NEWS RELEASES 2013-14 :: MARCH 25, 2014


Charles W. Stanford Middle (Orange County Schools) and Mount Airy Middle (Mount Airy City Schools) have been named Schools to Watch® by the National Forum to Accelerate Middle Grades Reform in recognition of their emphasis on strong academics, sensitivity to young adolescents' needs and interests, and commitment to equal access to a high-quality education for every student. Their selection brings the total number of North Carolina schools recognized as Schools to Watch® to 45.

State Superintendent June Atkinson said, "These schools demonstrate what can be achieved when you have principals and teachers who set high expectations for their students and then provide the support to ensure they succeed. All North Carolina middle schools can learn from their experiences so that more students can be academically prepared to enter high school."

"Schools to Watch® are recognized based on their ability to promote learning at high levels. There are high expectations for every student, and these schools understand the importance of balancing a rigorous education with one that engages students at this unique age level," said Dr. John Harrison, executive director of the North Carolina Association for Middle Level Education.

In 2002, North Carolina became one of the first states selected by the National Forum to Accelerate Middle Grades Reform to replicate the Schools to Watch® program as a way to identify high-performing middle grades schools to serve as models of excellence for other schools. Schools go through a rigorous multi-faceted process before being recognized as a School to Watch® that includes the submission of an application, test scores, demographic data and suspension/expulsion data. Once the application is deemed to have met all the criteria, a review team visits the school for two days. Schools are only given a 24-hour notice before the visiting team arrives.

Schools are recognized for a three-year period, at the end of which they must apply for re-designation and demonstrate that they are continuing to meet the National Forum's rigorous criteria. Eight schools have been re-designated as Schools to Watch®. Re-designated schools submit a complete application and have a full-day visit by a review team.

"Schools to Watch® is not just a recognition but a process. The real strength of the program is demonstrated because many of the schools that have been re-designated have gone through administrative changes. Schools can often falter or get off track with changes in leadership, but these schools continue to improve," said Dr. Cathy Tomon, Schools to Watch® chair for the North Carolina Association for Middle Level Education.

Piedmont Middle IB (Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools) and McGee's Crossroads Middle (Johnston County Schools) have earned their first re-designation. Kernodle Middle (Guilford County Schools), Rogers-Herr Middle (Durham Public Schools) and West Pine Middle (Moore County Schools) have been re-designated for the second time. Carmel Middle (Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools), East Yancey Middle (Yancey County Schools), and Jay M. Robinson Middle (Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools) - first recognized nine years ago - are being re-designated for the third time.

These schools were recognized at the 39th Annual North Carolina Association for Middle Level Education Conference in Greensboro held March 16-18, and will be recognized again this summer at the National Schools to Watch® Conference to be held in Washington, DC in June. These schools will be showcased as models throughout the state and the nation to promote their approaches to instruction, parent and community involvement, and teacher professional development.

Currently, 19 states are involved in the National Forum to Accelerate Middle Grades Reform Schools to Watch® initiative. Different education organizations have taken the lead in each state. In North Carolina, the North Carolina Association for Middle Level Education in collaboration with the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction provides leadership to the state's efforts.

The National Forum to Accelerate Middle Grades Reform is an alliance of over 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 Dr. John Harrison, executive director of the NC Middle School Association at 910.235.3761 or by email at, or the NCDPI's Communications division at 919.807.3450.