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NEWS RELEASES 2003-04 :: FEBRUARY 19, 2004


Six exemplary North Carolina middle schools were recently named "Schools to Watch" as part of a national recognition program originally developed by the National Forum to Accelerate Middle Grades Reform. North Carolina is one of seven states participating in the Forum's Schools to Watch program as a way to introduce the Forum's criteria for high performance in middle schools and recognize middle schools that meet or exceed the criteria.

Dixon Middle (Onslow County Schools), East Burke Middle (Burke County Schools), East Lincoln Middle (Lincoln County Schools), John Griffin Middle (Cumberland County Schools), Reid Ross Classical School (Cumberland County Schools), and South Charlotte Middle (Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools) were named Schools to Watch because of their academic excellence, responsiveness to the needs and interests of young adolescents, and their 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 in order to bring about continuous improvement. These schools join four schools - Ashe County Middle, Durant Road Middle (Wake County), Rugby Middle (Henderson County), and Topsail Middle (Pender County) - selected in 2003, bringing the total number of Schools to Watch in North Carolina to 10.

"The North Carolina Schools to Watch program has recognized those outstanding schools that promote academic excellence for all students, while responding to the unique developmental needs of young adolescents," State Superintendent Mike Ward said. "We're eager to share the work of these schools and the excellent practices they have instituted with other schools in our state and across the nation."

State Board of Education Chairman Howard Lee also expressed his pleasure at North Carolina's participation in the pilot initiative. "Parents and educators are aware of the challenges of middle school for students and for teachers and principals. This program allows us to seek, recognize, and replicate creative approaches to improving middle schools. The benefits of these efforts will be significant for middle schools, but also for the high schools that serve these students later on."

National Forum Executive Director Deborah Kasak described the Schools to Watch as special. "They make education so exciting that students and teachers don't want to miss a day. These middle grades schools have proven that it is possible to overcome barriers to achieving excellence, to become places of learning that adults and children truly want to be a part of."

Launched in 1999, Schools to Watch began as a national program that identified four middle grades schools across the country that were meeting or exceeding a set of strict criteria for excellence. The Forum developed a Web site featuring online tours of the original four schools, as well as detailed information about the selection criteria used in the recognition program. The Web address is

The National Forum selected North Carolina, California and Georgia in May 2002 to replicate the Schools to Watch program as a way to identify exemplary middle-level schools in each state. This year, Colorado, Illinois, Kentucky, and Virginia joined the initiative. Different education organizations have taken the lead in each state. In North Carolina, the project is headed by the North Carolina Middle School Association in collaboration with the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction.

The National Forum to Accelerate Middle-Grades Reform is an alliance of 60 educators, researchers, national associations and officers of professional organizations and foundations, dedicated to improving education in the middle grades.

For more information, please contact John Harrison, Executive Director, NC Middle School Association, 800.424.9177, or Jackie Colbert, Assistant Director, School Improvement, DPI, 919.807.3916.

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.