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NEWS RELEASES 2008-09 :: FEBRUARY 20, 2009


Academic excellence, responsiveness to the needs of young adolescents and a commitment to helping all students succeed are three reasons why Apple Valley Middle (Henderson County Schools), Crestdale Middle (Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools) and East Wilkes Middle (Wilkes County Schools) were recently named Schools to Watch by the National Forum to Accelerate Middle Grades Reform. Their selection brings the total number of North Carolina Schools to Watch to 32.

In addition to their focus on students' academic and social needs, each school has strong leaders, teachers who work together to improve curriculum and instruction, and a commitment to improvement.

State Superintendent June Atkinson emphasized the importance of the middle grades to students' success in high school. "We know when students enter high school academically prepared they have the best chance of graduating four years later with a high school diploma and a clear direction for future success. These three schools are excelling at providing students the skills they need for the future and are models all our middle schools should follow."

"We are pleased that our Schools to Watch program has shown that schools can meet high academic expectations while preserving a commitment to healthy development and equity for all students," said Dr. Deborah Kasak, executive director of the National Forum. "These Schools to Watch make education so exciting that students and teachers do not want to miss a day."

North Carolina Middle School Association Executive Director and Chair of the National Schools to Watch Committee Dr. John Harrison said, "High performing middle schools are places where academic excellence is a priority, and where every child is expected to learn and grow academically. These schools not only provide each and every child an education that is rigorous, but they do so in a way that captures the energy and curiosity of teenagers, and channels them in positive ways that help students succeed."

Launched in 1999 by the National Forum to Accelerate Middle Grades Reform, Schools to Watch began as a program to identify middle grades schools across the country that were meeting or exceeding strict criteria for excellence. The Forum's Web site,, features online tours of schools, as well as detailed information about the criteria used in the recognition program.

In 2002, North Carolina became one of the first states selected by the National Forum to replicate the Schools to Watch program on the state level as a way to identify high-performing middle schools that can serve as models of excellence for other schools. Currently, 18 states are involved 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, provides 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.