Thinking Maps for Connecting High Academic Achievement with Personalized/Social Emotional Learning

Updated: Apr 12, 2019


West Belden is an urban K-8 charter school serving a high-poverty, high- minority population in Chicago. Thinking Maps were implemented and supported over many years to help bring about significant change. The intensive focus is paying off. Students at West Belden have demonstrated strong growth in academic skills on the NWEA tests, which Distinctive Schools uses for formative assessment. In addition, students at West Belden showed over 200% growth in the first year for the NWEA Map assessment, meaning they made two years of academic progress in a single year. More than 30% of West Belden’s eighth graders were accepted into highly selective high school programs, and many others are heading to selective charter schools. Finally, West Belden achieved the highest possible rating on Chicago’s accountability scale.

From the Curriculum Director:

“We’re preparing our students for the kind of thinking and writing they will need to demonstrate for college and career,” says Katie O’Connor, Executive Director of Curriculum & Instruction. “Thinking Maps is a tool that makes students’ thinking visible to them. It gives them a springboard for higher levels of academic achievement.”

From the Director of Schools:

“Thinking Maps has created a common language across and among grade levels, campuses, staff and students. It’s had a powerful impact on our SEL* implementation because our teachers are using Thinking Maps to empower students to think critically about behaviors that make them successful learners.” Read more...



  • Facebook Social Icon
  • LinkedIn Social Icon
  • YouTube Social  Icon

Gain accreditation as a Thinking School through...