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Optimal Learning Program

Optimal Learning Program Classroom

The Optimal Learning Program offers students an equal opportunity at excelling in the classroom by providing individualized and small group instruction that supplements various learning styles for any level of the spectrum of learning differences.

The process begins with a student’s referral by a classroom teacher or parent. The Child Study Team (CST), which consists of the school principal, the K-12 counseling-psychologist, the counselors, the Optimal Learning specialist and the Optimal Learning Coordinator, work together to determine which programs offered by the school will most effectively meet the student’s needs and provide opportunities for them to reach their potential . The Optimal Learning Program specialist works closely with teachers to differentiate the student’s curriculum and adjust his/her learning experience to suit his/her individual needs.

A full battery of psycho-educational assessments, which are administered by in-house, or non ACS Athens based psychologists, must be completed prior to enrollment in the Optimal Learning Program. Based on their findings and subsequent report, standards are set according to the individual needs of the referred student. Effective strategies are developed by the Optimal Learning Program specialist and are then shared with all teachers working with each particular student. Small group instruction and cooperative learning activities are incorporated within the student’s curriculum in order to complement various learning abilities.



The Individual Learning Plan (ILP) is a formal, comprehensive document that outlines each student’s profile. It indicates the student’s learning difference, preferred learning style, strengths and areas of difficulties. It also states the accommodations that students are eligible for and lists the goals the Optimal Learning Program specialist works on in the classroom. Lastly, there is a section on the ILP where the counselors are asked to develop goals for students that are in need of counseling services, as stated in the psycho-educational assessment.



The Optimal Learning Program specialist provides support and guidance to the classroom teachers in order to properly support student abilities.  Collaboration is established among the entire team and valuable tactics are adopted in order to enable students to maintain success within the classroom.  Progress Reports are an informative account of the student’s strengths and areas that need improving. Progress reports are completed via Skyward or through direct email to parents.  This information provides the family and program with evidence of student strengths and areas where additional assistance is needed in order for the student to excel in the classroom.

The Optimal Learning Program also uses an inclusion type model as a support service for students who need monitoring to help them succeed in the regular content classes. The Optimal Learning Program specialist and / or Optimal Learning Program aide enter the content classes with the students to provide on the spot assistance. The Optimal Learning Program specialist communicates and meets regularly with members of the faculty which help to regulate the monitoring of the student.

Optimal Learning Program Consultation

Optimal Learning Program Consultation is a support service for students who need monitoring and / or testing accommodations to help them succeed in the regular class; it does not involve classroom instruction.

1. The Optimal Learning Program specialist meets with the student on a pull-out basis during a scheduled convenient time for both. This consultation may be up to 20 minutes long and may take place once a week. The student is responsible for contacting the Optimal Learning Program specialist just as much as the Optimal Learning Program specialist is responsible for contacting the student.

2. Optimal Learning Program consultation students are entitled to accommodations, which are specific to each student’s needs. Accommodations are specific guidelines for teachers to follow so that individual student needs are met. These guidelines are presented in the Individual Learning Plan (ILP).

3. Formal communication with parents takes place through progress reports and phone calls or emails as often as necessary.

4. The Optimal Learning Program specialist communicates regularly with members of the faculty which helps to regulate the monitoring of a consultation student.

5. Students who require more support and small group instruction are placed in an 80- minute block of time, which meets every other day by grade level.

6. Placement of students in the Optimal Learning Program, either in Optimal Learning Program consultation or Optimal Learning Program small group instruction will be determined by the Child Study Team.

Support Plan for Instruction, Assessment and Accessibility (SPIAA)

The Optimal Learning Program Support Plan for Instruction, Assessment and Accessibility (SPIAA) is a support service for students who need accommodations to help them succeed in the regular class; it does not involve classroom instruction, person to person consultation or monitoring. It is a minimal support service for students in the OLP who have progressed as independent learners.

  • The Optimal Learning Program specialist meets with the student once in the beginning of the academic year to review his/her support plan.  The student is then responsible for contacting the Optimal Learning Program specialist if and when assistance is needed.  The Optimal Learning Program specialist is not responsible for contacting the student
  • Optimal Learning Program SPIAA students are entitled to accommodations, which are specific to each student’s needs.  Accommodations are specific guidelines for teachers to follow so that individual student needs are met. These guidelines are presented in the Individual Learning Plan (ILP).  Classroom teachers are responsible for implementing/providing these accommodations.  If a student’s accommodation requires a quiet space and/or additional time for test-taking, the accommodation will be provided by the Optimal Learning Program
  • The Optimal Learning Program specialist communicates regularly with members of the faculty which helps to regulate the monitoring of a SPIAA student
  • Placement of students in the Optimal Learning Program, either in Optimal Learning Program consultation, Optimal Learning Program Support Plan for Instruction, Assessment and Accessibility (SPIAA), or Optimal Learning Program small group instruction will be determined by the Child Study Team

Differentiated Instruction at ACS Athens

OLP realizes the importance of addressing each student's needs in the classroom, so as to optimize/customize his/her learning experience; this is accomplished with Differentiated Instruction.

Read more below:

Differentiated Instruction is Like Environmentally Sensitive Land Development
"The development begins with an assessment of the current landscape.  The underlying bedrock differs from place to place like students’ academic levels.  There are existing structures or roads (students’ prior knowledge), different soil types (cultural origins) and several elevations and drainage patterns (preferred pathways of absorbing and using knowledge).  A timeline (the school year) and resource restrictions (curriculum and testing) must be balanced.  A successful development uses the assets from current landscape as the basis for new construction."
- Adventure of the American Mind Northern Virginia Partnership

Optimal Learning Mentor Program

Description

The Mentor Program has been developed to challenge students who have exceptional abilities in a variety of areas.  The expansion of the Optimal Learning Program to incorporate the high end of the learning spectrum will enable students to achieve the utmost of their potential.

