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NEWS RELEASES 2001-02 :: MAY 1, 2002


Newton, MA - The National Forum to Accelerate Middle-Grades Reform has selected three states to expand the reach and impact of its acclaimed "Schools to Watch" recognition program. The Forum will train teams of state leaders to implement Schools to Watch in California, Georgia, and North Carolina. The three states were chosen after a competitive selection process in which teams from each state demonstrated the capacity, commitment, and vision to partner with the Forum in the implementation of the program.

Launched in 1999, Schools to Watch was a national program that identified four middle-grades schools that were academically excellent, developmentally responsive, and socially equitable with organizational supports in place to sustain the schools' success. Members of the National Forum selected the schools based on a written application, the level at which they implemented a number of demanding criteria, and data which Forum observers collected during site visits. Following their selection, the four schools were inundated with phone calls and flooded with visitors from members of the education community interested in using the selection criteria for their own staff training and school assessments. The National Forum developed a Web site ( that features online tours of the schools, as well as detailed information about the criteria.

"We are thrilled and honored to be selected by the National Forum to implement this successful program in North Carolina," said Dr. John Harrison, Executive Director of the North Carolina Middle School Association. "We're excited to use the Forum's criteria to assess the performance of middle schools that are "Schools to Watch" in our state," he said.

State Superintendent Mike Ward said he welcomes this partnership with the North Carolina Middle School Association and the National Forum to Accelerate Middle-Grades Reform. "It's clear that we need to improve our middle schools so they better meet the needs of students. This initiative will help us identify successful middle schools in our state and replicate what's right in these schools. We must focus more attention on this level of schooling, and this pilot program does just that."

The National Forum selected California, Georgia, and North Carolina to replicate the Schools to Watch program as a way to identify exemplary middle-level schools in each state. Different education organizations have taken the lead in each state, but all three states proved to the Forum review team that they have already garnered significant support for the program and are mobilizing a number of in-state resources. In North Carolina, the project will be headed by the North Carolina Middle School Association in collaboration with the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction. All three selected states will receive technical training and support from the Forum to implement their Schools to Watch programs.

"Our Schools to Watch program has helped schools across the country to learn specific ways to promote academic excellence for all students, while responding to the unique developmental needs of young adolescents," said Joan Lipsitz, Chairman of the Forum's Schools to Watch committee. "We're eager to pilot the program at the state level so that a growing number of schools are in a position to teach others about excellent and equitable programs and practices uniquely suited to middle-level students," Lipsitz said.

The National Forum is cosponsoring the Schools to Watch State Program with the National Association for Elementary School Principals, the National Association of Secondary School Principals, the National Middle School Association, and the National Staff Development Council.

For more information, please contact Amy Clark, National Forum to Accelerate Middle-Grades Reform, 617.618.2473 or John Harrison, NC Middle School Association, 910.235.3701.

About the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction:
The North Carolina Department of Public Instruction provides leadership to 115 local public school districts and 126 charter schools serving over 1.5 million students in kindergarten through high school graduation. The agency is responsible for all aspects of the state's public school system and works under the direction of the North Carolina State Board of Education.

For more information:
NCDPI Communication and Information Division, 919.807.3450.