Imagine being a non-swimmer on a boat full of strong swimmers. All of a sudden the boat springs a leak and begins to sink. In the initial panic, you find that there’s only one life preserver on board. Who should get it? Obviously, you should get it, right? After all, you have needs that the other passengers don’t. Your life is no less valuable than theirs. And there could be no cry of favoritism when you receive what you need to stay afloat. We can apply this scenario to discussions of educational best practices related to students with learning differences or other unique needs.
In America, schools offer an array of services to students who need additional classroom support. This range of services has evolved continuously since the introduction of the Individual Education Plan (IEP) in 1975. Today, even most colleges and universities offer support services or accommodations. And the positive results are well-documented.
At Oak Hill Academy, we offer students various accommodations across three tiers of service. TIER Iutilizes the fundamental elements of our school program. Things like small class sizes, supervised study each school night, and daily accountability serve as default accommodations for all of our students. In addition, teachers are easily accessible for extra help, and there’s even voluntary peer tutoring.
But there are needs beyond the built-in best practice features in place for everyone. TIER II is for our younger students (8th and 9th grades), who may enroll in our Learning/Life Skills course. These classes meet daily and offer guided instruction in many of the intangible skills that lead to academic success. We teach and model things like note-taking, classroom posture, limiting distractions, organizational skills, time management and self-advocacy. These lessons are particularly useful as the students begin their high school careers.
TIER III serves students with learning differences and modest clinical needs. Those with documented needs may enroll in our Applied Learning Skills (ALS) classes. A licensed and experienced learning specialist teaches these classes, in which students receive one or more periods per day of support services. The learning specialist also works closely with each student’s other teachers to ensure that the ALS student is receiving the most effective set of accommodations to enable academic achievement.
One thing is certain. When it comes to ensuring academic success, there is no one-size-fits-all teaching practice that meets the needs of all students. Oak Hill Academy maintains a thoughtful and comprehensive school program that allows students to thrive. Even if, for a time, some may need a life preserver.