HAYIDION The Prizmah Journal

Supporting Students from Eighth Grade to College

by Rabbi Marshall Lesack, High School Principal, and Shera Freedman, Learning Specialist Issue: Differentiation Claire and Emanuel G. Rosenblatt High School at Donna Klein Jewish Academy, Boca Raton, Florida

Our academic coaching program, established five years ago, was designed to provide support to graduates of our middle school who were transitioning to high school and committed to staying in our school, yet needed extra academic support during the high school years. The program has grown from a group of five students to more than 25 students on a part-time or full-time basis. As we have witnessed a growth in both interest and enrollment in this support program, we have continually reviewed our best practices, solicited feedback from our students and parents, and plotted a course forward so that we can graduate all types of learners who are ready for college upon graduation.

The program gives high school students, those who graduated from our middle school and those who joined our community just for high school, the tools and the support system to navigate the rigors of academic work on the high school level while providing them with a regular school day and access to the majority of our courses offered. An individual student plan (ISP) is designed for each student, and one of our two learning specialists is assigned to every student as well. This specialist pushes into the students’ regular classes multiple times in a week and then works with students individually or in groups during a designated period of the day to review assignments, organize calendars and best support the students’ needs. The specialist also serves as a bridge between the students in the program and school faculty, offering tips and teaching strategies to enable faculty to improve instruction for all types of learners.

The needs of each individual student in the program varies, and the learning specialist works with each student to strengthen their study and organization and executive functioning skills, while always delivering strategies to become an independent learner. Students enrolled in the program on a full-time basis meet with our learning specialists every day of the week and receive an elective class credit and a grade, which is then added to their transcript. As students move through their high school years, many who begin in the program will either be involved in it on a part-time basis or in no official capacity by the time they are in twelfth grade. In our opinion, this is a measure of the success of the program.

The academic coaching program has made a tremendous impact on our school community. It has enabled us to meet the needs of more learners, to keep our own students in our community and attract others to join us. Students are well prepared for college-level courses and better able to navigate their own educational journeys. Our teachers are growing as educators as they learn new skills and understand on a deeper level how to teach a multitude of learners. And our students, as full members of our school community in mainly regular or honors-level classes, are supported and mentored while going through high school without any stigma.

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Jewish day schools want every child to succeed in their learning and social-emotional development. How can schools accomplish those lofty goals while teaching many students in the same classroom? This issue explores that conundrum and showcases various ways that learning can be differentiated to meet the needs, capacities, and interests of different students. Articles address differentiation within the classroom, and supporting teachers to learn, transition to, and apply methods of differentiation. Authors discuss the "how-to" as well as the larger goals and vision.

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