Sunday, April 20, 2003

Shining the Spotlight on Georgia Middle Schools

In 1999, the National Forum to Accelerate Middle Grades Reform launched the Schools to Watch Program, an initiative that recognized middle schools nationwide that met stringent criteria for high performance. In 2002, the National Forum selected Georgia, California, and North Carolina to pilot state-level Schools to Watch programs and introduce the criteria for high-performance to other schools across the country. Within Georgia, the Georgia Middle School Association (GMSA) and the Georgia Alliance for Middle Level Excellence (GAMLE) have taken the lead in sharing the criteria with schools statewide, and selecting as Georgia Lighthouse Schools to Watch those institutions that fully meet or excel those criteria.

For the 2002-2003 school year, Crabapple Middle School in Fulton County and Towns County Middle School have been designated as Georgia Lighthouse Schools to Watch. Congratulations to the educators and students at both schools. These schools ?were selected by state leaders for their academic excellence, responsiveness to the needs and interests of young adolescents, and their commitment to helping all students achieve at high levels.? In order to be considered for selection, schools had to submit a written application demonstrating their fulfillment of the criteria established by the National Forum, including student performance. State teams visited schools that qualified as finalists to observe classroom instruction; interview faculty, staff, students, and parents; and evaluate sample lesson plans and student work.

Towns County Middle School, located in Hiawassee, Georgia, serves 255 students in grades six through eight. The diminutive size of the school allows the faculty, staff, student body, and parents to be close-knit in an almost familial way. Despite this old-fashioned charm, however, Towns County Middle is a leader among Georgia schools in the use of educational technology. Now in its fifth year of universal laptop use, Towns County Middle uses technology as a tool to bridge the learning gap and assist students in achieving to high standards.

Crabapple Middle School, a Majority to Minority school located in Roswell, Georgia, serves 973 students in grades six through eight. Crabapple has a tradition of high test scores across the board, and disaggregated data shows continued improvement within targeted subgroups. The school achieves high standards by utilizing several recommended middle school organization models including looping, multiage teaming, and expeditionary learning to accommodate the different learning modalities of students.

Linda Hopping and John Lounsbury, the respective heads of GMSA and GAMLE and co-chairs of the Georgia Lighthouse Schools to Watch Program commend Crabapple and Towns County Middle as ?outstanding schools that promote academic excellence for all students, while responding to the unique developmental needs of young adolescents.? Both schools will serve as mentors for other schools across the state and nation by being showcased in such forums as the Georgia Middle School Association Conference, the National Middle School Association Conference, the National Forum to Accelerate Middle Grades Reform website, and the State Department of Education website.

PeachStar congratulates both Towns County and Crabapple Middle Schools on their excellent work. We would also congratulate the following schools named as Beacon Schools, schools that meet the criteria for Schools to Watch: Armuchee Middle School ; Floyd County; Mercer Middle School; Savannah Chatham County; Renfroe Middle School ; Decatur City Schools; and Taylor Road Middle School; Fulton County.