At ECS, each student receives a comprehensive individual achievement battery upon entrance. Students are then carefully placed in each academic area of the curriculum starting at their current skill level in order to ensure success and a consistent, sequential, and mastery-based building of skills. Evidence-based instruction is used, and each student’s progress is carefully monitored. Parents receive weekly specific feedback regarding both academic progress and behavioral goals. Students are assigned to small groups of no more than six students (often smaller groups) in each academic area based upon their needs. Students use iPads to access online content and applications and learn in an interactive, engaging way.
The National Reading Panel found that “to become good readers, children must develop phonemic awareness, phonics skills, the ability to read words in text in an accurate and fluent manner, and the ability to understand word meanings and to apply comprehension strategies consciously and deliberately as they read.” Research also shows that students with reading difficulties can improve their reading ability when provided explicit, systematic, structured instruction in the areas above. Emerald City School provides such instruction.
We also recognize that no single instructional approach works for all students and consequently tailor our methods based on each student’s individual needs. Reading abilities are carefully assessed, linked to specific interventions and monitored to ensure progress. Students are also exposed to a wide variety of literature in both paper and electronic formats with individual and group reading opportunities. Both reading to learn and reading for pleasure are emphasized.
Emerald City School draws upon the latest research to ensure that students develop mathematical competence in basic facts, calculations, and problem solving. Math instruction is explicit and carefully sequenced with ample opportunity for practice and cumulative review. Students are also taught learning strategies including self-monitoring to facilitate higher order mathematical problem solving. Other evidence-based intervention methods include using multiple instructional examples, modes of representation, and procedural approaches. Project-based learning is also provided to actively engage students and help them see real world connections with the math skills that they are learning. On-going progress monitoring is conducted to ensure the specific needs of each student are being met.
- Social Studies
Students explore social studies themes and units about their community, country and world appropriate for their grade level. Emphasis is placed on making content meaningful and relevant. In addition, field trips, class discussions, and collaborative project-based learning are designed to help students become problem solvers and informed about contemporary issues and the world around them. The curriculum utilizes instructional practices that are varied and allow students to learn in different ways. Students are taught research-based strategies for learning social studies content as well study and test taking skills.
The science curriculum helps students to explore and understand the natural world around them. Students learn through hands on experiments and projects that teach the basic fundamentals of science in very interactive, experiential and engaging ways. Emerald City School also uses a number of other evidence-based approaches to teaching science, including small-group activities, class discussion, peer tutoring, mnemonics, graphic organizers, as well as note-taking and reading comprehension strategies.
- Fine Arts
Music, art, dance, and drama activities are designed to support curriculum content and to address and improve cognitive abilities, creative thinking, connection making, artistic achievement, and a sensitive aesthetic awareness.
- Success Attributes
While acknowledging the importance of academic/school success, ECS also recognizes and values the broader notion of “life success”. As children with learning and attention problems move beyond the school-aged years, they will ultimately have to meet the demands of adult life. Research has shown that for many students, the movement to, and through adulthood can be difficult. Fortunately, a number of studies that traced the lives of students with learning disabilities have found that certain characteristics, attitudes, behaviors, and life experiences can help lead students with learning disabilities to positive life outcomes. These have been referred to as “success attributes” (or “success factors”) and include self-awareness/self-acceptance of the learning disability, proactivity, perseverance, emotional coping strategies, goal setting, and the presence and use of social support systems. Presence of these attributes have shown to be at least, if not more important than such factors as academic achievement, socioeconomic status, ethnicity, and IQ in predicting overall life success in students with learning disabilities.
ECS is committed to fostering these attributes in our students through a dedicated research-based instructional program as well as by infusing them into our everyday school activities through “teachable moments”. We believe that students with learning problems who possess these attributes are more likely to reach their full potential and lead happy, satisfying, rewarding, and productive lives. The ECS approach strives to helps students succeed in both school AND life.
- Written Language, Spelling, Handwriting, Keyboarding
Students with writing difficulties often struggle with the planning, composing, and revising skills required for effective writing. They may also have problems with handwriting, spelling, vocabulary, punctuation, capitalization, word usage, and grammar. Fortunately, research shows that the writing performance of students with these difficulties can be improved through explicit, interactive, and scaffolded instruction, along with the teaching of specific learning strategies. Emerald City School uses these evidence-based approaches and continually monitors student progress to ensure effectiveness. Every effort is made with students to celebrate writing success and instill a love of writing.
Spelling is taught in a way that facilitates an understanding of words at the sound, pattern and meaning level. Practice with specific words is provided to develop automatic spelling. Students also learn how to self-check and revise their spelling.
Some students have difficulty with handwriting. Problems may involve placement of letters on lines of paper, maintaining consistency of letter size, specific letter formation, spacing, fluency, speed, and sustained effort. Students receive instruction in these areas, as well in planning, visualizing, self-monitoring, evaluating, and revising letters.
Students are also exposed to assistive writing technologies like word processing, speech synthesis, speech recognition, spell-check, and word prediction. We believe that instructional and compensatory approaches are not mutually exclusive and can be balanced effectively to meet individual student needs. Keyboarding is practiced daily to develop fluency and automaticity in typing skills.
- Physical Education
Physical Education is carefully designed to target fundamentals such as balance, fine and gross motor skills, and eye/hand coordination. Physical fitness and athletic confidence, which research has shown to have a direct positive impact overall on an individual’s feeling of well-being and empowerment are continually fostered. Peer related game skills are always implemented at students’ ability levels so participation and success are ensured. Students are assisted in creating a personal physical fitness routine and activities are selected from multiple sources to meet their unique needs and to provide an avenue to peer culture.
- Assistive Technology
Assistive technology helps children to reach their full potential by enabling them to capitalize on their strengths and bypass difficulties in such areas as reading, writing, math, organization, and memory. All students at Emerald City School will receive an assistive technology evaluation to determine the most beneficial assistive technologies to address their specific learning needs.
- Field Trips
The goal of field trips is to acquaint students at Emerald City School with community resources and to tie in “real world, hands on” experiences with material previously covered in the classroom setting. We take advantage of exposing our students to the kinesthetic learning opportunities that await them outside of the traditional classroom walls, greatly enhanced by our centralized location in the heart of Seattle.
- Social Skills
Many students with learning and attention problems also struggle with social interactions. These issues may include problems establishing friendships, maintaining friendships, lower peer status, and social rejection. These difficulties may in turn lead to loss of self-esteem, low self-confidence, feelings of loneliness, and sadness. For some students, the social side of learning difficulties may be even more distressing than their academic challenges.
Research shows that these social problems can be attributed to difficulties with oral language, nonverbal communication, impulsivity, attention, memory, and “reading” social situations. ECS recognizes and understands the significant effects social skill deficits can have on our students and the underlying issues that may be causing them. We also know that the causes may vary between students. As a result, we have developed personalized interventions to help promote social competence in our students and improve the quality of their lives both in and outside school.
Grading and Reporting
Report Cards are issued quarterly and are based on specific achievement and behavioral data. Both class work and homework are graded and recorded so that student performance is continuously monitored.
Parent conferences are scheduled two times per year (fall and spring) but are always available upon request. In addition, weekly parent-teacher communication through email provides an overview of topics covered in each class subject. This allows parents to gain insight into their student’s weekly successes and areas of difficulty.
Annual standardized assessments are given to each student and the results are shared with parents along with report card data.