This program identifies students with exceptional strengths and creates a learning environment in which students can fully develop these talents and interests.

The mentors guide and coach students into creating original and quality work.  The students develop ideas or projects that are creative and innovative based on their interests, encouraging and cultivating the students’ curiosity.  The mentor is responsible for designing a “curriculum” that challenges the students and promotes learning.

Acceptance Criteria

  • Application form to be submitted to the Optimal Learning Program Coordinator
The application form to the mentor program consists of three short answer questions and a letter. The questions are very specific and the letter is the means through which applicants can express their uniqueness as to why they should be a part of the mentor program.
  • Above average intellectual functioning (IQ of 130 and above)
One of the requirements to being accepted to the mentor program involves taking an Intelligence test. The aim of the Intelligent Quotient (IQ) test is to measure the intelligence of a child, which is one indication of a child’s potential. It tests and analyses the performance of the student on a series of analytical, mathematical, and spatial activities, and the success with those activities will be represented as an IQ score.
OR...
  • Score in the 95th percentile or above on a standardized test
Standardized tests evaluate how students perform in relation to other students and are one of the tools that can be used to determine entrance for the mentor program.  These tests help in the identification process of students that are performing above and beyond their grade level.

* The Emotional Intelligence Quotient (EQ) will also be considered in determining the best fit for the student.

  • Three Letters of Recommendations from ACS Athens faculty
A letter of recommendation can provide detailed information about a student.  These letters should outline many of the characteristics we will be looking for in applicants to the mentor program. Some of these characteristics may include: communication skills, leadership, intellectual ability, critical thinking skills, ability to get along with peers, adaptability and motivation.
  • Interview with the Division Chairs
The final stage of the application process for the mentor program is to sit for an interview with one or more of the division chairs of ACS Athens.  The interview provides the utmost opportunity for the applicant to express why they should be a part of the program and allows for determining the best fit.

* There is a fee for enrollment in the Optimal Learning Mentor Program.

Exhibit, May 28 2015

The Optimal Learning Program hosted its Mentor Program Exhibition on Monday, May 28, 2015 in the Theater's Lobby & Atrium.  Students involved in the program had the opportunity to showcase their learning to their peers, teachers and parents by presenting their projects and sharing their experiences.

The photo gallery from the exhibit can be found here »

Exhibit, May 28 2014

The Optimal Learning Program hosted its final Mentor Program Exhibit on Monday, May 28, 2014 in the Main Library.  Mentors, students (participating or not) - as well as many parents - had the opportunity to go through a variety of projects and activities, ask questions and be surprised! All projects were developed during academic year 2013-2104.

View the photo gallery from the exhibit here »

Luncheons, May 2013

The Optimal Learning Program hosted two Mentor Program luncheons on Monday, May 20, 2013, at 12:00 and then again at 13:30, in the Theater Lobby Atrium.  All mentors and students had the opportunity to bring closure to their learning through the sharing of projects and activities that they have been working towards throughout this academic year, 2012-2103.

View photos from the luncheon event here »

Open House 2013

The Optimal Learning Program welcomed all ACS teachers to its second Open House which took place on Tuesday, February 12th. The two topics for discussion were Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), presented by Dr. Vicky Mousouli and Learning Related Vision Difficulties presented by Dr. Fotis Velissarakos.

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is one of the most common learning differences encountered in children today. ADHD is associated with symptoms of inattention, hyperactivity, impulsivity and other behaviors that have been characterized as disruptive or as impeding learning in the classroom. Students that are diagnosed with ADHD or have ADHD characteristics need specific classroom interventions in order to be successful in school. In her presentation, Dr. Mousouli was able to give her audience a brief overview of what ADHD is as well as strategies that if implemented can assist the students.

Learning Related Vision Difficulties presentation

Students that are diagnosed with Learning Related Vision Difficulties struggle with coordinating their eyes but also in using their eyes in coordination with their hand movements. For this reason they may experience difficulty with sustaining their attention and focus, but they may also see things double or blurry. This in turn can hamper academics leading to difficulty with reading and writing. Dr. Velissarakos provided us with a checklist highlighting behaviors students may display if they are experiencing vision difficulties as well as a description of vision training.

The Optimal Learning Program looks forward to its next Open House, providing its colleagues with hands on experiences in working with students with learning difficulties.

The Optimal Learning Program pioneered its first of a series of open house events for the 2011-2012 academic year on November 16, 2011. This was an initiative generated by a sincere desire of many of our teachers to learn more about accommodating students with learning differences in the classroom. The event was considered a big success!

The first theme for exploration was on attention, concentration and staying focused.

Over 30 ACS Athens faculty and staff members attended, during which they were given the opportunity to engage in hands-on activities designed to challenge them into embracing learning difficulties. They “walked in the shoes” of a student with a learning difficulty to better understand how such a student feels on a daily basis at school.

The Optimal Learning Program is committed to creating a positive rapport with colleagues, establishing open lines of communication and creating a safe and approachable environment for all.

The next Open House event is schedule to take place in February 12, 2013. Details will be announced at a later date.


Brochures & Documents

See related resources and programs in the IIC's   Learning Enhancement Programs