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Deepening Student Thinking at Mott Haven Community High School

When faced with the challenge of preparing students for college success, schools often strive to enhance rigor in the classroom by emphasizing higher-order thinking skills. At Mott Haven Community High School (MHCHS), a transfer school in the South Bronx serving overage and undercredited students, teachers and leadership are working together to deepen conversations about student achievement. The school partnered with Eskolta in 2013 to help teachers better identify the particular higher-order thinking skills with which students were struggling most and ably respond with instructional strategies.

Beginning in the summer, Eskolta Senior School Developer Alicia Wolcott met with teachers at MHCHS to examine student data in order to identify trends in student skills. Together, the team identified several Common Core–aligned high-leverage skills to focus on: writing clearly and concisely, citing evidence, and modeling in math. Eskolta helped the teachers to look at sample Common Core–aligned assessments and generate their own set of performance tasks and assessments asking students to demonstrate these skills. Teachers used student scores as data in order to pinpoint where to focus their instruction. This cycle was repeated once every six weeks throughout the year with Alicia’s support, and teachers used the compiled data to identify changes in student scores. During each cycle, the teachers found that students improved in the completion of performance-based tasks and higher-order thinking questions.

As a result of working with Eskolta, all teachers at MHCHS report using more performance-based tasks in the classroom, which in turn has helped students prepare more thoroughly for their Regents Exams. Reflecting on Eskolta’s work with the school, one teacher noted the greatest benefit was “being able to analyze where the students are and where they need to be. We were able to modify lessons and scaffold work according to students’ needs.” Building on this work, the school plans to continue developing performance-based tasks and scale up their inquiry processes using rapid inquiry cycles around specific, targeted skills.

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