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Inspiring Student Achievement in 3 Dimensions - Case Study: Hollis Innovation Academy

Our vision of student achievement has three dimensions: Mastery of Knowledge and Skills, Character, and High-Quality Work. See what this looks like in action at Hollis Innovation Academy, a public district school in Atlanta, GA.


- When I got to Hollis, my mind just blew out of my head. It was just so high up, I couldn’t catch it.

- Hollis is transforming, through the use of EL. You can see all of the growth at the same time. The growth in the community through the structures within the community. The growth from students in their data and with teachers in learning EL. So it’s just a whole continuum of growth. Five, six, seven, go!

- All of our students came from a poor performing school which was closed because it had five years of poor performing data. Our journey started and I got the call that I was going to open a new school. I started researching, had an opportunity to visit Amana and was just blown away by some of the projects and problems that the students were wrestling with.

- You have to think about what the foundation of EL is. You’re producing a more productive citizen, a citizen who’s vested in the world around them.

- After doing this for 20 years in Atlanta Public Schools and watching children wait for the next thing to happen. I see these children just taking off, facilitating their own learning, establishing their own projects, just taking their education in their own hands.

- Hollis Innovation Academy!

- To create a school is a large, large undertaking. Having the support of EL to have a work plan that helped me to succinctly and systematically think through three major buckets: mastery of knowledge and skill, character, and high-quality work.

- With EL you see that. You see those three dimensions of instruction and student achievement throughout every class at Hollis. Our children are not seated, just doing paper and pencil. Our children are not seated, taking assessments all the time. They’re building. They’re creating. They’re engineering. And with that automatically comes high student achievement.

- Everyone has their different epistemology, thought, belief, ideology about what curriculum is, what teaching is, what pedagogy is, what instruction looks like, all of that. You have to bring them together. Everybody has to come together and coalesce around a clear idea about what instruction looks like. Once we have that basic foundation, how can we think about this module, but community relevant problems that we need to think about and tackle with the same great research base and instructional strategies that we saw in the pilot.

- We had an 18.9% gain across and we’ve shown gains across all content areas. I attribute that to the EL curriculum.

- I hear colleagues sometimes say, oh, we don’t have time for that SEL stuff. We gotta get kids ready for an assessment. But what I think they miss is that if you don’t get at the heart of a child, they’re not gonna learn. In a turnaround environment, and especially in an environment where kids need to know that they can trust you and there has to be consistency in their life, you have to build relationship.

- Crew is such an integral part of EL.

- Crew for Hollis is a day-to-day, day in, day out, all day process.

- We start off every single day, implementing culture and crew for 30 minutes. It’s just naturally embedded throughout every lesson, throughout every subject. We have Six Habits of Hollis: Creativity.

- Creativity! Perseverance.

- Persevere! Never give up. Self-discipline.

- [Teacher] Showing self-discipline, I like it.

- [Adella] Empathy, communication, collaboration.

- I won an award for collaboration. It changed by me growing out of my heart.

- I do see a lot of empathy in my youngest that I didn’t see before. With the EL education that they’re providing, I see my children bringing the Hollis Habits home.

- Those six habits, we say, shore up their academics.

- We read this story called The Most Magnificent Thing.

- Children had to use those habits of character and they had to build a magnificent thing. Something that could be used within the community.

- How can you show initiative with starting to build your most magnificent thing and then how can you collaborate?

- They’re able to actually read it and hear about it in the text, but it doesn’t stop there. Now they have to apply it.

- One group did a mailbox. One group did a sight word mobile. I never thought about, hmmm, let me take the initiative to help these students to think outside the box, to do something different that they wouldn’t do in a normal classroom.

- High-quality work tasks and learning about authenticity, complexity. Our regional facilitator, Wanda McClure, I love her. She’s so much fun. She gives me lots of great feedback on what I can do differently, other members to contact and videos to watch.

- The feedback makes my work better because I get to add on to stuff that I never even thought about. We’re all different so I might think of something different from somebody else and then they might give me a half of theirs and then I give them half of mine. And we’ll just keep going from that. In Rain School, we read about that they didn’t have a school so they had to make a school out of mud. We had a challenge in our own library. Stuff is so scattered around the room. We did some research and went to a different school. Took down notes and had to collaborate to see what we wanted in the library. We made a plan on this big sheet of paper. One day the media center’s gonna be popular. I think it’s going to be one of the popular media centers in the whole universe.

- When I went to the national conference, celebrating 25 years of great EL work, I felt like I was somewhere with people who I already knew without even knowing their name. Feels good to say, hey, am I doing this right? You guys are the model school for EL. And then to share ideas that you’re doing. And they’re so accepting, they’re like, “wow, we should be doing that, too!”

- I like how the EL model leaves a broad spectrum of how to teach a child. STEM and gardening is part of that EL system because it helps them make sure they collaborate. Make sure you have empathy for the next person who’s growing next to you. It does mean a lot to be part of a collective.

- It actually feels like home. So many of the EL practices I was doing before, but with EL it comes together. It seems to fit together as a puzzle.

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EL Education

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