ABOUT THE FORUM
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.
In order to prepare students to be lifelong learners ready for college, career, and citizenship, the National Forum seeks to make every middle-grades school academically excellent, responsive to the developmental needs and interests of young adolescents, and socially equitable.
The National Forum to Accelerate Middle-Grades Reform is an alliance of educators, researchers, national associations, and officers of professional organizations and foundations committed to promoting the academic performance and healthy development of young adolescents.
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.
Through its Schools to Watch® (STW) program, the Forum has developed criteria for identifying high-performing middle-grades schools, and created tools to help schools use the criteria and expand the program states across the United States and selected and honored hundreds of successful schools across the country during the Annual STW Conference.
To 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 were collected, and dozens of interviews were conducted with students, teachers, parents, administrators, business partners, and the principal. Classroom observations were conducted, and The 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.