Grandview Heights Middle School: A Case Study

School Profile

Grandview Heights, a neighborhood school in the heart of Memphis, piloted the EL Education Grades 6–8 English Language Arts Curriculum for the district in 2016-17.

Based on their results, the district expanded implementation to include its other six middle schools and adopted the K–5 curriculum for all 80 elementary schools throughout the district.

Grandview Heights Middle School serves 446 students In grades 6-8

Language Arts Curriculum Implementation


To turn the school around and make growth sustainable over time, district leaders moved quickly to acquire a literacy
curriculum that research shows works for all students.

Professional Development

During the pilot year, Grandview Heights teachers initially received a two-day intensive introduction to the EL Education Grades 6–8 English Language Arts Curriculum from an EL Education coach. After that, building instructional leaders and district coaches met monthly with an EL Education coach to conduct learning walks and investigate systems and structures needed to support a new curriculum implementation.

“If a principal is considering the EL Education Curriculum, I can say emphatically, YES, make this choice. Football players lift weights to get ready for the game, even though you don’t see them lifting weights on game day. EL is lifting weights. If students are able to master the content and tasks of this curriculum, then what they see on the standardized tests will be easy.”

Deartis Barber III , Principal

Positive Impacts

Grandview Heights instructional leaders, who were learning the curriculum right alongside teachers, strengthened schoolwide consistency through individualized coaching and collective professional development. According to Barber, teachers initially wanted to hang on to their grammar books and readers. “This curriculum was harder,” he says, “but after the first semester when interim assessment scores came back, they were convinced of its value.”


In the first year after implementation of the EL Education Grades 6–8 English Language Arts Curriculum, Grandview Heights students showed the strongest growth in the district.
School leaders and teachers agree that three components of the curriculum led to these results:

  • Close reading of complex text with rigorous tasks is the daily fare of the new literacy instruction, replacing the grammar and skills instruction of times past.
  • Differentiation and scaffolding are built into the lessons. “We don’t just do that for some students,” says Barber. “We do it for everyone. That’s what inclusion is.”
  • A social-emotional curriculum is infused into the lessons, encouraging students to have robust and relevant conversations about books and life.

Performance as measured by the Tennessee Value-Added Assessment System (note: no data available for 2016)

Grandview Heights Middle School

Subgroup Performance

In order to sustain this high growth across all subgroups over time, Barber and district leaders are investing in two strategies. First, they have committed to supporting teachers in every school across the district to master the art and science of the EL Education curriculum. Second, they are taking a “growth mindset approach” that includes leaders, teachers, and students. Staying the course with a curriculum that lifts everyone up to high expectations takes grit, but persistence and consistency will move all students toward
proficiency in the long haul.

EL Education provides schools and districts with professional development, coaching, and resources to support two types of partnership:

  • School network partners: Schools that implement EL Education’s full school design and its unique approach to curriculum, instruction, culture and character, assessment, and leadership.
  • Literacy partners: Districts and schools that adopt EL Education’s K–8 Language Arts curriculum and work with EL Education to support its implementation and impact.

Download the PDF of the Grandview Heights Case Study here.