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NEWS RELEASES 2005-06 :: FEBRUARY 22, 2006


Alexander Graham Middle and Mint Hill Middle (Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools), Seventy-First Classical Middle (Cumberland County Schools), South Brunswick Middle (Brunswick County Schools) and Walter Johnson Middle (Burke County Schools) were recently named "Schools to Watch" as part of a national recognition program developed by the National Forum to Accelerate Middle Grades Reform.

State Superintendent June Atkinson said, "These schools demonstrate on a daily basis that when you set high standards and expectations for students and staff, and provide the appropriate support, students will succeed at higher levels."

Howard Lee, chairman of the State Board of Education, encouraged other middle school educators across the state to closely review what these schools and past recipients are providing students and staff for possible duplication in their schools. "We want all middle grades students to have access to a learning environment that is rigorous and relevant to their future successes," Lee said.

National Forum President Dr. John Harrison 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 academic excellence, to become places of learning that adults and children truly want to be a part of."

These five 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. The selection of these five schools brings the total number of Schools to Watch in North Carolina to 19.

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 high-performing middle grades schools in their state. Currently, 14 states are taking part in this 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 provide leadership to the state's efforts.

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 the NCDPI's Communications division at 919.807.3450.

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.