How one district focused on growth mindset to improve academic achievement


This content was provided by Panorama Education, an ACSA Partner4Purpose

For the past three years, Long Beach Unified School District (LBUSD) has used social-emotional learning and school climate surveys to collect meaningful data to better support each student.

Social and emotional learning (SEL) is the process through which children and adults acquire and effectively apply the knowledge, attitudes, and skills necessary to understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions. (CASEL)

Like many districts, LBUSD is focused on supporting the progress of diverse student groups, including English Language Learners and students of color. Promoting a positive school climate and strong social-emotional skills is central to the district’s vision of success for each student.

LBUSD partners with Panorama Education to administer surveys on student, staff, and family perceptions of school climate and culture, as well as on social-emotional learning. Assistant Superintendent Christopher Lund and other district leaders use Panorama’s survey data reports to set goals, track progress, and equip educators with actionable information.

Setting goals with social-emotional learning data

At MacArthur Elementary School in LBUSD, a focus on social-emotional learning—particularly growth mindset—has supported impressive results that reflect the growth of the whole student.

During the 2014-2015 school year, Principal Scott Fleming and his team received survey results indicating that only 5 out of 10 students believed they could grow their intelligence and talents. This placed MacArthur Elementary in the bottom 20th percentile on the Growth Mindset survey topic compared to other schools in Panorama’s benchmarks.

As a result, Principal Fleming went to work improving this data point by employing a multi-pronged approach. The school hosted teacher professional development workshops and “parent university” nights that focused on the research and importance of growth mindset. They explicitly taught students about the malleability of the brain and encouraged students with positive reinforcement.

The next year, MacArthur Elementary's students reflected Growth Mindset scores in the 90th percentile. Students' favorable views increased by 28 percentage points, and their scores in other social-emotional learning domains— including Self-Efficacy, Self Management, and Social Awareness—increased as well.

This upward trend continued into the 2016-2017 school year, when students' scores in Growth Mindset rose by another 5 percentage points. This placed MacArthur students among the 99th percentile in Panorama’s CORE District dataset, which benchmarks results for a group of California districts. Scott Fleming, Principal at MacArthur Elementary School, Long Beach Unified School District, said:

“If a student holds the belief that they are not naturally smart and they will never do well in something, it’s going to be very difficult to address their needs in English Language Arts and mathematics. Our emphasis on growth mindset appears to have had a positive impact on student achievement.”

Realizing growth in academic achievement

With students’ social-emotional learning survey results on the rise, Principal Fleming noticed another upwards trend: MacArthur students showed substantial gains on both math and English Language Arts Smarter Balanced assessments.

The percentage of MacArthur students meeting or exceeding state standards increased by 19 percentage points in math and by 17 percentage points in ELA during the same time that students’ views of Growth Mindset increased by 33 percentage points.

The data was even more impressive when disaggregated among student groups. Over two years, Hispanic students demonstrated an 18 percentage points increase in ELA achievement, and African American students realized a 20 percentage points increase in math.

These new levels of academic achievement represent significant progress in narrowing achievement gaps between student groups. The percentage of Hispanic students meeting or exceeding the state standard in ELA increased by over 60%, and the percentage of African American students at MacArthur meeting or exceeding the state standard in math increased by over 150% between 2014 and 2016.

What’s next for SEL in Long Beach?

Looking ahead, Principal Fleming and other leaders in Long Beach Unified School District will continue using social-emotional learning data to set meaningful goals, monitor progress, and drive both academic and social-emotional growth for the whole child.

Panorama Education partners with schools and districts to collect and analyze data about social-emotional learning, school climate, family engagement, and more. Download Panorama Education’s guide to measuring social-emotional learning or visit their website.

Are you a superintendent? The work of superintendents has increasingly become defined by their ability to navigate the complexities of political pressures and conflicting interests (local, state, and national), governance, unpredictable school finances, labor relations, school bonds, standards-based reform, and greater demands for accountability of increased student performance through state and federal legislation. As superintendents navigate these increasingly challenging times, ACSA is proud to deliver a Targeted Assistance program designed to provide direct, in-district support. Experienced superintendents, district leaders, industry experts and ACSA partners are available to share successful practices, knowledge, and experience. Click this link to read about the program’s goals and receive participation information. Find more ACSA professional development events and conferences by topic and position.

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