In 2008, the ReContext team was called in to help New Leadership Charter School (NLCS), a charter school in Springfield, MA serving 550 students in grades 6-12. The school served a high-poverty and high-needs student body. The average student entered the school approximately 3 grade levels below their age in both mathematical and literacy skills.
Based on their Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS) scores, the school was labeled chronically underperforming. The Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) threatened shutdown if scores didn’t improve.
With so many knowledge gaps, highly targeted intervention was necessary to see significant improvement. We instituted a standards-based assessment system that helped to create a skills profile for each student.
This allowed us to:
- develop targeted interventions for the lowest-performing 10% of the school population;
- monitor progress for each student in their area(s) of greatest need;
- regroup the students into learning teams, based on common strength and weakness; and
- provide high-level information to teachers for use in planning sessions.
The school experienced two-year gains in their MCAS scores of 20% in literacy and 44% in mathematics (32% overall). To date, the score jump remains the highest in the history of the state.
The school went from being the 2nd lowest performing in the Commonwealth to being the 2nd highest performing school in the city of Springfield. In the last year of the program, the bottom 10% experienced growth of 173% – almost 3 grade levels in one year, and outscored the aggregate population.
DESE removed the threat of shutdown.