Back to Resource Center


By Sarah Dent, ANet coach

Mission Grammar School, an elementary school in the heart of Roxbury, MA, took on a big task this year: to ensure that every student  has consistent access to and practice with grade-level material. 

Inspired by learning from a cohort of their peers across the Archdiocese of Boston and buoyed by a large grant from the Boston School’s Fund, Mission Grammar’s leaders, Ali Dutson and Elizabeth Looney, took on the difficult work of deepening their knowledge about what it takes to bring grade-level learning opportunities to all of their scholars every day. 

As we embarked on this work together, Ali and Beth spearheaded a mindset shift among their instructional leadership team, leaning on Ken William’s  concept of “Bar or Better” from the Starting A Movement conference. In each course, there is a bar (set of standards), and it is our mission as educators to take students “to and through the bar.” Inspired by this call-to-action, Mission Grammar’s ILT took a hard look at their current curriculum and teaching. It became clear that although the deep investment in service of students is there, consistent grade-level work wasn’t happening, yet. 

We adjusted course and decided to focus on literacy. We started by looking at some current texts, evaluating them on the Qualitative Text Complexity Rubric, and working to calibrate as a team in terms of what aspects make a particular text complex. Teachers looked at their own teaching texts and thought through how to use complex texts on a more regular basis. 

From there, the ILT engaged in a “text set experience”, where we read a species report about Pacific Cod. Initially, we lacked the knowledge needed to access the text, but through reading several additional texts  on the topic, we were better able to uncover the almost impenetrable species report. The text set experience helped the team discover ways to bring text sets into their own classrooms. 

Currently, Mission Grammar’s literacy teachers are collaborating and diving into standards and text complexity to better understand what shifts to make in their classrooms. I’m inspired by the tenacity with which teachers and leaders at Mission Grammar embrace change, and I know that this shift will support scholars to build confidence to tackle grade-level literacy work in their future.

Ready to dive into complex texts with your students? Learn more about text complexity here!

Get k12 Education Resources

Subscribe to Our Newsletter

Subscribe to our newsletter to join our community and receive monthly selections of actionable resources, stories of best practices from across our national network of partner schools, districts and CMOs, and invitations to exclusive events. We're glad to be learning together alongside you.