Nex+Gen Academy, located in Albuquerque, New Mexico, was launched in 2011 as a public school focused on project-based learning. With substantial industry support, and one laptop provided to each student, Nex+Gen was designed to give high school students from disadvantaged neighborhoods the tools needed to excel in the 21st century skills valued by employers.
Challenge: Increase Student Pass Rates on State-mandated Assessments
Nex+Gen’s state funding is tied to the number of students attending the school. To attract students to the school, Nex+Gen must display convincingly high graduation rates and “school report card” grades, both of which depend on students scoring well on the statemandated SBA or Standard Based Assessment. The challenge is that Nex+Gen was launched in a school district whose pass rate on the SBA is 59%. Furthermore, the school intentionally serves the economically disadvantaged, with about 38% of its student body receiving FARM (free and reduced meal) subsidies.
Solution: Cognitive Skills Training
Students take the SBA as sophomores, and then again as juniors. After taking their first SBA in 2012 as sophomores, Nex+Gen gave its Class of 2014 a cognitive skills curriculum (Keytrain®) when they returned as juniors. Over the course of 3.5 months (Nov-Feb), the class of 54 students studied Reading for Information, Locating Information, and Applied] Mathematics, 1-2 days a week, in 30-45 minute sessions. Encouragement and the chance to earn a career readiness certificate were the primary motivators. The students were then retested on the SBA. The SBA pass rate for these juniors was an impressive 84%, compared to the district average of 59%. Compared to their sophomore year, individuals’ scores increased an average of 4.2 points on the 60 point scale used for the SBA—and 5.3 points for the subset of students who had been exposed to the WorkKeys® cognitive skills tests, in addition to the curriculum.
Results: Improved Student Pass Rates on High Stakes Tests
- 84% Pass rate on the New Mexico SBA, compared to a district average of 59%.
- 1-2 classes a week of cognitive skills study, for 3.5 months, contributed to an average improvement of 4.2 points on the 60 point scale of the test.
- Additionally exposing the students to cognitive skills testing further improved the gain, to 5.3 points.