How One School District Integrates Growth Mindset At All Levels

By Melissa Gedney, Program and Communications Manager, League of Innovative Schools

When you walk into any school building in Mineola Union Free School District, administrators, teachers, and students across every K-12 subject level have embraced Carol Dweck’s growth mindset model, partnering with Mindset Works.

From the central office to the playground, nearly every member of the Mineola school community can speak to what they’ve tried and what they haven’t, and why learning from mistakes is the most powerful vehicle of progress and change. Superintendent Mike Nagler leads this effort from the very top, creating videos that help explain the meaning of growth mindset and modeling its importance to the district.

The district leverages curriculum materials from Mindset Works, and is filming the implementation in a full length documentary, as well as releasing shorter videos for use of schools across the country. Nagler is (intentionally) not the only advocate for growth mindset in the district. It takes everyone’s voice and investment to shift thinking.

To the Mineola community, growth mindset is not just a meaningless catch phrase. It is an ideology that is deeply embedded into pedagogical practices across every grade and subject level. As one teacher noted, “If [growth mindset is] not integrated into each day and if [students are] not immersed in the language, it becomes challenging for them.”

The Mineola infrastructure is set up to support growth mindset in earnest, putting a higher premium on students showing what they know than the scores they achieve on a single test. Nagler is a known advocate for portfolio-based assessment models. Every student in Mineola graduates with a portfolio that holds the work they accomplished throughout their student careers. Nagler says, “If I’m driven by anything, it’s to not identify students by one test on one day. I want to create a portrait of children that encompasses the whole year and all the work they did.” This work, Nagler and team believe, provides better qualitative demonstration of growth than scores.

At the end of February, the Mineola team challenged the League of Innovative Schools to grow their mindset on what a League Twitter chat could be, and pitched the idea of turning the usual monthly #DPLIS Twitter chat (every last Wednesday of the month at 9:00 P.M. ET!) into a video chat. Using teachers as the spokespeople, Mineola used video clips to ask hard questions, like how does creating and supporting opportunities for students to struggle lead to developing a growth mindset? How can we acknowledge student discomfort with struggle while still asking them to meet or overcome a challenge?

Leaders from Mineola and across the League congregated to answer these big questions. They yielded big insights.

To stay up-to-date on Mineola’s work, be sure to subscribe to the Creative Content YouTube page. To catch up on the conversation, please check out the #DPLIS hashtag on Twitter and join us on Wednesday, March 28 at 9:00 P.M. ET for our next #DPLIS chat, this time moderated by Matt Miller, superintendent of Lakota Local Schools, on student voice.