Our students made two years’ worth of literacy growth in their first year with us. We couldn’t be prouder.
Two years’ worth of literacy growth on the DRP test has been a major goal all year. We repeated it so often that many of our staff probably got sick of hearing it! At times we wondered whether setting such an ambitious goal was a good idea. But we stayed focused, and so did students, teachers, and parents.
We’re not satisfied with these results. Our students arrived at HBGS three years behind on average. So, even with two years’ worth of growth, most of them are still not where they need to be. Until they are at or above grade level, we won’t be satisfied.
But, for our first year, we couldn’t be happier.
What do the stats mean?
At the beginning of the school year, 83% of our students were reading below the level of the average 6th grader nationally. Now 57% of our students are below average. That may not sound all that encouraging, but a 26-point gain in one year is huge!
More exciting still, at the beginning of the school year, just 6% of our students were in the top quartile of readers among 6th graders nationally. Now it’s 27%. When we started this year, we never would have guessed that we’d see a four-fold increase in the number of our top readers!
What explains all of this growth? We'd point to a few things:
1. Laser-focus on the goal. Every member of the HBGS staff had an unwavering focus on our goal of two years of literacy growth in one year. That meant that literacy was a major area of attention in all subjects. For instance, in Social Studies we ensured that students could make strong evidence-based arguments.
2. Exceptional teachers. Without a doubt, the heart of a great school is great teachers. We are blessed to have some of the best teachers and staff in New York, and we’ve continued to develop everyone’s skills throughout the year.
3. Extended day. Our partnership with the Middle School Quality Initiative, Harvard EdLabs, and WHEDco has been essential to success. The two-plus hours of additional instruction and enrichment are absolutely critical to giving kids a necessary boost.
4. Development of the whole child. We have always believed in developing our students as whole human beings, that joy in learning is essential to growth and engagement. We have focused on building character and fostering community. We believe that there is no conflict between this philosophy and students’ mastery of testable content. They are mutually-reinforcing.
5. Partnership with parents. The Highbridge community has been deeply engaged in our shared work. We have developed personal relationships with every child and every parent, and they have carried our work into their homes.
6. Partnership with supporters. Friends and family from all around the country have contributed essential books, advice, and funds that have made this result possible. We thank you from the bottom of our hearts.
The work ahead:
For all of our success, some students still have not shown nearly as much growth as we need to see. Our school works with a population that is often seriously disadvantaged, and students bring these disadvantages into school every day. We will work hard over the summer to continue to target students who are struggling to get traction and give them the support they need. We will also collaborate closely with our partners at WHEDco and Harvard EdLabs to refine our strategies for this cohort of kids. Our work is not done until all of our students succeed.
As of September, we will welcome another 6th grade class, while promoting most of this year’s students to 7th grade. Our building will be even livelier. Our staff and student populations will double in size. And we will come closer to fulfilling our mission. We also know that it will be even harder work -- we’re spending the summer preparing for it.
What this all means:
In the end, this work is about children, not about test scores. We are proud of our students’ growth on literacy tests. But we are far prouder of their growth as human beings.
We are proud of their growing ability to manage and express their feelings, complicated and adolescent as they sometimes
are. We are proud of their ability to internalize and reflect our G.R.E.E.N. character traits (Grit, Responsibility, Enthusiasm, Empathy, and iNspiration). And we are so proud of their commitment to their families, their community, and their education.
We will keep working hard every day for our students. We know that they will do the same for us.