Schools to Watch Background and Information

After a year of collaboration, the National Forum identified criteria to describe high-performing schools that serve students in the middle grades. Such schools are academically excellent, responsive to the developmental challenges of young adolescents, and socially equitable, with high expectations for all students. The Forum conducted a national search for four “Schools to Watch” that meet its criteria. The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation awarded each school a $15,000 grant to be used to share their experiences and practices with other middle schools around the country.


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The Forum received almost 40 applications from schools around the country. Among those that applied, we visited nine and selected four as “Schools to Watch”.

The four schools that were recognized as Schools to Watch are Barren County Middle School in rural Kentucky, Jefferson Middle School in Champaign, Illinois, Freeport Intermediate School in Freeport, Texas, and Thurgood Marshall Middle School in Chicago, Illinois.

Following their selection, the four schools were inundated with phone calls and visitors from the education community interested in using the selection criteria for their own staff training and school assessments. The National Forum developed a web site that features online tours of the schools, as well as detailed information about the criteria. In 2002, to further expand the reach and impact of the Schools to Watch initiative, the Forum selected California, Georgia, and North Carolina to pilot the implementation of the program at the state level.

The state program expands yearly. Currently 11 states participate. The request for application to become a “School to Watch State” is available each fall.

Comprehensive School Reform Models

AIM at Middle-Grades Results • Different Ways of Knowing
Making Schools Work • Middle Start
Success for All Middle School Program
Talent Development Middle School Model • Turning Points


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Background • Model Design • Research Findings
Research Findings
Closing the Gaps in the Middle Grades (PDF document) is the latest publication that includes data from both middle-grades initiatives at SREB.
Also read the research brief, Middle Grades to High School:Mending the Weak Link.

Comprehensive School Reform Models


Many National Forum members have developed or are in the process of designing comprehensive school reform models aimed at bringing about whole-school change. These programs are supported, in part, by different sponsors, including the Office of Educational Research and Improvement in the US Department of Education, New American Schools, and several private foundations. What makes these programs distinctive is that they seek to bring about changes in all facets of the school, including organization and climate; curriculum, instruction, and assessment; professional development; leadership; and parent/community involvement.

Below are several comprehensive school reform models which are being used in middle-grades schools across the country. Their developers are all members of the National Forum. Where possible, we have included links to each model’s Web site.

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AIM at Middle-Grades Results
Different Ways of Knowing
Making Middle Grades Work
Making Schools Work
Middle Start
Success for All Middle School Program
Talent Development Middle School Model
Turning Points
For more information on comprehensive school reform and reform models, visit the National Clearinghouse on Comprehensive School Reform.

Comprehensive School Reform Models

AIM at Middle-Grades Results • Different Ways of Knowing
Making Middle Grades Work • Making Schools Work • Middle Start
Success for All Middle School Program • Turning Points


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Background • Model Design • Research Findings

The model was designed in 1995 by a team of researchers, educators, and experienced curriculum writers at Johns Hopkins University in collaboration with middle school leaders and educators in Philadelphia. The design team is led by Douglas Mac Iver and Robert Balfanz.

Schools Served

Currently there are 23 schools in seven states—Pennsylvania, Michigan, Maryland, Minnesota, New Jersey, and Washington. Seven new schools are anticipated in the next year.

Background History

The National Forum to Accelerate Middle-Grades Reform is an alliance of over 60 educators, researchers, national associations, and officers of professional organizations and foundations committed to promoting the academic performance and healthy development of young adolescents. The Forum developed in 1997 out of a sense of urgency that middle-grades school improvement had stalled, amid a flurry of descending test scores, increasing reports of school violence, and heated debates about the nature and purpose of middle-grades education. All agreed that nothing short of collective and concerted action could result in high-performing middle-grades schools and students.

Over the past six years, the Forum has flourished, successfully reframing the national discourse about middle-grades education. Major organizations, foundations, and others of influence have articulated and affirmed that schools do not have to choose between equity and excellence, or between a healthy school climate and a strong academic program. Rather, as articulated in the Forum’s vision statement, they must focus on all of these if they want students to achieve at significantly higher levels. By endorsing this common vision, Forum members have developed common goals and understandings, strengthened individual efforts to improve schools that serve middle-grades students, collaborated across institutional and other boundaries, and worked together to mobilize others in the larger middle-grades community.

