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PRESS RELEASE

April 4, 2008

Tom Butler
(850) 245-0413

Florida Selected to Join Prestigious Schools to Watch Program
~ Nationally acclaimed program will highlight outstanding Florida middle schools ~

TALLAHASSEE - Education Commissioner Eric J. Smith today announced that Florida was selected to participate in the National Forum to Accelerate Middle-Grades Reform’s Schools to Watch® (STW) program. The program provides national recognition for exceptional middle schools throughout the nation that demonstrate superior academic performance, a strong focus on student development and a socially equal learning environment

"To be accepted into this nationally-recognized program is a tremendous honor and I’m looking forward to working with The National Forum to identify and promote our most outstanding middle schools," said Commissioner Smith. "By examining these schools' programs and practices, we can reproduce their successes across Florida and the nation."

Launched in 1999, STW began as a national program that initially identified four middle-grades schools. The program mobilizes state-level partners to identify effective schools that will serve as models for the rest of the country. To date, more than 50 percent of the nation's middle-schoolers are now in 16 STW states with over 160 schools designated STW. Florida’s selection makes it the 17th state to participate in the program.

Florida’s STW program is designed to encourage development of strong programs that lead to higher school and student achievement. The team responsible for implementing the program currently consists of representatives from the Florida League of Middle Schools, the Florida Association of School Administrators and other middle grade leaders throughout the state. These individuals will receive technical training and support from the National Forum to begin the process of identifying STW schools. The team expects to have Florida’s schools identified by the end of the year for formal recognition in December.

The National Forum to Accelerate Middle-Grades Reform is an alliance of educators, researchers, national associations, and officers of professional organizations and foundations, dedicated to improving education in the middle grades. The Forum seeks to improve student learning dramatically by advocating that schools provide strong academics, respond to students' needs and interests, and ensure equal access to high quality classes. To learn more, visit www.mgforum.org.