Sharing first-hand knowledge of how to create and sustain a successful middle school, staff from Castaic Middle School in the Santa Clarita Valley joined educators from middle schools across the country that have been nationally recognized as Schools to Watch through the National Forum to Accelerate Middle-Grades Reform.
llen Edeburn, principal from Castaic Middle School, along with John Kunak, Castaic Union School Board President, Dinah Rocke, 8th grade counselor, and Jeanette Edwards, English Language Development teacher, traveled to Washington DC June 25-27 to participate in the Schools to Watch conference and shared real-world success stories, strategies and information about successfully raising student achievement and supporting positive student development in the middle grades. Principal Edeburn, Dinah Rocke and Jeanette Edwards' presentation was one of many sessions which featured research-based practices from Schools to Watch sites; current strategies on effective practices to raise student achievement; tips for creating supportive cultures; and suggestions for advocating for young adolescents.
The conference provided Edeburn, Kunak, Rocke and Edwards not only with an excellent opportunity to learn from and network with their peers, but also to bring their first-hand knowledge to Capitol Hill to discuss best practices and recently introduced legislation, Success in the Middle, which is focused on improving low performing middle schools. Edeburn, Kunak, Rocke and Edwards highlighted the primary purpose of the bill which is to target resources to the lowest performing middle grades schools in a state to help ensure that all students exit the middle grades prepared for success in a high school with an academically rigorous curriculum that prepares students for post secondary education and the workplace.
"I applaud the work of the talented educators recognized by the Schools to Watch program who work tirelessly to provide an environment for their students where they will not only succeed academically, but also prepares them for success in high school and beyond," stated Deborah Kasak, executive director, National Forum to Accelerate Middle Grades Reform. "Success in the Middle presents a tremendous opportunity to improve middle grades schools across the country and it is my hope that policymakers will listen to the experiences and knowledge of those in the schools who are succeeding at reaching and making a difference in the lives of adolescents."
The Schools to Watch program identifies and honors schools nationally so all might learn how to achieve academic success through best practices for all young adolescents. Schools identified as Schools to Watch initiative are academically excellent - challenging all students to use their minds well; developmentally responsive- sensitive to the unique developmental challenges of early adolescence; and socially equitable3-democratic and fair, providing every student with high-quality teachers, resources, and supports. In order to achieve this level of performance, high-performing schools establish norms, structures, and organizational arrangements to support and sustain their trajectory toward excellence. They have a sense of purpose that drives every facet of practice and decision-making.
The National Forum to Accelerate Middle-Grades Reform is an alliance of over 60 educators, researchers, national associations, and officers of professional organizations and foundations committed to promoting the academic performance and healthy development of young adolescents.
For more information contact: Deborah Kasak, National Forum to Accelerate Middle-Grades Reform 217-351-2196 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org 
From left to right: Jeanette Edwards, Dinah Rocke, Ellen Edeburn, Congressman Buck McKeon, John Kunak (In congressman’s office where we chatted for 20 minutes)
From left to right: John Kunak, Dinah Rocke, Ellen Edeburn and Jeanette Edwards (Receiving nationally recognition as a School to Watch- one of only seven schools in the nation to hold this distinguished title for six years.)