helps support the school’s environment education program, and a grant from the BCPS Office of Equity and Cultural Proficiency helps fund the school’s Tracie Marcus Academic Leadership Program.

The school’s Black Saga teams placed second and third in this year’s county competition.

In 2014, the school’s PTA won an Outstanding Membership Award from the Maryland Association of PTAs.  

Special academic programs

For three months every school year, Catonsville goes on a Mind Marathon. During this time, students participate in an intensive review of multiplication facts, and they learn Latin and Greek roots to help grow their vocabulary. This culminates with a Mind Olympics. “Top performing homerooms are invited to participate in front of the school. The students work in teams to complete all kinds of relay activities and in between, they answer questions about what they have learned.” The Mind Olympics usually takes place the last day before spring break.

New to the school this year is the Gateway to Technology engineering course. This is an elective for students in Grades 6–8. This year about 400 students are taking the course. The course is a pathway to Project Lead the Way in high school.

This also is the first year for Catonsville to offer Spanish I for Grade 6 students.

New this year, Catonsville is part of a six-school pilot for the Effective Learning Habits for College and Career Readiness. The course was designed by guidance counselors, teachers, and school leaders and is meant to prepare students for the transition from elementary to middle school expectations and help them with skills such as studying, problem solving, and collaboration. At Catonsville, they are calling the program CARE – Career Advancement/Readiness Education. “As a part of the program, we are having students work on marketing projects. They have to research and create a product and then present it to a panel of school staff in a kind of ‘Shark Tank’ format. We did the first one in January and will do it again in early June. One of the products I remember was a shoe with GPS in it so parents can track where their children are.”

As part of the school’s environmental education program, Grade 6 students grow plants and raise fish in the school courtyard and then transplant them to NorthBay Adventure Camp when they visit for an annual weeklong stay.

Once every two weeks, time is set aside in academic classes so that all students have additional time to finish assignments and study. This period is called Cougar Time. Cougar stands for Catch-up, Organize, Update Grades, And Review.

The Tracie Marcus Academic Leadership Program offers homework help and mentoring to students new to advanced academics classes. The program is free to students and their families and is offered once per week for an hour and a half.

Popular/unique extracurricular activities

The school has a lot of clubs. Among the most popular is a drama club that does a full-scale musical each year. “This year it was ‘The Music Man, Jr.’.”

Unlike most middle schools, Catonsville has a pep band that plays at school basketball games.

The school also has a Celtic ensemble with about 15 members. This group is coordinated by a former Catonsville Middle School student who is now in the music prime at George Washington Carver Center for Arts & Technology. This group often plays at nursing homes or school concerts.

Special school traditions

Once every year, the school holds a Good News Night. “This year it will be on May 4. That evening, a red carpet will be rolled out and everyone will dress up to see the school become a living gallery where students and staff will showcase the work that goes on here.”

For the past seven years, an annual faculty variety show has raised funds to help underwrite the NorthBay field trip. Similarly an annual faculty vs. parents basketball game raises money for school technology.

Bet you didn’t know…

The current Catonsville Middle School building was built as Westchester Elementary School in 1963.


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