Schools to Watch: High-Performing Middle Grades Schools for the 21st Century
Middle GradesAt the CrossroadsRecognition that too many schools are middle schools in name or grade configuration onlyWhen middle grades reform recommendations are implemented with consistency, over time we know middle grades schools can be powerful communities of learningComprehensive middle grades reform yields higher achievementStructural changes are necessary but not sufficient to accomplish all that needs to be doneNeed to focus on rigorous curriculum, effective instruction, and multiple forms of assessmentNeed for targeted, ongoing professional development and preservice teacher preparation for middle level educators
What is the National Forum?
The National Forum is a group of sixty-five educators, researchers, state and regional school leaders, national education associations and foundations dedicated to improving education for middle-grades students across the country.
Some of the organizations who are members of the National Forum Include...
The Work of the Forum
Establish a common vision and language for speaking about middle-grades school improvement among stakeholders
Forge sustainable partnerships among state agencies and organizations seeking to improve middle-grades schools
Train leaders at the state, district, and school levels to assess school performance using a set of rigorous criteria
Provide exemplars and inspiration for schools seeking to improve their performance.
Schools to Watch Historyn1994-1995 - Program officers of Carnegie, Edna McConnell Clark Foundation, W.K. Kellogg Foundation, Lilly Endowment and others meet to discuss middle grades reform issuesn1997 - Joan Lipsitz, Tony Jackson, Hayes Mizell, and Leah Meyer Austin write, Speaking With One Voice, published in Kappan. National Forum convenes n1999 - Following development of criteria, first four pilot Schools to Watch selected and recognized 2002 - Schools to Watch national recognition moves to the state levelCalifornia, Georgia, and North Carolina are selected & trained at NMSA Headquarters by the Forums STW Committee2003 - Colorado, Illinois, Kentucky, & Virginia join Schools to Watch effort & are trained in Indianapolis by STW co-chairs and new state leaders. 14 STW recognized
Schools to Watch History2004 National Forum incorporates and becomes an independent 501(c)(3) organization. New York & Ohio join Schools to Watch. As governance issues develop, state leaders work with Forum leadership to create an oversight committee to further the work. 40 Schools are recognized.2005 Arkansas & Michigan become STW states and are trained in Indianapolis by Forum & state leaders. 55 schools recognized. The first state STW go through re-certification, with three schools retired. The first national STW conference draws over 400 participants to Washington, DC. States identify archivists to collect data about the impact of STW.2006 Pennsylvania, South Carolina & Utah join STW. 50% of the nations middle schoolers in STW states. 86 STW. 2007 New Jersey & Oregon become STW states. 126 STW across the nation.
Academic Excellence High-performing schools with middle grades are academically excellent. They challenge all students to use their minds well, providing them with the curriculum, instruction, assessment, support and time they need to meet rigorous academic standards. They recognize that early adolescence is characterized by dramatic cognitive growth, which enables students to think in more abstract and complex ways. The curriculum and extra-curricular programs in such schools are challenging and engaging, tapping young adolescents' boundless energy, interests, and curiosity. Students learn to understand important concepts, develop essential skills, and apply what they learn to real-world problems. Adults in these schools maintain a rich academic environment by working with colleagues in their schools and communities to deepen their own knowledge and improve their practice.
Developmental Responsiveness High-performing schools with middle grades are developmentally responsive. Such schools create small learning communities of adults and students in which stable, close, and mutually respectful relationships support all students' intellectual, ethical, and social growth. They provide comprehensive services to foster healthy physical and emotional development. Students have opportunities for both independent inquiry and learning in cooperation with others. They have time to be reflective and numerous opportunities to make decisions about their learning. Developmentally responsive schools involve families as partners in the education of their children. They welcome families, keep them well informed, help them develop their expectations and skills to support learning, and assure their participation in decision making. These schools are deeply rooted in their communities. Students have opportunities for active citizenship. They use the community as a classroom, and community members provide resources, connections, & active support.
Social Equity High-performing schools with middle grades are socially equitable. They seek to keep their students' future options open. They have high expectations for all their students and are committed to helping each child produce work of high quality. These schools make sure that all students are in academically rigorous classes staffed by experienced and expertly prepared teachers. These teachers acknowledge and honor their students' histories and cultures. They work to educate every child well and to overcome systematic variation in resources and outcomes related to race, class, gender and ability. They engage their communities in supporting all students' learning and growth.
Academic ExcellenceVision Statement
The school challenges all students to use their minds well, providing them with the curriculum, instruction, assessment, support and time they need to meet rigorous academic standards. STW Criteria
All students are expected to meet high academic standards. Curriculum, instruction, assessment, and appropriate interventions are aligned with standards and are rigorous.
Developmental ResponsivenessVision Statement
The school creates small learning communities of adults and students in which stable, close, and mutually respectful relationships support all students intellectual, ethical, and social growth. STW Criteria
The school creates a personalized environment that supports each students intellectual, ethical, social, and physical development. The school provides access to comprehensive services to foster healthy physical, social, emotional, and intellectual development.
Social EquityVision Statement
The school has high expectations for all their students and is committed to helping each child produce work of high quality.
STW CriteriaTo the fullest extent possible, all students, including English learners, students with disabilities, gifted and honors students, participate in heterogeneous classes with high academic and behavioral expectations.
Organizational Structures & ProcessesVision Statement
These are the norms, structures, and organizational arrangements that support and sustain schools trajectory toward excellence in all areas.
STW CriteriaA shared vision of what a high-performing school is and does drives every facet of school change.
The principal has the responsibility and authority to hold the school-improvement enterprise together, including day-to-day know-how, coordination, strategic planning, and communication.
Schools to Watch States 2002Number ofSTW States:3Nations Middle LevelStudents in STW States19%
Schools to Watch States 2003Number ofSTW States:7Nations Middle LevelStudents in STW States29%
Schools to Watch States 2004Number ofSTW States:9Nations Middle LevelStudents in STW States39%
CaliforniaColoradoNew YorkGeorgiaIllinoisOhioNorth CarolinaKentuckyVirginia
Schools to Watch States 2005Number ofSTW States:11Nations Middle LevelStudents in STW States43%
CaliforniaColoradoNew YorkArkansasGeorgiaIllinoisOhioMichiganNorth CarolinaKentuckyVirginia
Schools to Watch States 2006Number ofSTW States:14Nations Middle LevelStudents in STW States50%
CaliforniaColoradoNew YorkArkansasPennsylvaniaGeorgiaIllinoisOhioMichiganSouth CarolinaNorth CarolinaKentuckyUtahVirginia
Schools to Watch States 2007Number ofSTW States:16Nations Middle LevelStudents in STW States53%
CaliforniaColoradoNew YorkArkansasPennsylvaniaNew JerseyGeorgiaIllinoisOhioMichiganS. CarolinaOregonN. CarolinaKentuckyUtahVirginia
Nationwide-- Schools to WatchThere are currently 126 Schools to Watch
State # of STWArkansas1California18Colorado5Georgia11Illinois12Kentucky10Michigan4New Jersey1New York7North Carolina26Ohio14Oregon1Pennsylvania3South Carolina1Texas1Utah3Virginia9
Common ThreadsWhile each school faces different challenges related to its location, student demographics, levels of district support, and other factors, we have seen common themes emerge. Our Schools to Watch:
Know and articulate the academic outcomes they seek. In some cases, the outcomes are prescribed by the state or district; in others the faculty have adopted the outcomes recommended by their various disciplines.
Are taking deliberate steps to help students achieve those outcomes by making strategic changes in curriculum,