“Schools to Watch” (PA STW) is a recognition program developed by the National Forum to Accelerate Middle-Grades Reform. In partnership with the Pennsylvania Association for Middle Level Education (PAMLE), Duquesne University, Edinboro University, Kutztown University, and the Horace Mann Service Corporation.
State leaders selected each school for its Academic Excellence, Developmental Responsiveness, Social Equity and Organizational Structures and Processes. In addition, each school has strong leadership, teachers who work together to improve curriculum and instruction, and a commitment to assessment and accountability to bring about continuous improvement. Bruce Vosburgh PA State STW Director, stated, “We congratulate these schools for being places that do great things for all of their students. These schools demonstrate that high-performing middle grades schools are places that focus on academic growth and achievement. They are also places that recognize the importance of meeting the needs of all of their students and ensure that every child has access to a challenging, high-quality education.”
The Schools to Watch selection process is based on a written application that required schools to show how they met criteria developed by the National Forum to Accelerate Middle Grades Reform. Schools that appeared to meet the criteria were then visited by state teams, which observed classrooms, interviewed administrators, teachers, students, and parents, and looked at achievement data, suspension rates, quality of lessons, and student work. Schools are recognized for a three-year period, and at the end of three years, they must demonstrate progress on specific goals in order to be re-designated. Unlike the Blue Ribbon recognition program, “Schools to Watch” requires schools to not just identify strengths, but to also focus on areas for continuous improvement; thus the three year re-designation. The re-designation process is based on the schools continued growth since their last STW recognition.
Schools recognized for Re-designation (3) this year include three schools that were initially recognized nine years ago. This is the third time these school have been re-designated.
• Canonsburg Middle School, Canon-McMillan SD, Canonsburg, PA
o Canonsburg Middle School is 1 of 42 in the state with the currently holding the designation.
o Canonsburg Middle School is 1 of 5 who have been designated four or more times.
• Ryan Gloyer Middle School, Seneca Valley SD, Harmony, PA
• Yellow Breeches Middle School, South Middleton SD, Boiling Springs, PA
Launched in 1999, Schools to Watch began as a national program to identify middle-grades schools across the country that were meeting or exceeding 37 researched based criteria developed by the National Forum. The Forum developed a web site https://www.middlegradesforum.org/ that features online tours of schools, as well as detailed information about the selection criteria used in the recognition program. There are now 17 states across the country, which have trained Schools to Watch State Teams, with more than 650 schools recognized across the country.
“We are pleased that our Schools to Watch program has shown that schools can meet high academic expectations while preserving a commitment of healthy development and equity for all students,” said Ericka Uskali, National Forum Executive Director. “These Schools to Watch are indeed special; they make education so exciting that students and teachers don’t want to miss a day. These schools have proven that it is possible to overcome barriers to achieving excellence, and any middle-level school in any state can truly learn from their examples,” Uskali said.
The National Forum to Accelerate Middle-Grades Reform began as an alliance of 65 educators, researchers, national associations, and officers of professional organizations and foundations dedicated to improving education in the middle grades.
"I am proud of our school's Schools to Watch designation because we have from our original designation in 2011 continued to make program decisions based on what is best for middle school students. We focus on a true 'whole child' education that goes well beyond our core subject areas and it has paid dividends. It is a serving designation to recognize our great students, parents, teachers and staff!" Says Dr. Greg Taranto, Canonsburg Middle School Principal.