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Located in the heart of Brooklyn, New York, Lenox Academy offers an academically accelerated program for middle school students in grades 6 through 8. Yet, while the overwhelming majority of our students exceed New York State standards in English Language Arts and Mathematics, a deeper analysis reveals a disturbing trend. We discovered that as the curriculum became more challenging over the course of middle school, many of our high-achieving students retreated from putting forth effort. The result was that academic performance actually declined over the three years for a large number of our students.
Reading about the work of Dr. Carol Dweck and her team at Mindset Works, we were able to more clearly understand the nature of our dilemma. Students who retreated from putting forth effort, we now realized, were exhibiting the characteristic fixed mindset. These were students who, for the better part of their young lives, had been praised for intelligence based on their performance in school and on NY State standardized exams. Acceptance into Lenox Academy brought more praise for intelligence—but when the accelerated curriculum began to present the kinds of challenges they had not previously encountered, they retreated.
While teaching in California, I had a unique teaching assignment: Honors English 9 and Reading 10. So my school day went from thinking about how to hold "high-achieving" students to a high level of challenge in an honors environment to actually doing the same thing for "underachieving" students in a remedial environment. I loved the challenge and experience of watching non-readers become successful readers, writers and speakers while also pushing the higher performing students to stretch themselves to reach greater heights.
Trail Ridge Middle School, CO – Case Study
“Brainology teaches kids to take ownership of their learning experience by being the one doing the work… it teaches them that doing work is a really positive thing because it’s going to help them to become smarter."
Marnie Steele is a 7th grade science teacher at Trail Ridge Middle School in Longmont, Colorado. The student demographic consists of 42.7% free and reduced lunch and 42.7% Hispanic, and there are a significant number of ELL students.
Marnie has found that many of her kids would get into a habit of always failing: they became used to doing poorly and didn’t think they would ever get better. After reading the book Mindset by Carol Dweck, Marnie wanted to incorporate the Growth Mindset into her classroom, specifically to teach her ELL students about the learning process. She was specifically interested in seeing whether it would help the ELL students to understand that by investing effort, they would become smarter and perform better in school.
Jill Balzer, Principal at Charles Patterson Middle School in Killeen, TX, on how Mindset transformed their school culture
Charles Patterson Middle School is located in Killeen, Texas which is also home to one of the largest military institutions in the world, Fort Hood. Our student population is diverse; 44% are Active Military, 40% are economically disadvantaged, 38% are African American, 31% White, 27% Hispanic, and 4% Asian/Pacific Islander. The wide array of social, cultural, and economic backgrounds provides the students and teachers at CPMS with unique opportunities. With this variety in life experiences and an annual mobility rate of over 40% comes the constant search by our staff to look for ways to improve the quality of our students’ lives. We believe that this is best accomplished by giving them tools that they will be able to take with them wherever they may go.
by Jane Foltz, Resource Teacher, Dartmouth Middle School in San Jose, CA
I’m a resource teacher at Dartmouth Middle School in San Jose, California. I teach students with a variety of learning challenges in grades 6, 7 and 8 who have mixed demographic background.
I first heard about the book Mindset on an NPR interview with Carol Dweck, which interested me personally, not just as a teacher. After reading about fixed and growth mindsets, I found myself repeating certain phrases all the time, incorporating them in my own mindset. I personally realized the importance of being willing to stretch and keep trying. These concepts have impacted me many times; I have taken classes and tried things I never would have otherwise. I knew I had to not only talk the talk but also walk the walk.