A new case study written by SoLD Alliance Governing Partner, Learning Policy Institute (LPI), documents promising school practices that illustrate how the creation of a positive school climate, along with a full and rich curriculum focused on meaningful learning, has led to improved motivation, sense of belonging, and student achievement at Gateway Public Schools in California.
Gateway Public Schools—a middle and high school serving a diverse group of about 800 students in San Francisco—was founded in 1998 by parents of students with learning disabilities seeking a supportive environment for their children. As a public charter organization with a lottery entrance system, Gateway seeks to admit a student body that represents the population of San Francisco’s public schools at large, giving priority to local residents and to students eligible for free or reduced-price lunch. Approximately 25% of students enrolled receive special education services, 80% are students of color, and more than 50% are from low-income families.
Gateway has a strong reputation for offering excellent supports for students with learning differences and is known for its high graduation and college attendance rates.
The ways in which educators at Gateway honor and nurture the multiple pathways for whole child development are well supported by research emerging from the sciences of learning and development. A recent synthesis of that research points to the importance of four major sets of principles that support whole student achievement and growth:
- Supportive environments promote secure attachments and relationships, a sense of safety and belonging, and relational trust through structures that promote long-term relationships and effective care; classroom learning communities ensure students’ sense of physical and psychological safety and belonging; and collaboration strategies promote connections among educators, school staff, and families.
- Productive instructional strategies connect to students’ experiences, support conceptual understanding, and develop metacognitive abilities; these strategies also support engagement and motivation and develop students’ ability to learn how to learn.
- Social and emotional development promotes the skills, habits, and mindsets that enable self-regulation, interpersonal skills, perseverance, and resilience through regular opportunities to integrate social, emotional, and cognitive skills and through behavior supports that are educative and restorative.
- Systems of support enable healthy development and address learning barriers through collaborative, multi-tiered systems of support that provide access to integrated health and social services and extend personalized learning opportunities.