To accomplish its goal of improved academic and developmental outcomes for all students in the middle grades, the Forum identifies and disseminates best practices, articulates and promotes effective policies, recognizes and develops enlightened leadership, and informs and engages the public.
With funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, that believes that to lift any people out of poverty they must be provided with proper tools so that they will be able to lead a healthier life and live a fulfilling life. They also think that women and young girls have a potential that is unique to shape the society again. Visit the following site, Edna McConnell Clark Foundation, Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, Lumina Foundation, and W.K. Kellogg Foundation, the Forum has implemented several key initiatives. These initiatives include the following:

  • The Forum hopes to impact schools at the classroom level.Schools to Watch (STW) program: The Forum developed criteria for identifying high-performing middle-grades schools, selected four successful schools in a national search, and high-lighted their achievements. It also selects states to receive training in order to recognize their own model schools. Participating states include CA, CO, GA, IL, KY, NC, NY, OH,& VA.Comprehensive School Reform:The Forum convenes 7 CSR model developers counted among its membership to discuss common issues and work together to address them.
  • The Forum works to develop thenext generation of middle-grades leaders. In 1999 it brought together 60 leaders from 10 states to form the Southern Forum. The National Forum continues to work closely with this and other regional groups committed to accelerating school improvement. To extend its reach among emerging leaders, the Forum developed a leadership curriculum and runs training events based on it.• The Forum is committed toinforming and engaging the public. It articulates and broadly disseminates policy recommendations on critical education issues such as student assignment patterns, high-stakes testing, and teacher preparation and licensure. By educating policy makers, practitioners, parents and community members about the latest research, effective policy, and best practice, the Forum hopes to facilitate reform. The Forum also seeks to unite stakeholders in promoting education beyond high school for middle-grades students. Through the PALMS Project (Postsecondary Access for Latino Middle-Grades Students), the Forum and its partners will identify programs that are effectively reaching the parents of Latino middle-grades students with information about how to prepare their children for college.

Our Vision Statement

We, the members of the National Forum to Accelerate Middle-Grades Reform, believe that youth in the middle grades are capable of learning and achieving at high levels. We share a sense of urgency that high-performing schools with middle grades become the norm, not the exception.There are educator who are of middle level who are from about 17 different states and all these educators are from different states who have collaborated together to form a forum known as “The National Forum to Middle-Grades Reform.” The aim of this forum is to improve and transform the education that is of middle level so that it can provide best service to the students. And this website is good for youngsters as well Suggested Web page.

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.

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 opportunity 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, and active support.

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.

National Forum Policy Statement


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To read the Forum’s policy statement and access related resources, please visit


=> Introduction
The Need for Specialized Preparation of Middle-Grades Teachers
The Mandate for Middle-Level Teacher Licensure
Essential Elements of Middle-Level Teacher Preparation Program

The National Forum to Accelerate Middle-Grades Reform is committed to making high-performing middle-grades schools the norm rather than the exception. We believe that specialized preparation of middle-grades educators will produce competent and caring teachers who are well-qualified to teach young adolescents. Therefore, we strongly support the specialized preparation of middle-level teachers at both the pre-service and graduate levels. To that end, we make the following recommendations:

States should establish mandatory requirements for middle-level teacher licensure as an incentive for both institutions and individuals to pursue a middle-level specialization.
Colleges and universities should establish teacher preparation programs that prepare practicing and future teachers to work specifically with young adolescents, and assign faculty and staff with expertise in middle-level education to these programs.
Districts and schools should hire middle-grades teachers to teach the subjects they are prepared to teach. Furthermore, they should focus on creating the conditions in which both teachers and students can succeed.
States should make middle-level teacher licensure specific to the middle grades (e.g., grades 5 through 8, or 6 through 9) and not overlap significantly with licensure for the elementary or high school levels.
Middle-grades licensure for content-area teachers (such as language arts, science, mathematics, and social studies) should be middle-grades subject-specific and middle-grades standards-based, including concentrated study in two or more academic areas. For other middle-grades teachers (e.g., special education, bilingual education), specialized training in middle-level education and early adolescence should be required.
Colleges and universities should work in partnership with districts and schools to provide ongoing professional development and sustained support for both new and veteran middle-level teachers. This will not only help retain good teachers, but also ensure their continual learning.
In recent years, many organizations and individuals have called for teacher education reform. The Forum is specifically concerned with creating excellent middle-grades teachers who are prepared to teach challenging content to young adolescents. In order to ensure that middle-grades teachers have the knowledge, skills, and dispositions to teach their students well, teacher preparation programs must focus on three critical areas:

