Cultivating Genius with MS108

by Editorial Team

  • Posted on February 4, 2022

  • NSI

MS108 was a positive outlier for cultural awareness on our Fall 2021 Panorama student survey. We decided to visit and interview the principal and teachers leading this amazing work and share our findings with the network.

Watch our interview with Principal William Gladstone as our Network Leader Jacobē Bell asks him about his school’s cultural awareness practices and their special change idea. Building off of their cultural awareness work, the 108 team is now testing a change idea that focuses on literacy skills.


  • 1:19 About Crew
  • 3:23 The hidden curriculum
  • 4:47 The NSI work at MS 108
  • 7:52 Cultivating Genius Protocol

The Data Story

92% of its students responded positively to questions like:

  • How often does this teacher encourage you to learn about people from different races, ethnicities, or cultures?
  • When there are major news events related to race, how often does this teacher talk about them with students?
  • How fairly does this teacher treat people from different races, ethnicities, or cultures?



Many students also filled out the open responses questions (which tend to get skipped over). Here’s how many responded to the question: “What is one thing that your teacher does that makes you feel like they understand you?” Here’s what we saw:

  • Some version of “they listen to me” or “they talk to me” came up more than 50% of the over 100 answers
  • Uses my proper pronouns
  • Makes eye contact with me
  • Knows what music I like

Here’s what the ELA teachers had to say about it when we asked what they were doing.

“We do book clubs and all the books we chose were ones where we really tried to touch on different cultures, different issues in society that they’re dealing with, but also ones that they might not know about to open up their eyes a bit.” —Jennifer LaValle

“And they really like open discussions. In all of the ELA classes, we’re having those discussions and letting their voices be heard. Let them say what they want to say. And then we do respond positively to them, or ask them more follow up questions, and we really let them just talk.” — Alyssa Somoano

“We, as humans, are naturally judgmental. We are aware of that and leave our judgment at the door. And I think that kids know that. And with the work that we do in CREW, in Book Club, and the discussions about the news and the outside world, I think kids really feel that.” —Michelle Velazquez

What’s next for MS 108?


  • 108 is scaling the ELA identity work to social studies and science teachers. They are exploring their own identities as teachers as well as those of their students.
  • They are continuing to refine the Cultivating Genius protocol with ELA teachers.

Dive Deeper

Crew refers to a class that meets twice a day for all students. The morning session lasts for 25 minutes and focuses on community and team building and life skills. For 30 minutes in the afternoon, students participate in a book club around a culturally responsive text. Classes are small with about 10 to 12 students per class. Learn more on EL Education’s website.

Principal Gladstone also referred to the team’s current change idea – Cultivating Genius Protocol, which develops students’ speaking, listening, reading and writing skills simultaneously.

See the protocol in detail in their coach Dan Vazquez‘s post below.


Shout out to MS 108 ELA Teachers for pioneering great work on the “Cultivating Genius Protocol”–which hits speaking, listening, reading, and writing standards all in one.  It’s still a work in progress, but initial results are powerful.