Improving School and Classroom Practice

Schools to Watch® (STW): The National Forum has identified list of criteria to describe high-performing schools that serve students in the middle grades. Such schools are academically excellent, responsive to the developmental changes of young adolescents, and socially equitable, with high expectations for all students. In collaboration with AMLE, NAESP, NASSP, and the Learning Forward, the National Forum piloted its Schools to Watch® State program in 2002, providing extensive training to middle-grades leaders in California, Georgia, and North Carolina and equipping them to run STW programs in their states. Since then the Schools to Watch Program has expanded to 19 states.

Comprehensive School Reform (CSR): The National Forum counts among its membership developers of several comprehensive school reform models aimed at bringing about whole-school change. These CSR models are unique because they focus on the middle-grades. A USDE Grant was awarded to the National Forum and in 2006 four of its CSR partners which allowed them to develop a high-quality mathematics enhancement toolkit.

Schools to Watch Transformation Network: A prestigious US Department of Education- Investing in Innovations (i3) Grant was awarded to the National Forum in 2010 to work with schools in California, Illinois and North Carolina. The STW Transformation Network is working to turn around low performing schools by increasing student achievement using school coaches and mentor schools.

Engaging Key Stakeholders

By continually speaking with one voice and informing stakeholders about the need for educators to adopt new policies, programs, and instructional practices, the Forum changes the discourse about middle-grades education and mobilizes others to act on behalf of the nation’s middle-grades schools.

Advocacy: The message of the middle grades role in student success in high school and beyond is a priority effort. The National Forum unites with other partners to bring the voice of middle grades to federal policy makers. This united effort resulted in the introduction fo the Success in the Middle Act in the House and Senate.

Policy Statements: The Forum prepares policy statements and recommendations on critical education issues, including ability grouping, preparation and certification for middle-grades teachers, high-stakes testing, small learning communities, and grade configuration. The Forum disseminates these recommendations broadly to facilitate reforms.

Postsecondary Access: The Forum also seeks to unite stakeholders in promoting education beyond high school for middle-grades students. With funding from Lumina Foundation for Education, the Forum and the League of United Latin American Citizens launched the PALMS Project (Postsecondary Access for Latino Middle-Grades Students). Through PALMS, the Forum and its partners identify programs that are effectively reaching the parents of Latino middle-grades students with information about how to prepare their children for college.

National Conferences: The Forum seeks continuing opportunities to bring together policy makers and other education leaders. Each June at the National Forum Schools to Watch® Conference, all new and redesignated STW schools bring the middle grades message to the Hill. Schools to Watch is the biggest contenginet of middle-grades representatives visiting congress during the year.