NEWS RELEASES 2009-10 :: FEBRUARY 25, 2010


Because of their emphasis on strong academics, sensitivity to adolescents' needs and interests, and commitment to equal access to a high-quality education, William Lenoir Middle School (Caldwell County Schools), Chowan Middle School (Edenton/Chowan Schools) and Hendersonville Middle School (Henderson 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 35.

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 are showcased as model schools throughout the state and the nation to promote their approaches to instruction, parent and community involvement, and teacher professional development. Just over 200 middle grades schools across the nation have earned this recognition.

State Superintendent June Atkinson said, "These schools demonstrate on a daily basis that when you set high standards and expectations for students and staff, as well as provide the appropriate support, students will succeed at higher levels. Academic success at the middle grades sets the stage for high school success and graduation."

"Schools to Watch are places where every child is challenged to be the best he or she can be academically," said Dr. John Harrison, North Carolina Middle School Association executive director and chair of the National Schools to Watch Committee." These schools recognize that young adolescents are a special age group, and actively work to meet the needs of students in order to help them be better able to learn at higher levels."

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 Web site,, features online tours of schools, as well as detailed information about the selection 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 as a way to identify high-performing middle grades schools to serve as models of excellence for other schools. Currently, 18 states are involved in this school reform and recognition 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, at 910.235.3761 or by email,, 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 160 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.