A Closer Look
Goals of the program
In addition to preparing students for college-level study in the future, the program’s objectives are two-fold. A central goal is to identify each student’s educational difficulties and to address them through individually tailored academic supports and accommodations. A second goal is to help the student to access and participate in the school’s college preparatory curriculum. The student plays an essential collaborative role in this process.
The key strategy employed by the Cervone Center for Learning is the Communication Skills (CS) class, a daily one-to-one class designed to address compensatory strategies, and in some individual cases, remediation. The CS teacher begins the year by completing an assessment of the student’s strengths and areas of academic need. This assessment includes a thorough review of the student’s academic history and formal psychological and educational evaluations. This may also include the administration of tests designed to assess the student’s specific instructional needs, for example, an Informal Reading Inventory that assesses the student’s reading level, reading comprehension skills, and word reading skills. From this initial assessment process, an educational plan is developed that is referred to as the Communication Skills Plan (CSP). The CSP is the framework for establishing short and long-term instructional objectives for addressing individual needs within the CS class and for helping the student to develop strategies for managing the academic material presented in other classes. Included in this plan is a focus on developing skills of self-advocacy.
Various instructional methods are used within the CS class to address individual needs, as appropriate. These may include methods for improving reading skills such as Lexia (a computer-based reading program), Lindamood Bell and, components of the Wilson Method, or other Orton Gillingham related methods. Other methods, such as a Process Approach or Inspiration (a computer-based idea mapping program) may be used to improve writing skills. Students may also be taught to use assistive technologies such as voice recognition or text-to-speech programs, and the use of audio books, to help them compensate for skills weaknesses.
Strategies for helping students learn to manage the academic material presented in other classes include a focus on study and organizational skills, particularly in the preparation for tests and the completion of longterm projects. Students are expected to develop an understanding of the way they learn best, and attention is given to how well students are using learned strategies in their work in other courses.
Sixth-grade students enroll in a Communication Skills class in conjunction with their other courses. In grades seven through twelve, a student will in most cases have a Cervone Center for Learning (LC) English class and may have an LC class in mathematics as well as a Communication Skills class. These small LC classes are taught by content-area teachers who understand the accommodations needed to present course material to students who struggle in a specific academic area. They follow the same general curriculum as a standard course, but the size of the class makes accommodation possible in the presentation of the material and provides the individual attention that assists learning. Beyond these, students follow a standard course of study.
Success after Pennington
The goal for most students is to transition out of LC classes before graduation from Pennington and to achieve the independence and confidence that will help to assure them success in college and beyond.