Learning Skills

Department Head: Kristy RAska

Teachers

  • Don Kaplan
  • Phyllis Arnold
  • Ellen Cuthrell
  • Jackie Massina
  • Kristy Raska

Curriculum

The Learning Skills Program is limited to 24 students with learning differences. A one-on-one tutorial replaces the students' English class (counting for their six-credits of English each year). Students spend at least one 80-minute period per day in the Learning Skills building. Half of that period is for the study of English and the other forty minutes are for study time with their LS teacher. Although students in this program receive a waiver of the foreign language requirement, they otherwise take the same college preparatory classes everyone else takes in mathematics, science, history, and the arts. This program requires an additional fee.

ACCOMMODATIONS FOR STUDENTS WITH LEARNING DIFFERENCES

Over the years, students with learning differences have often been honor students, outstanding artists, star athletes, and student leaders at Solebury School. We value these students and make reasonable accommodations to help them achieve in a challenging academic community. What follows is a summary of the kinds of help that are and are not available.

An important strength of Solebury’s Learning Skills Program (LSP) is that it exists within a collegepreparatory school. It is assumed that students have chosen Solebury’s LSP program because it is a college-preparatory program, mainstream program. Their diploma is a regular Solebury diploma, not a special-program diploma. LSP students take pride in knowing that they have met the same standards other students meet. Because LSP students, as well as a number of other students at Solebury, have learning differences, Solebury will make whatever reasonable and appropriate accommodations it can to help students meet those standards. Accommodation, however, does not mean changing the standards themselves. LSP students, and other students with learning differences, should expect to read the same texts, attend the same classes (except as noted above), complete the same projects, write the same papers, and take the same tests as their classmates.

Because Solebury is a small, independent school with an emphasis on creativity, innovation, and individuality, some features are commonly available to all students, whether or not they have learning differences. These include:

  • Small class size
  • A safe learning environment of mutual respect
  • Regularly scheduled extra-help conferences
  • Opportunities for peer tutoring or study groups
  • Use of computers for word-processing or other tasks
  • Creative, innovative teaching

Solebury teachers have a great deal of freedom in designing their courses and establishing classroom policies. Some teachers, for example, routinely allow extra time for tests, others only by special arrangement. Some teachers often give open-book tests; others never do. Although many non-LSP teachers are experienced at tailoring lessons to individual learning styles, not all non-LSP teachers have this expertise. Therefore, when accommodations are needed, the Learning Skills teacher is the primary advocate on campus. The LS teacher will make arrangements with the student’s other teachers, who are not specially trained in teaching students with learning differences, so that the student has the maximum chance of acquiring the skills and knowledge taught in those classes. Accommodations will vary on a case-by-case basis, and all accommodations need to be arranged in advance.

Although LS teachers act as advocates, a key goal of the LSP is to teach students to advocate for themselves, as they will need to in college. Other students with diagnosed learning differences, or their parents, may request that the Director of Studies or the Director of the LSP serve as the student’s advocate. Below is a list of the sorts of accommodations that can be made if appropriate for the individual and if arranged in advance (in some cases like extended time for t

ACCOMMODATIONS THAT MAY BE GRANTED BY ARRANGEMENT

  • Textbooks on tape
  • Extended (but not unlimited) time for tests
  • Permission to copy another student’s class notes or, if available, the teacher’s notes
  • Note-taking accommodation to use a SmartPen
  • Permission to use a laptop computer or other electronic aid in class
  • Use of a word processor for tests and quizzes
  • Test directions (or whole tests) read aloud
  • Permission to take tests in a more distraction-free environment
  • Limited oral testing to supplement written tests
  • Alternate demonstrations of competence or extra-credit assignments, if deemed appropriate
  • Homework assignment book checks
  • Frequent reminders of deadlines
  • Extra advance notice of written assignments
  • Reasonable extensions of deadlines if requested in advance
  • Preferential classroom seating
  • Conferences with teachers as appropriate
  • Regular telephone or e-mail reports to parents by advisors or LS teachers
  • Duplicate texts (available for purchase in the bookstore)

However, it is important to let families know that some accommodations will not be possible, either because we are such a small school or because we feel they could not be implemented without compromising standards. Below is a partial list...

ACCOMMODATIONS THAT CANNOT BE GRANTED

  • Texts of a reading-level or difficulty lower than those used by the class
  • Shorter assignments than those for other students in the class
  • Versions in writing of classroom activities
  • Adaptive testing that avoids course requirements or skills taught in the course
  • Use of electronic aids when test security would be compromised (i.e., spell checker in spelling test)
  • Grades based primarily on effort or improvement rather than achievement
  • Exemption from major course requirements, including homework and class attendance
  • Printed course syllabi
  • Formal written reports to parents beyond those provided for all students