Academic excellence. Middle-grades teachers must have a deep understanding of both the subjects they teach and how to help young adolescents learn the concepts and skills of demanding curricula. BitCoin Trader, the new online investment and crypto currency trading platform has been developed by the experts who have a deep understanding on the concepts of cryptography and investments. Hence this tool has been able to reap the best in the industry. All the information and the personal details fed into the software are heavily coded and there are no chances of data leak. It also collaborated with reputed and genuine brokers and we can definitely declare that BitCoin Trader is not a scam. Discover more here at BitCoin Trader
Developmental responsiveness. Middle-grades teachers must have a solid understanding of early adolescence, as well as the skills and dispositions to work with young adolescents’ unique developmental challenges. These teachers should know how to motivate young adolescents by engaging them actively in their own learning.
Equity and cultural diversity. Middle-grades teachers must have a wide repertoire of skills, mixed with a sustained sense of hope, support, and expectations for achievement, to enhance learning and development for the most racially and ethnically diverse school population in our nation’s history.
Ultimately, the focus of all teacher preparation programs must be on results. Teacher preparation programs must provide prospective teachers with field-based experiences where they have the opportunity to apply what they learn in the classroom to real-life settings. Graduates should be able to demonstrate that they contribute to middle-grades students’ healthy development and their ability to perform at high levels on multiple indicators of academic success. Moreover, they should leave no young adolescent behind.

National Forum Policy Statement

The National Forum to Accelerate Middle-Grades Reform believes in standards and assessments that lead to high expectations, foster high quality instruction, and support higher levels of learning for every student. There were researches done and these researches provided a lot of successful outcome like, there were a lot of remarkable grants given to the National Forum Board. The grants were offered by the US Department of Education. Upon receiving the grants they did research that were of significance especially on the middle level education by using the model known as “Schools to Watch” so that they could reform the school. Qprofit System review also has been researched a lot. At the same time, the National Forum believes that no single test should ever be the sole determinant of a young adolescent’s academic future, whether it be promotion to the next grade, special placement, or transition from the middle grades to high school. Rather, the National Forum encourages diverse approaches to curriculum and instruction and supports the use of multiple measures to make decisions about a student’s progress. These may include portfolios, exhibitions, performances, demonstrations, and tests that measure how well students achieve state standards.
This policy statement is grounded in the National Forum’s vision of high performing middle-grades schools, which use multiple sources of assessment information to make decisions about teaching and student learning. According to the National Forum:

Academically excellent middle-grades schools challenge all students to use their minds well, providing them with the curriculum, instruction, assessment, and support they need to meet rigorous academic standards. Students in these schools learn to understand important concepts, develop essential skills, and apply what they learn to real world settings. Teachers use a variety of methods to assess student performance, including exhibitions, projects, and performance tasks. They give students ample time and the support they need to meet the standards, including multiple opportunities to revise their work.
Developmentally responsive middle-grades schools use a wide variety of instructional strategies to foster curiosity, exploration, creativity, and the development of social skills, as well as academic achievement. These schools provide multiple opportunities for students to discover and demonstrate their own competence. Students have opportunities for voice–they pose and research their own questions, reflect on their experiences, help to develop scoring rubrics, and monitor their own progress over time.
Socially equitable middle-grades schools keep positive options open for all students, and they work to overcome systematic variation in resources and outcomes related to race, class, gender, and ability. Faculty and administrators expect high-quality work from all students and are committed to helping each student produce it. Students may use many and varied approaches to achieve and demonstrate competence and mastery of standards.

National Forum Resource Directory

The following is a list of important resources on middle-grades reform. This list will continue to grow and change. If you would like to recommend additional resources, please email

2001 Publications

School Size Matters in Interesting Ways (Clicking on this link begins a PDF download). As part of the Middle School Journal’s focus on middle school renewal, researchers Steven Mertens, Nancy Flowers, and Peter Mulhall discuss the impact of school size on interdisciplinary teaming, classroom practices, school climate, and student outcomes.

