As part of a national recognition program, the National Forum to Accelerate Middle-Grades Reform and the Texas Association of Secondary School Principals have designated Atlanta Middle School in Atlanta, Texas, and Atlanta ISD as a Texas School to Watch. Atlanta Middle School joins approximately 55 other campuses across Texas with this distinction and honor.
Atlanta Middle School will be recognized at the Making Middle School Matter Symposium hosted by TASSP on March 5 – March 7, 2023, in Austin. They will be recognized nationally with all the other recognized STW schools from across the country at the National Forum Schools to Watch Conference in Washington D.C. June 22 – 24, 2023.
State leaders selected Atlanta Middle School for its academic excellence, developmental responsiveness, social equity and organizational structure and processes.
“I am so honored to lead a school with such incredible students, an extremely dedicated staff and a supportive school community,” Atlanta Middle School Principal Colby Boyce said. “I feel fortunate to be part of AMS. Our campus recognizes and celebrates the many talents, learning styles, interests and backgrounds of our students. Our goal is to offer a rich variety of meaningful learning experiences that will inspire innovative thinkers and confident learners. Being a National School to Watch personifies the vision and mission of Atlanta ISD, and it is thrilling to be selected and redesignated for this award.”
In addition, Atlanta Middle 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.
“We congratulate Principal Boyce and his staff, students and parents for being a campus that does great things for all their students,” said Leticia Menchaca, State Director for Schools to Watch in Texas and TASSP Director for Middle-Level Services. “This school has demonstrated that a high-performing middle school is a place that focuses on academic growth and achievement. Atlanta MS is a place that recognizes the importance of meeting the needs of all students and ensures that every child has access to a challenging high-quality education.”
Atlanta Middle School received its original recognition from the Schools to Watch program in 2020. This is the school’s first re-designation.
“Great things are going on at Atlanta Middle School, and this national recognition is a result of the hard work and dedication from our leaders, teachers and students,” Atlanta ISD Superintendent Jason Harris said. “They have created an environment where they work continuously to improve curriculum and instruction, to hold students to the highest standards, and to build a welcoming atmosphere where students and teachers are supported and valued.”
The Schools to Watch selection process is based on a written application that requires 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 to be re-designated. Unlike the Blue-Ribbon recognition program, “Schools to Watch” requires schools to not just identify strengths, but also to focus on areas of continuous improvement; thus, the three-year re-designation.
Launched in 1999, Schools to Watch began as a national program to identify middle-grade schools across the country that were meeting or exceeding 37 research-based criteria developed by the National Forum. The Forum developed a website, https://www.middlegradesforum.org/, that features online tours of schools, as well as detailed information about 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 500 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 to healthy development and equity for all students,” National Forum Board President Scott Steele said. “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 in achieving excellence, and any middle-level school in any state can truly learn from their examples.”