NEWS RELEASES 2010-11 :: FEBRUARY 2, 2011


McGee's Crossroads Middle (Johnston County Schools) and Piedmont Open IB Middle (Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools) are the two latest middle schools to join North Carolina's rank of Schools to Watch.

The National Forum to Accelerate Middle Grades Reform recognized these two schools because of their emphasis on strong academics, sensitivity to young adolescents' needs and interests, and commitment to equal access to a high quality education. Their selection brings the total number of North Carolina Schools to Watch to 37.

State Superintendent June Atkinson said, "Middle school is a challenging time for students and their teachers. If we do a good job engaging, supporting and inspiring middle school students we'll see higher graduation rates and we will better prepare students to succeed in life." Atkinson added that the Schools to Watch demonstrate on a daily basis that high standards and expectations for students and staff combined with the appropriate support increases student achievement.

Dr. John Harrison, North Carolina Middle School Association executive director and chair of the National Schools to Watch Committee, said Schools to Watch are places where students excel. "They are schools that have high expectations for every learner, and understand the importance of balancing a rigorous education with one that meets the needs of students at this age level," Harrison said.

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. 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 will be showcased as model schools throughout the state and the nation to promote their approaches to instruction, parent and community involvement, and teacher professional development. In addition, the National Forum's website,, 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, 19 states participate 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.