Growth Takes Time

The first two years of Inwood Academy for Leadership, our students experienced tremendous academic growth despite serving a large number of children with disabilities and English Language Learners. In 2013, the Common Core rolled out in New York state. The shifts in math and English Language Arts instruction left us with a much harder, but important task.

The task is to ensure that students are not only able to read and write and do math on grade level, but to approach a tough problem from multiple angles and have multiple strategies to solve the problem. Teaching students who are learning English for the first time is challenging, but as soon as they enter Inwood Academy they begin making tremendous strides. This growth is evident in their classroom reading scores and on our internal NWEA MAP test scores.

State tests can be useful in comparing our students’ growth with peers in their school district, city, and state. Our students’ growth has been incremental in New York state test scores, until now. The state just released the results and our consistent work paid off; it’s evidenced by our 12% proficiency increase in English Language Arts (ELA) test scores! This is compared to statewide ELA growth of 1.9% and city-wide growth of 2.6%.

What made this growth possible? It was through the collaboration between the school’s leadership team and teachers, the hard work of our students, and new program elements.

Big changes that created big growth: 

  • Expansion on writing using ThinkCERCA personalized literacy software and ensuring that students use CER in writing responses (claim, evidence, reasoning)
  • Increased focus on Sustained Silent Reading that allowed students to read on their level for longer periods of time;
  • Additional hour a week of instruction (then the previous year)
  • Launch of school-wide and systematic vocabulary program

In addition to this growth in English Language Arts, we also saw these huge wins;

  • 12 of our 6th graders earned a 4 on their ELA exam which is 11% of the entire district; there were only 111 students who earned this highest score in our school district
  • 20 of our 8th-grade students took the High School Algebra Regents one year early and all passed with a 72 or higher
  • We beat our school district in 5, 6, and 8th-grade math and in 6, 7, and 8 grade ELA
  • We matched the city-wide Latino ELA and math scores and the city-wide African American math scores
  • Both our students with disabilities and ELLs grew overall in ELA and ELLs increased in math while students with disabilities maintained their proficiency in math
  • 11% of our 8th-grade students with disabilities were proficient in math which beat our school district and the city by 6%
  • 14% of our 6th grade ELLs were proficient in math which beat our school district and the city

We’re so excited to share these results with you! Our growth benefits our entire community. As we know, it’s not enough to just give our kids a great education. Let’s continue to work together to prepare all 900 of our students to become leaders in their community.

Lastly, a huge thank you to our incredible students and families. Thank you for your commitment and trust.

The 4th “R” of Education

Reading, writing, and arithmetic. The 3 R’s of education are rooted in the very fabric of all schools everywhere. It’s just what we do.

There’s a 4th R and it’s so important that without it, all else crumbles. But we can’t measure it on a state test. It won’t be on many report cards. There’s no real curriculum to handle its complexity. And some schools don’t even teach it or recognize its central value to educating young people.

The 4th R is for “relationships” and if you don’t think it’s important, just think about why everything else in the student’s learning falls apart.

Let me illustrate how complex and critical relationships are by listing the essential ones that influence even a single day of a student’s existence in a school. Some of these relationships are direct, but most happen apart from the student and yet still have a tremendous impact on how a child navigates education and growing up. Take a look:

 Student to family

Student to teacher

Student to student

Student to self

Student to community

Teacher to teacher

Teacher to administrator

Teacher to profession

Administrator to administrator

Administration to “the state”

School to the community

School to the “the state”

Honestly, that’s just a SHORT list! Think about how many more relationships can impact a student’s academic success, peace of mind, health, and capacity to learn. It’s staggering. Look through the list above, make any one or two of those relationships toxic and think of the impact that can have on a child. The reality is that the traditional 3 R’s balance on the needle’s point of the 4th R.

While I believe that all schools are cognizant of this in some regard, I know some schools work harder at the 4th R than others. There are (tragically) some schools who marginalize it with comments such as, “We know it’s important but we just don’t have time” or “We’d like to work on it more, but with state testing, we need to stay focused.”

Intellectually, I suppose those comments aren’t entirely incorrect. But the reality is that NO school can afford to marginalize this work. ALL students need the 4th R. ALL schools need to have their own 4th R houses in order. The risks of foregoing intentional efforts to build, sustain, and protect relationship capacities are just too great.

At IAL, we try every day to honor the role of the 4th R. This year we’re trying to increase one fantastically important relationship: that between the school and families. Families – we need you as much as you need us. Your children need us to be working well together because when we are, they benefit. They benefit to a degree that almost surpasses anything else we do.

We’re not sure it would make much of a bumper sticker or t-shirt, but we believe that “Inwood Academy: A Place that Honors the 4th R” would reflect a pillar of why we open our doors every morning. It’s messy, hard work. But we’re raising these kids together and there’s nothing else we’d rather be doing.

By Nathan Eklund, nathan.eklund@inwoodacademy.org | @nateek