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Cockrill Middle School Earns Re-designation and National Distinction as a School to Watch

Shane Mauldin|
Thursday, March 4, 2021
Cockrill Middle School Principal Dr. Amber Epperson is joined by (l-r) 7th grader Jayden Mays, 8th grader Evan Sears and 8th grader Ella Holdt who each served on the school's student interview panel during the School to Watch re-designation process.

Cockrill Middle School Principal Dr. Amber Epperson is joined by (l-r) 7th grader Jayden Mays, 8th grader Evan Sears and 8th grader Ella Holdt who each served on the school's student interview panel during the School to Watch re-designation process.

McKinney, TX – The National Forum to Accelerate Middle-Grades Reform and the Texas Association of Secondary School Principals (TASSP) as part of a national recognition program have re-designated Cockrill Middle School as a Texas School to Watch.

Cockrill is one of only about 50 other campuses across Texas with this distinction and first earned recognition as a School to Watch in 2015. They were re-designated in 2018 and now in 2021.

Cockrill will be recognized nationally with other Schools to Watch from across the country at the National Forum’s Virtual National Schools to Watch Conference in June of 2021.

“Cockrill continues to impress not only me, but the rest of the district with their continued commitment to excellence,” said McKinney ISD Superintendent Dr. Rick McDaniel. “I am not surprised that they have once again been named a School to Watch. Their administrative staff, teaching staff and support staff are among the finest educators that I’ve worked with in my career.”

State leaders selected Cockrill for its Academic Excellence, Developmental Responsiveness, Social Equity and Organizational Structure and Processes. In addition, Cockrill has strong leadership, teachers who work together to improve curriculum and instruction and a commitment to assessment and accountability to bring about continuous improvement.

Billy Pringle, State Director for Schools to Watch in Texas and TASSP Associate Executive Director for Middle-Level Services, stated, “We congratulate principal Dr. Amber Epperson and her staff, students and parents for being a campus that does great things for all of their students. This school has demonstrated that a high-performing middle school is a place that focuses on academic growth and achievement. Cockrill Middle School is a place that recognizes the importance of meeting the needs of all students and ensures that every child has access to a challenging high-quality education.”

Archie E. McAfee, Executive Director for TASSP also stated, “It is an honor for TASSP to recognize Cockrill Middle School in McKinney ISD, this school is a model for other middle schools all across Texas!”

The Schools to Watch selection process is based on a written application that requires schools to show how they meet criteria developed by the National Forum to Accelerate Middle Grades Reform. Schools that appeared to meet the criteria were then visited by state teams, which observed classrooms, interviewed administrators, teachers, students and parents, and looked at achievement data, suspension rates, quality of lessons, and student work. Schools are recognized for a three-year period, and at the end of three years, they must demonstrate progress on specific goals in order to be re-designated. Unlike the Blue-Ribbon recognition program, the Schools to Watch program requires schools to not just identify strengths, but to also focus on areas of continuous improvement; thus, the three-year re-designation.

“This re-designation represents a community of wonderful people coming together to provide an outstanding education to our students,” said Cockrill Principal Dr. Amber Epperson. “Our teachers work incredibly hard to continuously improve our already stellar instructional and extracurricular programs. The teachers care deeply about our students and want the very best for them. We are also fortunate to have the best students in the state of Texas, and I am always proud of how they represent our school. They give their best effort and demonstrate strong character each day. Finally, the support we receive from our community is unwavering. Our school benefits from parents and community partners who value education and support our efforts. Having the opportunity to lead this remarkable school is truly an honor.”

Launched in 1999, Schools to Watch began as a national program to identify middle-grade schools across the country that were meeting or exceeding 37 research-based criteria developed by the National Forum. The Forum developed a website that features online tours of schools, as well as detailed information about selection criteria used in the recognition program. There are now 17 states which have trained Schools to Watch State Teams with more than 480 schools recognized across the country.

The National Forum to Accelerate Middle-Grades Reform began as an alliance of 65 educators, researchers, national associations, and officers of professional organizations and foundations dedicated to improving education in the middle grades.

Source: TASSP

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