Grace Church School’s High School Division supports a population of diverse learners, applying mainstream education practices that promote the support of neurodiverse learners inspired by the educational pedagogy principles of Universal Design for Learning (UDL), a framework that is widely supported by local and federal public policy across and applied in general education, special education settings, and post-secondary education, with the same goal in mind: To intentionally design engagement opportunities that offer accessible learning to all learners. UDL educators proactively design teaching methodology and assessment practices to celebrate academic excellence through multiple forms.
Grace Church School High School Learning Supports programming is inextricably tied to and extends to our institutional-wide commitment to equity and inclusion, naming and acknowledging that each learner is a kaleidoscope of both advantaged and disadvantaged identities that can directly or indirectly influence access to equitable programming. Inclusive student support is addressed through several key features of our programming:
Teachers strive to provide students multiple means to learn content and practice skills, activating multiple sensory modes to maximize accessibility for a wide range of learning styles. Learning involves an iterative process of assessment and feedback, allowing students to grow as they access and express their learning. Assessments refer to graded assignments or opportunities for students to receive feedback, building students’ comprehension, synthesis, and application of skills and knowledge. Such assessments range from projects, presentations, papers, homework assignments, quizzes, and tests, that promote multisensory means for students to represent their knowledge and celebrate academic excellence.
Some students have documentation of a learning disability, such asSection 504s, IEP, IESPs, or a history of school-based and standardized testing accommodations provide documentation to the Office of High School Learning Supports, Attn: Dr. Katherine Cheung (firstname.lastname@example.org). Recommendations are then summarized and disseminated through GraceNet, accessible only by the student’s dean, advisor, and teachers following the professional standards of confidentiality. This documentation serves several purposes: To provide the student with the insight to empower themselves in developing skills for independent learning and leading conversations to shape their identity as learners; To allow teachers the benefit of individualized insights to inform and contribute to productive relationships with a student; To functionally serve as documentation necessary to apply for accommodations standardized testing. (Note: This process is facilitated by the College Office. Decisions are rendered independently by testing organizations.)
Our student body includes a significant portion of individuals who possess documentation that recommends extra time for assessments in standardized educational settings. We do not follow a standardized classification approach to learning because it is problematic on numerous levels from an equity perspective. First, it requires that students self-identify or make alternate arrangements outside of standard testing procedures, introducing counterproductive barriers such as stigmatization or sacrificing class instruction time or enrichment opportunities. Second, it contradicts the current neuroscience framework that recognizes cognitive speed as distinct from cognitive ability and intelligence.
As an independent school, Grace Church School educators have the privilege of proactively designing assessments that focus on assessing depth of knowledge comprehension instead of on speeded performance. Teachers therefore design and administer assessments that inherently embed 1.5x extended time equivalency practices and provide this to all students, regardless of official documentation status.
These inclusionary practices address the need of all students in the following ways:
For students with documentation: Students do not have to make alternative arrangements, or take separate steps to inform or request for additional time. For these students, their formal timing needs have already been taken into consideration when the teacher initially designed the assessment.
For students without documentation:Barriers to obtaining documentation can include the expense of neuropsychological evaluations, bureaucratically complex negotiations with the Department of Education, or fear of stigmatization or being “tracked.” In standardized education settings, this prevents many students from receiving quality education or assessment practices that honors the neurodiversity of all students.Embedded extended time practices allow for the inclusionary support of all students, regardless of cultural backgrounds, attitudes about learning, or socioeconomic status. (Note: Studies on assessment practices conclude that students who would not otherwise meet criteria for accommodations on standardized educational assessments are not advantaged relative to those who would otherwise qualify for documentation).
Math & Science and Writing Centers are staffed with skilled subject specialists who extend and deepen learning, assisting students with developing their subject understanding outside of a classroom setting. Additionally there is an informal “Homework Center” after school for students who benefit from structured settings to successfully follow through with independent work and learning. Grace Church School also provides in-house standardized testing prep through our College Office, which all students participate in and have access to.
Our Guidance Team is composed of administrators, school counselors, school nurse, and Director of High School Student Support, to support students in extraordinary circumstances when a student’s needs exceed that which can be met through general practices. In those cases, the Guidance team may make additional recommendations in collaboration with the academic team, students, and families.
World Language requirements: Grace Church School High School’s graduation requirements include 3 full years of World Language Sequence in Spanish, French, or Mandarin and therefore, we do not allow for language waivers. However, the Language Department and the Guidance team may recommend that a student take a language course for Credit/No Credit for their third consecutive year of language study. Students may also make a formal application to the Guidance team and Language Department to be considered.
Reduced course load. There are occasions when a student needs to have a reduced course load because of a special short-term issue or circumstance. The Dean or Advisor petitions the Guidance Committee for the load reduction and with the Guidance Committee develops a plan, which may include summer work with other accredited institutions, for the student to make up the missed credits. Under no circumstances does the school reduce the total credits required for graduation.