The First SchoolsTo find the first schools to watch, the National Forum polled its members for nominations. Members nominated 64 schools who were then invited to submit written applications. The Forum then requested additional quantitative and qualitative data, concentrating particularly on academic excellence, developmental responsiveness, and social equity.
Twenty-eight schools applied, and Forum members selected nine of these for one-day site visits in the spring and fall of 1999. Of this smaller group, the Forum selected four schools for return three-day visits in the fall of 1999 and the spring of 2000. At least three site visitors were assigned to each school for the second visit. During this visit, extensive data was collected, and dozens of interviews were conducted with students, teachers, parents, administrators, business partners, and the principal. Classroom observations were conducted, and Forum site visitors sat in on team meetings and socialized with students in the lunchroom. The school tours on this site are based on the data gathered during those visits, and as such, the information presented in them is valid as of the dates during which the visits were made.
The Forum selected Barren County Middle School in Glasgow, Kentucky and Jefferson Middle School in Champaign, Illinois in May 1999. During the second and final selection round in December 1999, the Forum selected Freeport Intermediate School in Freeport, Texas and Thurgood Marshall Middle School in Chicago, Illinois.