North Shore Middle School re-designated as a New York State and National Model ‘School to Watch’

Photo courtesy of North Shore Schools

North Shore Middle School has officially received re-designation status as a 2019 Essential Elements ‘School to Watch.’

In a congratulatory letter from the New York State Essential Elements, School To Watch State Executive Director Ericka Usakli, said “On behalf of the National Forum to Accelerate Middle Grades Reform, I would like to congratulate you and your school on your designation as a 2019 School to Watch. You are well-deserving of this honor and it will be a pleasure to learn more about the amazing things that you are doing to serve your young adolescent students.”

Principal Rob Dennis said, “Entering the building, walking in the halls, visiting classrooms, and speaking with the students and faculty at North Shore Middle School to discuss the important and exciting work they are doing on a consistent basis has been the most rewarding professional opportunity I have had the pleasure to have. I am so proud to be a part of this school community and to share in the joy of learning and personal self-discovery that take place every day.  One of the many benefits of being an Essential Elements School to Watch is that we are consistently encouraged to reflect upon our practices, learn from and share with others, and refine for future growth.”  

After participating in a rigorous application process, North Shore Middle School hosted two educators from Essential Elements: STW visitation team for a day of learning and reflecting. During this time, the visitors observed students and faculty, viewed team staff meetings, talked to students, staff, and administrators, observed the daily operations of the school, and conducted focus groups with parents as well as students in grades 6 through 8.

Through the Schools to Watch initiative, forum members believe that three things are true of high-performing middle schools.

  • They are academically excellent – these schools challenge all students to use their minds well.
  • They are developmentally responsive – these schools are sensitive to the unique developmental challenges of early adolescence.
  • They are socially equitable – these schools are democratic and fair, providing every student with high-quality teachers, resources, and support.

North Shore Middle School was highly rated in these areas (as well as others) and the administration, faculty, and staff were specifically commended for the following:

  • A wide array of instructional strategies is utilized including project-based learning, cooperative learning, co-teaching, differentiated instruction, Socratic Circles, Spider Web Discussions, overnight field trips, journaling in mathematics, and reader/writer workshops
  • There is a renewed focus on research and the research process, specifically through units of study in ELA as well as the National History Day requirement for all eighth grade students as part of the social studies curriculum
  • Instruction aligned with the Common Core Learning Standards, common units of study and common assessments in place
  • The Shared Value Outcomes of the North Shore School District are interwoven throughout coursework.  Teachers are working with more regularity on implementing opportunities for metacognition and reflection with respect to the development of students as collaborators, communicators, thinkers, problem solvers, committed individuals, and innovators. 
  • There is a building-wide focus on social-emotional learning outcomes, and ensuring that students feel that they connect to the school, to one another, and to faculty members.  This is evident in many instances, including E3 Squad, grade-level and school-wide social opportunities, guest speakers and programs related to positive decision making, community building, healthy choices, acceptance and respect, and anti-bullying.

  • Students are prepared to accelerate in eighth grade Living Environment Regents, Algebra Regents, LOTE, and studio art.  

  • Technology integration within the curriculum helps to provide differentiated and individualized opportunities for students.  The support of an Instructional Technology Resource Teacher allows for professional development to take place on a regular basis for staff members.  In addition, teachers utilize platforms such as Google Drive and Google Classroom to communicate with their students. 

  • The E3 philosophy (Everyone Matters, Everyone Cares, Everyone Learns) is integral to the success of the students and the building

  • The acceptance of student voice as well as student choice is unique and unprecedented

  • There is a positive school culture within the building in which all constituent groups feel comfortable and supported

  • The principal creates a climate of professionalism where teachers are not afraid to take risks and are supported by the administration

  • The principal is open to meeting with parents to ease concerns and create an environment that the parents will know and understand that their child will be safe and appropriately challenged

    North Shore Middle School will be formally recognized and honored at the upcoming National Schools to Watch Conference June 26-29 in Washington D.C.

    For more information regarding the New York State Essential Elements: Schools-to-Watch Program, please visit


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