Challenges. It’s impossible to go through life without experiencing them. But challenges often drive the most transformational growth. So why are we so fearful of this word, and how can we cultivate a “growth mindset” in our children that helps them see challenges as opportunities?
Last fall, when our students arrived at school after an unpredictable year with COVID, we knew to expect learning loss. We were particularly concerned about our kindergarteners, as so many of our newest and youngest scholars missed pre-K. Margaret (Molly) Rippe, formerly principal at Brilla College Prep Elementary (BCPE) and Seton’s new Director of Elementary Schools for the Brilla Schools Network, shares how an initial challenge turned into one of the most striking periods of growth for our children.
Early literacy assessments at BCPE showed that student reading levels were, on average, far lower than our previous cohorts. In kindergarten, many students were not able to recognize the letters in their own names. This was heartbreaking.
But rather than accepting defeat, Milan Flynch, literacy lead at Brilla College Prep Elementary, used this as a moment to reimagine how to develop teachers and build their content knowledge to make them even better at teaching reading.
Using the science of reading, Milan narrowed the focus of development to explicit phonics instruction, introducing the team to new strategies like sound walls, and revamped teacher development to more intensely focus on student goals and progress monitoring.
Most importantly, Molly says that “Milan re-invested teachers in our mission by deeply rooting literacy in justice and ensuring that we are developing all of our students, regardless of their starting point, in pursuit of excellence.” Why is this approach so incredible? Because while many schools in a similar situation might lower the bar for students, our committed staff found new ways to help our children achieve outstanding outcomes.
By February, Brilla had turned literacy instruction around, especially in kindergarten where more than 75% of students made dramatic growth by the third round of reading data. By the final round, more than half of the grade was reading ABOVE grade level, which is incredibly remarkable given where they had started the year. The agile adjustments derived from a time of challenge continue to reap benefits for our children at Brilla today.
We’re so proud of our ever-pioneering team! At Seton, we’re determined to face challenges with the perspective that they are always an opportunity for growth. As you begin this new year, we hope you can carry this sentiment with you, too.