Erin Mote and Eric Tucker lead Brooklyn Lab Schools, a group of charter schools in downtown Brooklyn, and are focused on building systems that support an expanded definition of student success. Brooklyn Lab recently won a grant to expand their work from middle schools to two high schools through support from the XQ Super School project and the Carnegie Corporation of New York. To help accomplish their vision – that every student gets not just to but through college – Brooklyn Lab leverages Cortex, a digital learning platform where student data and work can be accessed by students, teachers, parents, and administrators alike.
In a recent presentation to the League of Innovative Schools Assessment working group, Erin and Eric shared the Cortex platform and described the academic growth and progress they have seen among their students since the platform’s implementation. Serving a population with over 30 percent “complex learners”, Brooklyn Lab identified four drivers of the school’s success that are complemented by the platform: Talent, Mastery of Rigorous Standards, Personalization, and Positive Youth Development.
Erin describes the Brooklyn Lab human capital strategy as analogous to an “educational orchestra” – educators may play from the same score, but they are play different instruments to provide students with different learning experiences. An orchestra has woodwinds, brass, percussion, and strings that are each instrumented to play a specific role. Brooklyn Lab’s model includes whole group instruction often occurring in a co-taught classroom, small group instruction, independent work with personalized playlists to develop mastery, and passion-driven enrichment. Driven by formative assessment, Brooklyn Lab commits to developing the right strategy for each student based on their unique academic and behavioral needs in the form of: (1) recuperation, practice, and reinforcement to help underprepared students catch up; and (2) acceleration to extend learning and help all students reach high levels.
Mastery of Rigorous Standards
The data that fuels Cortex is based on bringing standards to a more refined framework with a common data visualization of green, yellow, and red for differing levels of mastery. With Common Core standards and others made readily available, teachers and students can access a visualization for the goals and mastery they are working toward. This visualization lends itself to more passion-driven learning, so students may pursue mastery of standards in ways that engage and excite them most. On an individual standard or project, Cortex can aggregate data for the entire school, class, or individual, allowing students and teachers ownership and awareness of their development with the ability to understand the guideposts for success.
Brooklyn Lab views personalization as a commitment to tailoring learning experiences that meet the individual needs and interests of students. Their approach leverages technology and focuses on the development of relationships between students and with teachers and other adults. The data visualization in Cortex allows students to own their own learning, and for parents and teachers to also see and understand their learners’ performance and standing. Data for academic standards, as well as performance in courses such as dance and art, are available side-by-side, helping students to understand and view their growth and strengths holistically.
Positive Youth Development
Brooklyn Lab aims to recognize, utilize, and enhance student’s strengths and promote growth in student habits of success, creative know how, and wayfinding abilities. The MyWays Framework provides a data standard and inspiration for this work. To accomplish this, Brooklyn Lab is building an ecosystem of “charging stations that power learning” – local partners that provide real-world learning opportunities for their students. Cortex allows teachers to evaluate students on the work they are engaged in with local nonprofit and university partners, allowing for acknowledgment of skills and competencies students are building outside of the classroom.