Black River Middle School is in the process of applying for its third re-designation as a School to Watch. The Schools to Watch program is an initiative launched in 1999 by the National Forum to Accelerate Middle-Grades Reform. It has been recognized by the US Department of Education as an effective model for middle grades education and reform. New Jersey has been a Schools to Watch State since 2007.
Schools that attain the Schools to Watch designation meet the National Forum's criteria for high performance based on the following criteria:
- They are academically excellent, challenging all students to use their minds well.
- They are developmentally responsive by being sensitive to the unique developmental needs of early adolescence.
- They are socially equitable, providing every student with high-quality teachers, resources, and supports to foster a democratic and fair environment.
- To achieve this level of performance, high-performing schools establish norms and organizational structures to support and sustain their trajectory toward excellence.
Additional characteristics of high-performing middle-level programs include:
- Instructional strategies offer a variety of challenging and engaging activities clearly related to grade-level standards, concepts, and skills.
- The curriculum emphasizes deep understanding of important concepts and the development of essential skills.
- Teachers use a variety of methods to assess and monitor the progress of student learning.
- The staff creates a personalized environment that supports each student's intellectual, ethical, social, and physical development.
- The school provides age-appropriate, co-curricular activities to foster social skills and character and to develop interests beyond the classroom environment.
- To the fullest extent possible, all students, including English language learners, students with disabilities, gifted and honor students, participate in heterogeneous classes with high academic and behavioral expectations.
- Students have opportunities to learn about and appreciate their own culture and other cultures throughout the world.
Black River Middle School has served as a model for other schools in the state seeking to become designated in the Schools to Watch program. The entire BRMS staff is actively involved in the re-designation process. Our district is proud of their continuing efforts not only to attain recognition but also to foster excellence in education for our children.