The Learning and Enrichment Center recognizes that children learn differently due to differences in background knowledge, learning styles, ability to focus, and processing speed. The importance of addressing the learning differences of independent school children has become increasingly recognized in recent years. It is no longer unusual to find a learning center, or similarly named center, for students in independent schools. The St. Margaret’s Learning and Enrichment Center supports the child who is very intelligent but whose full potential is not being realized. Instructional support in all disciplines as well as enrichment opportunities in Mathematics and English Language Arts are offered in the center. Additionally, licensed Psychologists offer behavioral interventions to enhance the student’s academic experience and ensure that intervening factors do not undermine the child’s ongoing success.
The St. Margaret’s Learning and Enrichment Center offers expertise in a variety of areas: assessment, diagnostics, remediation, progress monitoring, gifted and enrichment education, teacher education, curriculum development, and an understanding of the importance of social/emotional functioning. These various roles are at the heart of our Learning and Enrichment Center.
To identify students in need of support or enrichment, a key vehicle used to promote teamwork and good communication is the Student Study Team (SST). The SST meeting provides a roadmap for the process by which students are identified for support or enrichment. Many times, classroom observations are scheduled before a meeting in order to glean relevant information about the student’s learning style. The SST meeting participants are typically parents, teachers, school administrators and staff from the Learning and Enrichment Center. Concerns and previously implemented strategies or approaches are discussed. The team then decides upon an action plan for addressing the concerns expressed in the meeting. Responsibility for implementing the plan is delegated and future SST meetings are scheduled. The SST process promotes accountability, documents efforts to support/enrich the student, tracks progress, and determines when and if it is appropriate to change course.
For students with more involved needs, an assessment may be recommended. The assessment typically takes place outside of the school and the family is responsible for the cost. This type of psycho-educational or neuropsychological assessment serves a valuable function in diagnosis. The assessment results answer the questions of both how much the student is struggling and why the student is struggling. In serving a variety of independent schools, we have been able to identify a combination of characteristics that typify the student who is referred to the Learning and Enrichment Center. Typically, this student is relatively strong cognitively (intellectually), but has some underlying processing issue, learning, or attention issues. Only rarely do we assess students who have weak intellectual functioning. In such cases, the school, in conjunction with the Student Academic Support Center, must decide whether or not there are sufficient resources available to meet the student's needs on an ongoing basis.
The Learning and Enrichment Center commits to employ evidenced based approaches that have stood up to the scrutiny of controlled research. When we discuss remediation interventions, we typically refer to the approach as "educational therapy," as opposed to "tutoring." These designations can sometimes seem like semantic manipulations, but in this case there is a substantively different approach. Educational therapy is the term used to describe remediating an underlying processing or learning issue/disability. It's an attempt to get to the root of the problem with the goal of improving the student's functioning in a way that generalizes to the classroom and is enduring in nature. Educational therapy aimed at remediating a reading acquisitions problem, for example, typically uses one of the approaches inspired by the Orton-Gillingham model. This program is characterized by a systematic, intensive, multi-sensory orientation toward reading remediation and has supporting research to substantiate its claims. The Learning and Enrichment staff includes credentialed Educational Therapists that ensure valid and reliable implementation of these interventions. Tutoring, on the other hand, is conceptualized as a type of support in the form of homework assistance, helping to study for a test, etc. The goal of tutoring is simply to ensure that the student successfully completes the class of the school year. It's not uncommon that a student may need both forms of intervention: the root cause of the learning difference is remediated (a long term solution) through educational therapy while the student is supported in meeting the day-to-day demands of school (a short term solution) through tutoring.For students in need of enrichment, strategies from the research literature on gifted education inform our solutions and practices.
Regardless of the form of remediation, enrichment or support offered, St. Margaret's Learning and Enrichment Center is committed to providing ongoing communication and collaboration with teachers and parents as well as an ongoing, data-driven means of measuring student response to intervention. Our experience has been that meeting frequently with parents and having more informal, ongoing communication with teachers is an effective way of making sure the communication loop is maintained.
The Learning and Enrichment Center is particularly suited to being learning specialists because of our extensive training in multiple disciplines: school psychology, teaching, psycho-educational assessment, and neuropsychological assessment. These disciplines along with a passion for children has contributed to our current success and we strive to continue to better ourselves and grow in order to serve the educational community for many years to come.