NJEA and NJAMLE partner to save middle school program

Published on Friday, June 28, 2013

 Joe Pizzo and Wendell Steinhauer
NJAMLE Executive Board member Joseph Pizzo receives NJEA’s contribution to help sustain the New Jersey Schools to Watch program from NJEA Vice President Wendell Steinhauer.

NJEA has partnered with the New Jersey Association for Middle Level Education (NJAMLE) to save a statewide program that recognizes middle schools that are academically excellent, developmentally responsive, and socially equitable.

The Schools to Watch program recognizes schools that address the needs of middle-level learners and engage in outstanding educational practices that can be replicated. The National Forum to Accelerate Middle Grades Reform (National Forum) provides oversight to the nationwide Schools to Watch designation process, now active in 19 states.

NJEA committed $4,500 to the program that was matched by NJAMLE and the National Forum. In previous years the New Jersey Department of Education (NJDOE) supported the program.

“The Schools to Watch program in New Jersey shines a light on the great work that our members are doing to make our middle schools stand out as among the best schools in the nation,” said NJEA Vice President Wendell Steinhauer. “When teachers, educational support professionals, and administrators work in a spirit of true collaboration, great things happen for our students.”

Joseph Pizzo, and New Jersey Schools to Watch Core Team member thanked Steinhauer for the association’s support. Pizzo has been a seventh-grade English teacher at Black River Middle School in Chester, Morris County, for 38 years.

 “I’m grateful for NJEA’s continuous efforts to support outstanding middle school programs throughout the state,” he said. Pizzo also serves on the NJAMLE Executive Board and as a liaison between NJEA and the New Jersey Council of Teachers of English.

The National Forum creates Schools to Watch

The National Forum developed the criteria, rubric, and selection process for Schools to Watch in 1999. The Association of Middle Level Education, the National Association of Secondary School Principals, the National Association of Elementary School Principals, and Learning Forward (formerly the National Staff Development Council) were active partners in rubric development.

The program has since expanded to 19 states.

In 2005 Kean University, supported by a U.S. Department of Education grant, collaborated with the NJDOE to establish a Schools to Watch Program here. Several partners were recruited, including NJAMLE and NJEA, through its Professional Development and Instructional Issues Division. Gradually, the NJDOE became the primary sponsor of the initiative. This year, however, the NJDOE determined that it would no longer help fund the program.

“The New Jersey Association for Middle Level Education had been a partner in the Schools to Watch Program from the beginning,” Pizzo said. “We were disappointed to see the department’s focus shift away from recognizing excellent schools at the middle level.”

That’s where NJEA came in.

Pizzo, charged to find partners to re-invigorate the program, called upon the association.

“I’m thrilled that we were able to help,” Steinhauer said.

“It is important that effective middle schools be recognized as models for all of the outstanding middle schools in New Jersey," said NJAMLE President Sandra Wozniak. “I’m thankful for Joe’s efforts to work with Wendell to secure funds to help to continue the program.

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