Dramatic achievement gains on the state’s 2018 Common Core exams

By Steven F. Wilson September 27, 2018

We are thrilled to report that Ascend’s unique liberal arts curriculum and responsive and restorative student culture have fueled a third year of dramatic gains in student performance.

In English language arts, the percentage of Ascend students found proficient on the 2018 New York State Common Core exams rose from 45.2 percent to 57.6 percent, a 12.4-point gain, and in math, from 51.8 percent to 65.8 percent, a 14-point gain.

Over the last three years, fueled by Ascend’s new Common Core curriculum and warm and joyful student culture, proficiency grew by a striking 32 points in ELA and 34 points in math. By contrast, New York City schools grew 17 percentage points in ELA and eight points in math during the same period.

Not only are far more of our students found proficient than those in New York City schools and statewide, Ascend schools have now reversed the achievement gap by race in both subjects.

Fifty-nine percent of Ascend’s African American students (who make up 76 percent of our students) are proficient in ELA, compared to 52 percent of white students statewide. In math, 65 percent of Ascend’s African American students are proficient, compared to 54 of white students statewide. We have also now closed and reversed the achievement gap by income in math. Sixty-four percent of Ascend’s economically disadvantaged students are proficient in math compared with 62 percent of non-economically disadvantaged students statewide.

While every Ascend school posted gains, some led the charge: At Canarsie Ascend Lower School, 80 percent of students are now proficient in ELA and 83 percent in math. At Brooklyn Ascend Lower, our network’s first school, 72 percent are proficient in ELA and 77 percent in math—up from 22 percent and 23 percent in 2013, a 50-point climb.

Too often “No Excuses” school models, with their exclusionary discipline policies, echo the criminal justice system and convince students they cannot thrive. Ascend is demonstrating a vibrant and joyful alternative, where an empowering, nurturing, and welcoming culture develops students’ curiosity, intellectual confidence, and personal agency. We hold true to our commitment to operate truly public schools that enroll all students, fill every available seat through ninth grade, and operate at district spending levels.

Our climb continues. Only when every Ascend student remains on the path to and through college, and on to lives of meaning, purpose, and joy, will we have realized our mission. But never before have we had such momentum: Learning gains are compounding, with students arriving each year with notably stronger academic skills and greater intellectual confidence. As teachers foster curiosity rather than compel compliance, students’ intrinsic motivation is unleashed. With unprecedented levels of teacher retention, more students are benefiting from teachers expert in our curriculum and committed to our ways and to one another. As our schools grow, new positions are filled by gifted educators referred by our strongest teachers and drawn to our distinctive model. We are confident that 2018-19 will be our strongest year yet.

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