The Middle College at UNCG
2018 America’s Best Urban Schools Award Winner
Validating the application of a potential honoree for an NCUST America’s Best Urban School Award is a process we take very seriously. There is no doubt that qualifying for our awards requires very stringent criteria that are reviewed carefully by our NCUST team. Finalists for the prestigious award are chosen by not only meeting the criteria but also by those with the greatest evidence of overall excellence. What is on paper, however, is only one layer of impressive evidence analyzed, with a visit to the school being NCUST’s final practice of collecting myriad examples of excellence in all areas of the school. Truly, The Middle College at UNCG is highly impressive on paper, but it is the personal observation that produces the “Ah, ha’s!” and makes them so genuinely deserving of one of our GOLD level awards.
Our research is undeniably consistent that America’s highest performing urban schools share three empowering characteristics:
- A positive transformational culture: The foundation for excellence and equitable learning outcomes with all stakeholders feeling valued and respected. Where a constant desire for continued improvement is the norm.
- Access to a rigorous and challenging curriculum: Where the educators work to ensure that all demographic groups of students master key standards, skills, and abilities as a rich foundational experience toward a postsecondary plan.
- Engaging and Effective Instruction: Not a style of teaching or method, but instruction that results in students demonstrating mastery via relevant, collaborative, engaging, focused lessons.
At The Middle College at UNCG, these characteristics are seen and felt throughout the campus, in all classrooms, (not just a scatter of excellence) and echoed in every stakeholder focus group we interviewed. It’s a school where teachers are living their dreams of being daily inspirations to their students, who express great joy in ensuring all students succeed at their greatest levels of potential. Teachers work collaboratively and connect not just amongst the same content areas, but cross-curricular. They are competitive and driven to be the best and to continue to improve. It’s a school where students speak fondly of those same teachers and feel the staff honors and respects their voices. Students appreciate the adults who are dedicated to providing encouragement, support, access, opportunities and high expectations that are challenging them all to achieve at high levels. Students love their school and they support and celebrate each other. It’s also a school where parents would not think of sending their children anywhere else, with affirmations like, “life-changing,” “a blessing,” and “We are like a big family here at The Middle College at UNCG.” Everywhere one looks and with whom everyone speaks, The Middle College at UNCG proves that equity and excellence in an urban school is not the contradiction it so often perceived to be, but rather a beacon of hope, making it happen for all students blessed to experience high school there.
One cannot praise the outstanding outcomes of The Middle College at UNCG without highlighting the dynamism of the leadership that is the driving visionary leading such an exceptional team, Principal Angela Polk-Jones. Angela is a leader that models the high expectations she expects of her students and staff and is deep in the midst of all the hard work that is necessary to create the outcomes the school is producing. She’s the coach of the team, dedicated to the big wins for kids. The mission of the school is kept in the forefront of all of Ms. Polk-Jones work, not just a statement on a website, but an active, live map that all decisions and planning is aligned with. Students in her school are promised the extra-value, outstanding opportunities that they may not get elsewhere. Students explore career pathways connected to the college, designed to have all students walk across the stage, graduating with college credits and a post-secondary plan they’ve been well prepared to continue. Rigor is a focus of Ms. Polk-Jones, dedicated to ensuring all students, no matter what teacher their schedule lands, will provide consistently. Love, respect, and a safe and nurturing environment are also core values that the leadership and staff honor and model.
Without hesitation, and with great enthusiasm, it was an honor for NCUST to award The Middle College at UNCG, Ms. Polk-Jones, her dedicated staff, outstanding students and committed school community a 2018 America’s Best Urban Schools Award. We are grateful for their focused work and appreciate their practices that we will use as support for other schools looking for transformational strategies.
NCUST Executive Head Coach