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NEWS RELEASES 2002-03 :: JANUARY 29, 2003


Four 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 three 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 that criteria.

Ashe County Middle (Ashe County Schools), Durant Road Middle (Wake County Schools), Rugby Middle (Henderson County Schools), and Topsail Middle (Pender County 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.

"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 with other schools around our state - and around the nation—the work of these schools and the excellent and equitable programs and practices they have instituted."

National Forum Executive Director Deborah Kasak said, "These schools are indeed 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 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. 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. Staff in all three selected states received technical training and support from the Forum to implement their state's Schools to Watch program.

State Board of Education Chairman Phil Kirk also expressed his pleasure at North Carolina's participation in the pilot initiative stating that the program is " highly compatible with North Carolina's 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, will ultimately benefit a great deal from our participation in this initiative."

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.