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California Department of Education
Official Letter
California Department of Education
Official Letter
August 22, 2019

Dear County and District Superintendents, Charter School Administrators, and Middle School Principals:

2019–20 Schools to Watch™ Program Application

The California Department of Education (CDE) is pleased to announce the California Schools to Watch™ (STW) 2019–20 application process is now open for public schools serving middle-grades students. The STW program identifies middle-grades schools that are academically excellent, developmentally responsive, socially equitable, and defined by organizational structures and processes centered on student growth.

Schools that are designated as a STW serve as models for other middle-grades schools whose educators are seeking best practices for their own young adolescent students to increase whole child success.

Since 2002, the CDE and California League of Middle Schools (CLMS) have co-led the STW program in partnership with the California Middle Grade Alliance, a collaborative organization dedicated to providing policy support for the 1.4 million California middle-grades students.

Below are the steps for applying to become a California STW:

  • Explore the schools: To view the profiles of over 120 model middle-grades schools, please visit the California STW web page at
  • Determine eligibility: Middle-grades schools interested in applying to become a California STW should first consider the following eligibility criteria (although numerous schools in California meet the minimum eligibility criteria, not all schools that apply to be a California STW will be selected for designation):
  • Schools must show evidence of student growth in achievement/attainment over three years, from 2016–17 to 2018–19, as evidenced by a combination of available data (California School Dashboard, plus additional state and local quantitative and qualitative data).
  • Schools must verify they are not being State monitored and do not have any unanswered or ongoing civil rights violations.
  • Schools where a confirmed adult testing irregularity occurred are ineligible to apply for one year following the incident.
  • Schools that self-select their student populations or have special entry requirements for students to attend cannot be considered for the program.
  • Request an application: To request a STW application, please visit the STW Application Request 2019–20 web page at Following the submission of the STW Application Request 2019–20 form, the link to the application will be available.
  • Learn if your school is designated: After the STW Applications have been submitted, schools that meet eligibility for designation will be evaluated based on:
    • How well the school addresses the criteria of the School Self-Study and Rating Rubric in the STW Application, and
    • The results of a site visit by the STW visitation team.

2019–20 STW Applications are due to the CLMS post office box by Thursday, October 10, 2019, by 5 p.m. (PST).

For additional information on the STW Application Process, please visit the CLMS web page at

If you have any questions regarding this application process, please contact CLMS by phone at 800-326-1880, or contact Katie Sandberg of CLMS by email at or Scott Steele of CLMS by email at If you need further assistance or have any questions regarding the CLMS Application, please contact David Militzer, Education Programs Consultant, CDE High School Innovations and Initiatives Office, by email at

Good luck to all applicants!


Tony Thurmond


Last Reviewed: Thursday, August 22, 2019

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