Learn how one school community partnered with Focused Schools to align systems and accelerate growth for all students.


Memorial Middle School in Fitchburg, Massachusetts, serves just under 600 students in grades 6-8. More than three-quarters of its students are considered high needs. Students for whom English is a second language make up approximately one-third of the population, while more than two-thirds are regarded as low-income, and 1 in 5 are students with disabilities. Following years of low performance and an inability to meet required growth and achievement targets, Memorial MS found itself in the 5th percentile according to the state’s accountability system. This meant that 95% of middle schools in the state were outperforming Memorial Middle School on the state’s accountability metrics. As a result, Memorial MS was designated as “requiring assistance or intervention” under Massachusetts’s state accountability system for falling “among the lowest 10% of schools” in the state. It also received the federal designation of a Comprehensive Support and Improvement (CSI) school.


Focused Schools, with its strategic and comprehensive approach, supported Memorial Middle School’s improvement efforts through a customized partnership with Fitchburg Public Schools. Focused Schools’ partnership with Memorial Middle School focused on two key components, both grounded in our Focused Leadership Framework: 

Leadership Development and Support: 

  • Provided targeted professional development in the Focused Leadership Framework
  • Conducted a data dive to examine the strengths and opportunities of Memorial Middle School’s students spanning a three-year period
  • Hosted listening sessions with the administrative team to learn more about their vision of the school

Educator Development and Support: 

  • Re-imagined the role of the Instructional Leadership Team 
  • Developed a data inquiry cycle to drive decision-making
  • Collaborated to reset the roles and responsibilities of the school’s administrative team
  • Facilitated the process of leading the school in identifying a schoolwide instructional focus (SWIF)
  • Partnered with the administrative team and ILT to analyze data and research to identify a small set of evidence-based practices to support the SWIF
  • Developed a learning walk tool focused on the school’s focus (SWIF) of critical thinking


  • Conducted standing meetings with the principal to ensure follow-up and follow-through
  • Coached the administrative team 
  • Served as a thought partner and process observer to the ILT
  • Supported the development of instructional coaches to lead PLCs


THE IMpact

Improved Accountability Ranking: 

Within two years of partnering with Focused Schools and implementing the Focused Leadership Framework, Memorial Middle School achieved remarkable improvements in state accountability rankings: 

  • Within two years: Improved from the 5th percentile to the 20th percentile in the state accountability rankings, shedding its “Comprehensive Support and Intervention (CSI)” designation.
  • After three years: Reached the 33rd percentile. 
  • Current status: Classified as “Not requiring assistance or intervention” and is showing “Substantial progress towards targets” under the Massachusetts accountability system.
  • Improved outcomes in student achievement and growth in the aggregate and for most student subgroups have led to gains in subgroup performance percentiles.

Within three years of implementing the Focused Leadership Framework, Memorial Middle School improved its accountability percentile from the 5th to the 33rd percentile, eliminating both its state and federal accountability designations.

Student Growth:

Just as Massachusetts publishes an annual overall accountability percentile for each school in the state, they also release accountability percentile information for designated student subgroups within each school. This illustrates each subgroup’s “overall performance relative to the performance of the same student group in schools serving similar grades.” Memorial Middle School’s performance percentiles increased exponentially.

Strong Leadership and Empowered Teams:

Memorial Middle School continues to be led by a data-driven administrative team and an empowered Instructional Leadership Team focused on critical thinking. The staff remains dedicated to a continuous improvement cycle informed by data as they strive to continue building a culture where all students collaborate, communicate, and think critically.

Inspired by Memorial Middle School’s progress? Partner with Focused Schools toa transform your community. Contact us today to start accelerating growth for all students!