What is a School to Watch, Anyway?

29 May 2023 8:29 AM | Paige Jennings (Administrator)

By: Ryan Masciotra, Principal 

Everyone in the education system knows that reinventing the wheel is for the birds, right?  In the day and age of multifaceted roles, revolving situations, and never-ending needs, who has time to stop and create systems from scratch?  Not educators, specifically those working in the middle school grades.  

Like many other professions, finding out what works and reproducing it in schools across the map just makes sense.  Insert The National Forum into the picture.  Dating back to the mid nineties, educators formed an organization focused on improving education at the middle level.  “The mission of the National Forum to Accelerate Middle Grades Reform is to unite key stakeholders to speak with a common voice to leverage research, policy, leadership, and replicable practices to drive middle grades reform.” (middlegradesforum.org)  Together, members of this group established vetting criteria that characterizes “thriving middle-grades schools”.  Today, this is instilled in the Schools to Watch rubric - outlining social equity, developmental responsiveness, academic excellence, and innovative systems.  Since 1997, The National Forum has been a network of flourishing middle schools that meet and exceed elements of this rubric, becoming schools to watch and learn from in order to excel in the middle grades.  Today, there are hundreds of Schools to Watch across the country, noted in seventeen different states.  Schools are recognized triannually at the national conference in Washington, DC each summer.  

In line with a progressive system, applying schools must go through a detailed application process that requires both school submissions and in-school practitioner feedback through a school visit.  The results are shared with a board of directors that examine the school’s practices compared to the Schools to Watch visit, ending in a vote for recognition.  While selected as a School to Watch for a three year period, schools become touring grounds for other educators, provide professional development sessions and conference breakouts, and provide exemplars for others in the field.

Among partner states, Colorado became a member of Schools to Watch in 2003 and has been recognizing schools ever since.  Statewide, three schools were recognized in 2023 and the application window opens each fall for interested schools.  The Colorado Association of Middle Level Educators (CAMLE) works with middle-level schools across eleven regions of schools to excel and propel teaching, learning, and growth!.

Be on the lookout for next month’s article, which will feature the benefits of being a School to Watch and a member of CAMLE and AMLE.  To learn more about The National Forum, visit their website:  https://www.middlegradesforum.org/.  To learn more about CAMLE and the work happening in our state, visit their website:  https://camle.wildapricot.org/history

Ryan Masciotra is a principal at Corwin International Magnet School in Pueblo, CO - which has been a Colorado School to Watch since 2013 (2013, 2019, 2023).  CIMS is a grades 4-8 International Baccalaureate World School and was established in 2008.

Colorado Association of Middle Level Education

email:  camlecolorado@comcast.net

mailing address:  CAMLE  •  4650 E. Amherst Ave.  •  Denver  •  CO  •  80222

CAMLE is a 501(c)6 non-profit organization.

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