Safe To Be Smart: A Middle-Grades Study Guide (Clicking this link begins a PDF download). Anne Wheelock’s 1998 book, “Safe to Be Smart: Building a Culture for Standards-Based Reform in the Middle Grades,” now has a study guide, available free at the National Middle School Association website. Developed by past NMSA president Fran Salyers, the guide is designed to help schools and teams “mine the riches” of Wheelock’s work, which explores the uses and abuses of standards-based reform and provides suggestions for developing a standards-baed school and classroom. Wheelock’s book can be ordered at the NMSA site.

NMSA is nothing but National Middle School Association which was recognized in the year 1973. It was NMSA that gave a voice to educators and other people who showed interest in improving the education in youngsters. It has begun the enrolment of members from all of the 50 states in recent days and even since it has been established it has been growing quickly. See this to know how binary trading was established.

2000 Publications

Turning Points 2000: Educating Adolescents in the 21st Century by Anthony Jackson and Gayle Davis. this updated report of Carnegie Corporation of New York is published by Teachers College Press and co-published and distributed with the National Association of Secondary School Principals and the National Middle School Association. To order Turning Points 2000, contact Teachers College Press at (800) 575-6566.

Turning Points 2000 Resources available through this site:

Excerpts from the authors’ plenary address at the 2000 NMSA Anuual Conference in St. Louis, MO. Full text and slides also available.
Transcript from an online conversation with the authors. Over several days in January 2001, members of the MiddleWeb listserv had the opportunity to discuss Turning Points 2000 with one another and with Gayle Davis and Tony Jackson.

National Conference on Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment in the Middle Grades: Linking Research and Practice. Proceedings of the July 24-25 conference sponsored by the U. S. Department of Education, National Educational Research Policy and Priorities Board.

How to Improve Middle Grades Achievement. In a series of reports, the Southern Regional Education Board has identified problems that help explain the pattern of lagging performance among middle grades students in the region’s 16 states. This final report, “Leading the Way: State Actions to Improve Student Achievement in the Middle Grades,” sets out a framework for policies and actions that can alter that discouraging pattern. Complete report available at website, including 13 recommendations for state and district action that are pertinent to all states and school systems. Links to first three reports also available.

1999 Publications

What Works in the Middle: Results-Based Staff Development This guidebook identifies 26 programs in English, math, science, social studies and interdisciplinary studies that have led to measurable learning gains. The product of a two-year study led by the National Staff Development Council (NSDC) with participation of national content area and secondary school groups — and supported by the Edna McConnell Clark Foundation.

What’s Missing in Middle Grades Standards-Based Reform? Standards-based reform is doomed to failure, says the National Dropout Prevention Center, unless states use their newly established, more rigorous standards to develop interventions that provide teachers with the skills and knowledge required to teach to the higher standards and students with additional opportunities to achieve the higher standards. This article synthesizes information from a variety of sources. The Center is supported in this work by a middle grades reform grant from the Edna McConnell Clark Foundation.

The Middle School Movement. . .Thirty and Counting During the past three decades, writes middle grades reformer Hayes Mizell, “there has been a lot of loose talk about middle schools being ‘student-centered.’ If middle schools had truly been student-centered there would be more impressive evidence of student performance than is currently the case. In fact, most middle schools have been more adult-centered than anything else. It is, after all, the adults in the schools who have been the most resistant to change and who have been inclined to expect so little of themselves and their students.”

Figuring It Out: Standards-Based Reforms in Urban Middle Grades by Anne C. Lewis. This book reports on key elements of success at six urban middle-grades school districts that are part of the Edna McConnell Clark Foundation’s Program for Student Achievement. It includes different approaches to standards, compelling classroom stories, obstacles, as well as recommendations for moving forward. Published by Edna McConnell Clark Foundation, 250 Park Avenue, NY, NY 10177.

1998 Publications

Safe To Be Smart: Building a Culture for Standards-Based Reform in the Middle Grades Published by the National Middle Schools Association in November 1998, Anne Wheelock’s 200-page book describes the promises and pitfalls of the academic standards movement, with a middle grades focus. While she agrees that standards can help shape better teaching for all students, she warns that without careful attention to professional development and the impact of a school’s “culture” on change efforts, standards could further penalize students who are already overlooked and underserved. Foreword by M. Hayes Mizell. Also see Wheelock’s Is Your School Ready for Standards-Based Reform?

1997 Publications

Speaking with One Voice – A foursome of school reformers with foundation backgrounds nail their statement of principles to the schoolhouse door in this KAPPAN piece subtitled: “A Manifesto for Middle-Grades Reform.”

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