Innovation School

Carlton is a Massachusetts public Innovation School, which allows it to operate with greater autonomy and flexibility with regard to curriculum, staffing, budget, schedule/calendar, professional development, and district policies. An Innovation School is able implement innovative strategies to improve student achievement while keeping school funding within districts.

Innovation Summary

The Carlton School is an urban K-5 school serving approximately 235 students. To improve
student learning we use a continuous progress approach, which includes:

  • Using multi-age, ungraded classroom settings, and flexible grouping based on each student’s individual needs
  • Individualizing instruction and assessment to target each student’s individual needs
  • Using project-based inquiry to investigate science and social studies topics

A continuous progress approach utilizes instruction targeted to the student’s learning needs and his/her unique learning progress. Each student advances or progresses at his/her own pace.

Key Components of the Plan

The Carlton’s Innovation Plan has meant significant changes to the school’s structure, curriculum, grade levels, staffing and calendar. These changes include:

School Structure

  • Students are placed in multi-age classrooms within team levels, as opposed to traditional grade levels. These team levels are indicated in the table on page 12.
  • Students remain in the same classroom with the same teacher for up to two and one-half years, depending on the student’s progress in standards achievement.
  • Each kindergartener begins school in the trimester following his/her fifth birthday, and transition to the next grade at the trimester interval in which he/she is able to demonstrate competency with the Massachusetts Curriculum Framework standards, physical and developmental skills, and is socially and emotionally ready to move up to the next team (grade) level.
  • Teachers evaluate students poised to transition to the next team level three times per school year at trimester intervals. This allows teachers to move students to the next team (grade) level when the individual student is ready, rather than at the end of the traditional school year. This means that some students move mid-year, while others remain in the same class for additional trimesters. This allows a student to increase the amount of time within a grade level without repeating and entire year at that grade. Because students leave and enter classrooms at various times, the social stigma of grade promotion and retention will be non-existent.

Curriculum and Instructional Structure

  • Each student receives instruction matched to his/her achievement level every day.
  • The curriculum emphasizes student ownership of learning and progress across the standards.
  • The core subjects of reading, writing and math are taught using a workshop model with intensive and targeted small group instruction.
  • The content area subjects science and social studies are taught using inquiry-and project-based methods in heterogeneous groups.
  • Standards-based continuums are developed for each team level in each core subject based on the new Massachusetts Frameworks and Common Core State Standards.
  • Common assessments are selected and developed to assess student progress on each standard and will be used to guide teachers’ instruction of students on a daily basis.
  • Each student is placed in flexible and fluid groups based upon his/her progress in each subject.
  • Students whose achievement is significantly higher in a subject could be grouped with another team for that subject.
  • Each student has the opportunity to participate in an early morning success period to receive a double dose of instruction in that student’s area of greatest need or to extend his/her progress.
  • These innovations in the structure and curriculum support the teaching and learning of individual students as their continuous academic progress is prioritized. This tailored instruction will improve student achievement.

View the Innovation Plan

The full Carlton School Continuous Progress Innovation Plan (published September 29, 2011) is available below:

 carlton-innovation-plan.doc (1,355K) view • download