This piece is part of Faces of Growth, a series of profiles that underscore the importance of looking at student performance and school effectiveness through the lens of growth, and not just absolute achievement. This series provides an opportunity to celebrate our students’ hard work and our educators’ tireless dedication.
When Lorenzo Mays, now a sophomore at Bluff City High School, entered the school as a freshman, his iReady testing results demonstrated second to fifth grade proficiency in multiple math subjects (Geometry, Measurement and Data, Algebraic Thinking, etc.). In addition to the difficulties sometimes presented by attending a new school, as well as an uphill battle in gaining math skills, he faced external difficulties too in his neighborhood during his freshman year.
Despite the adversity, by the end of his freshman year, Mays had grown between three and six grade levels in all of the tested math subjects. By December of his sophomore year, he had reached grade level for almost all of them. Shawna Bissonette, his current Geometry Honors teacher, has spent a lot of time coaching and tutoring Mays to help him become eligible for her advanced class. “He started turning it around when he got motivated to get into my honors class,” recalled Bissonette. “He knew that he could do better, and that we believed in him.”
As Mays developed a strong work ethic, there were still fits and starts in his behavioral transformation. “His iReady scores were super high in the beginning of this year,” said Bissonette. “But he was still having some behavioral issues.” She recalls a pivotal moment on the day of an iReady test: “He got into trouble the morning of the iReady assessment, and was being sent home, but he came to my class to take the test before he left. He was so concerned! He realized what was going on and since then, he’s been stellar.”
Mays recognizes the effort it’s taken to grow in math: “I have been pushing myself a lot this year.” That includes taking time outside of class, and even outside of office hours, to make sure he’s mastering concepts. “I have been a lot more focused doing my homework at home,” said Mays. “I also practice math even when I don’t have any homework.”
While Mays is certainly showing incredible dedication to his own growth, Bissonette also credits the small school size and culture at Bluff City. She reflected on the differences she perceives between her first year teaching at Bluff City and her time time as a student teacher in a traditional school: “I’ve worked in education before Bluff City, and I’ve seen how easy it would be for students like Lorenzo to fall through the cracks, especially students who have affiliations with gangs. He would’ve been expelled by now.” Instead of “falling through the cracks,” Mays plans on going to college, joining the Marines, and hopes to one day work at the FBI.
At Green Dot, we know how vital it is to meet all students where they’re at, and not give up on their growth. Without serious interventions and supports in middle and high school, the likelihood of dropping out increases, and it’s innate to our mission to help put students back on track to graduate high school prepared for college, leadership, and life.