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California Schools to Watch

Great middle schools foster independence and responsibility while being finely tuned to the evolving capabilities and needs of young adolescents. Beyond academics, they create a nurturing environment that instills a sense of safety and belonging, facilitating students' personal growth. They're not just schools; they're the architects of a solid foundation for future success.

That’s WHY the National Forum developed a set of unique criteria to identify high-performing middle schools that are academically excellent, responsive to the developmental needs and interests of young adolescents, and are socially equitable.

Schools to Watch is not just a recognition program, it’s a FREE school improvement tool designed specifically for middle schools. Get your FREE copy today!

Become a 2025 School to Watch
Does your middle school, K-8 school, traditional school, or public charter school serve middle-grades students exceptionally well? Apply to become a School to Watch!


Applying is free and it is something you and your team can do remotely. Be recognized and share your site’s best practices with other educators!

About Schools to Watch
Schools to Watch is a national network of over 400 schools in 17 states. California is the largest state participant. Schools that apply to become Schools to Watch in the fall submit an application that is reviewed by experienced middle-grades experts in their state. If the application is approved, the school hosts a validation visit. If the school meets the qualifications, the school becomes a California School to Watch in March and a National School to Watch in June. 

About California Schools to Watch
The California Schools to Watch program is operated by:

Lead Agencies

  • California League of Schools 

  • California Department of Education

Program Partners

  • California Middle Grades Alliance, a partnership of CDE, CLS, and:

    • Association of California School Administrators (ACSA)

    • Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID)

    • Curriculum and Instruction Steering Committee (CISC) of California County Superintendents

    • Educational Services Association (CCESA)

    • California Middle Grades Partnership Network (CMGPN)

    • California School Boards Association (CSBA)

    • California Parent Teachers Association (CAPTA)

    • California Teachers Association (CTA)

    • Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs (GEAR UP)

  • National Forum to Accelerate Middle-Grades Reform

  • California Schools to Watch Model Schools

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