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NEWS RELEASES 2004-05 :: FEBRUARY 17, 2005


Brawley Middle (Iredell-Statesville Schools), Carmel Middle and Jay Robinson Middle (Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools), and East Yancey Middle (Yancey County 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.

State Board of Education Chairman Howard Lee said he was pleased that North Carolina continued to participate in Schools to Watch. "This program is highly compatible with our own efforts to raise student achievement while maintaining high standards for educators and students. We believe that our middle schools, and particularly our middle school students, continue to benefit from our participation in this initiative."

"We read a lot these days about the need to make high schools more rigorous and relevant to students. It's just as important for us to meet the academic and social needs of our middle school students so that they enter high school prepared and ready for the challenges ahead," State Superintendent Tricia Willoughby said. "These schools are demonstrating that when you set high academic standards for students and provide the appropriate support, students will succeed."

These four middle 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 10 schools selected in 2003 and 2004, bringing the total number of Schools to Watch in North Carolina to 14.

National Forum Executive Director Deborah Kasak said, "Schools to Watch are special places; 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 where adults and children truly want to participate."

Launched in 1999, Schools to Watch began as a program to identify 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 schools, as well as detailed information about the selection criteria used in the recognition program.

In 2002, North Carolina, Georgia, and California became the first three states selected by the National Forum to replicate the Schools to Watch program as a way to identify exemplary middle-level schools in their states. There are currently 11 states taking part in this middle grades reform initiative. Different education organizations have taken the lead in each state. In North Carolina, the North Carolina Middle School Association in collaboration with the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction provides project leadership.

The National Forum to Accelerate Middle-Grades Reform is an alliance of 65 educators, researchers, national associations and officers of professional organizations and foundations, dedicated to improving education in the middle grades. For more information, please contact Dr. John Harrison, Executive Director, NC Middle School Association, 910.235.3761, or Marvin Pittman, Director, School Improvement, NC DPI, 919.807.3911.

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.