RANDOLPH, NEW JERSEY – Randolph Middle School exemplified its motto of “better school, better world” by being awarded 2019 School to Watch by New Jersey Schools to Watch. Randolph Middle School becomes only the tenth school in the state to receive the designation, and was the only school recognized this year.  Currently, 17 states participate in the program. 

“The Schools to Watch recognition validates the excellent and effective work of the Randolph Middle School teachers and staff,” said Dr. Dennis Copeland, Principal, Randolph Middle School.  “The academic programs, support services, and extra-curricular activities in the arts, academics, and athletics all contribute to the development of the RMS whole child.”

New Jersey Schools to Watch began in 2007 and is supported by a partnership with the New Jersey Association for Middle Level Education (NJAMLE), the program uses the criteria of the National Forum to Accelerate Middle-Grades Reform.  Schools to Watch are recognized for their best practices and continued journey towards excellence.

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“Schools to Watch must meet a rigorous set of criteria in four areas, academic excellence, developmental responsiveness, social equity and organizational structures,” said Gail Hilliard-Nelson, Schools to Watch State Co-Director when presenting RMS with the award, “This particular school (Randolph Middle School) excelled in all four areas to become newly designated as a New Jersey School to Watch.”

The four areas of consideration are based on the rubric provided by the National Forum:

  • Academic excellence: High-performing schools with middle grades are academically excellent. They challenge all students to use their minds well.
  • Developmental responsiveness: High-performing schools with middle grades are sensitive to the unique developmental challenges of early adolescence.
  • Social equity: High performing schools with middle grades are socially equitable, democratic, and fair. They provide every student with high-quality teachers, resources, learning opportunities, and supports. They keep positive options open for all students.
  • Organizational structures: High-performing schools with middle grades are learning organizations that establish norms, structures, and organizational arrangements to support and sustain their trajectory toward excellence.

The educators at RMS first thought to apply for the designation over the past few years as many different schools have visited RMS to learn more about some of the innovative work the school was doing, and one of the visitors happened to be a designated School to Watch. This gave the faculty and administrators the impetus that RMS could too be a School to Watch.  The school put a formal action plan into effect in August 2018 with a self-reflection report for the school, leading to the October 31, 2018 formal application deadline.

“The teachers, support staff and the administrative team at RMS never seem to be content with the status quo; we constantly work to improve instruction and programs for our students and families, which is why the Schools to Watch board scored RMS as excelling in the four evaluated areas,” said Lisa DiAgostino, Humanities Supervisor, Randolph Middle School.

The goal of the Schools to Watch designation is not just to maintain the current level of excellence, but advance and keep improving.  Designated schools receive feedback from the committee on areas of continued improvement.  RMS will put forward an action plan to move forward over the next three years, including metrics, and will then be up for redesignation as a School to Watch.

Over two dozen schools applied for the award in New Jersey this year, of those schools, three qualified for site visits from the committee.  Evaluators spent a day at Randolph Middle School interviewing faculty, administrators and students and evaluating the criteria presented in the application process.  According to RMS administrators, the team were seasoned educators that really knew what they were looking for, they interviewed teachers, asked pointed questions and left no stone unturned.

RMS team members will now become a part of the evaluating committee for Schools to Watch and will be actively involved in sharing best practices with visiting educators from other schools looking to apply for the designation.  According to New Jersey Schools to Watch, awarded schools “open their doors to middle school colleagues and university students who want to observe and learn from excellent schools teaching middle grades students.”

“This presents the opportunity to share something we do well and an opportunity to pick something up another school does well at each school visited,” said Michael LoRicco, Vice Principal, Randolph Middle School.

Randolph Middle School was presented with the School to Watch award at an event at Kean University on March 15, and the school will also hold a banner ceremony for all students, the community, and invited guests in the next few weeks.


About Randolph Township Schools 

At Randolph Township Schools, we are committed to inspiring and empowering all students to reach their full potential as unique, responsible and educated members of society. Located in central Morris County in northern New Jersey, the Randolph Township School District serves more than 4,600 students from pre-kindergarten through 12th grade. The district is proud to provide educational opportunities meeting the needs of all of our students, with many programs and students nationally and regionally recognized and awarded in areas including academics, visual and performing arts and athletics. For more information, please visit www.rtnj.org