Middle-Grades 'Schools to Watch' Announced

Middle-Grades 'Schools to Watch' Announced
Posted on 04/06/2020
National Forum Schools to Watch

167 exemplary middle-grades schools in Arkansas, California, Colorado, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Texas, Utah and Virginia have been named “Schools to Watch” as part of a recognition and improvement program developed by the National Forum to Accelerate Middle-Grades Reform. Having established partnerships with education leaders in these states, the Forum today announced the names of schools in each state that meet its strict criteria and A.D. Oliver Middle School is one of the schools in New York State.

Each school was selected by state leaders for its academic excellence, its responsiveness to the needs and interests of young adolescents, and its commitment to helping all students achieve at high levels. In addition, each school has strong leadership, teachers who work together to improve curriculum and instruction, and a commitment to assessment and accountability to bring about continuous improvement.

Michelle Hayward, Chair of the National Forum’s Schools to Watch Fidelity Committee stated, “These schools demonstrate that high-performing middle grades schools have a clear focus on academic growth and achievement. They also recognize the importance of meeting the needs of all of their students and ensuring that each and every child has access to a rigorous, high-quality education. We are proud to have these schools serve as models from which others can learn.” 

Selection is based on a written application that required schools to show how they met criteria developed by the Forum.  Schools that appeared to meet the criteria were then visited by state teams who observed classrooms, interviewed administrators, teachers, students, and parents, and looked at achievement data, suspension rates, quality of lessons, and student work. Schools are recognized for a three-year period; and at the end of three years, schools must repeat the process in order to be re-designated.  119 schools of the 167 recognized have maintained or increased their levels of excellence and are being redesignated. The schools vary in size from several hundred to several thousand students and represent urban, suburban, and rural communities.

"We are pleased that our Schools to Watch program has shown that schools can meet high academic expectations while preserving a commitment to healthy development and equity for all students," said Ericka Uskali, National Forum Executive Director. "These Schools to Watch are indeed special; they make education so exciting that students and teachers don't want to miss a day.  These schools have proven that it is possible to overcome barriers to achieving excellence, and any middle-grades school in any state can truly learn from their examples," Uskali said.

Launched in 1999, Schools to Watch began as a national program to identify middle-grades schools across the country that were meeting or exceeding specialized criteria developed by the Forum. In 2002, the Forum began working with states to replicate the Schools to Watch program as a way to introduce the Forum's criteria for high-performance and identify middle grades schools that meet or exceed that criteria. Different education organizations have taken the lead in each state, but all have received training and support from the Forum to implement their Schools to Watch programs.  All together, 17 states are currently involved in the program and the addition of these schools raises the total number of active Schools to Watch to 495 nationwide and one (1) internationally

A complete list of 2020 Schools to Watch schools can be found here.

The National Forum sponsors the Schools to Watch state program with the support of its members and the State Schools to Watch programs.  Schools will convene at the Schools to Watch Conference in the Washington, DC area June 24-27, 2020.

The National Forum to Accelerate Middle-Grades Reform is an alliance of educators, researchers, national associations, and officers of professional organizations and foundations dedicated to improving education in the middle grades.

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