Conferences/Events
Languages Department
Learning Differences Conference 2013
ACS Athens Student Affairs and  College News

Optimal Learning Program JK-12

The Referral ProcessDiagram

The Optimal Learning Program offers students with learning differences an opportunity to fully participate, contribute and excel in the classroom. Students who receive Optimal Learning services are provided the necessary accommodations in order to be empowered so they can reach their fullest academic potential.

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 Optimal Learning Program provides three levels of support:

  1. OLP Classroom,
  2. OLP Consultation, and
  3. OLP Support Plan for Instruction, Assessment and Accessibility (SPIAA).

Whether a student is enrolled in Optimal Learning Program Classroom, Optimal Learning consultation or Optimal Learning Program Support Plan for Instruction, Assessment and Accessibility (SPIAA) is determined by the Chair of the Optimal Learning Program if the student enters the program through admissions and the Child Study Team (upon the recommendation of the OLP specialist and Chair of OLP) if the student is already enrolled in the school and is referred for OLP services.

 

OLP Class

The Optimal Learning Program Classroom is a support service for students who require the attainment of academic skills so as to better perform in the educational setting. Small group classroom instruction and cooperative learning activities are incorporated within the student’s curriculum in order to complement various learning abilities.

  1. This class takes place during a specific block of time and meets regularly (3 times a week).
  2. During OLP class, students work on areas of identified weakness by utilizing their strengths and learning strategies, which are modeled, practiced and eventually generalized throughout all mainstream classroom settings.
  3. Students receive an ILP and are provided accommodations that cater to their learning needs.
  4. The OLP specialist is in close collaboration with teachers in order to ensure that the progress in OLP class is transferred in the regular classroom. This process involves identifying limitations and difficulties that the student may experience in being successful in the regular classroom.
  5. Formal communication with parents takes place at the end of the school year, where the ILP is reviewed, progress is discussed and new goals for the following school year are set. The parents of the newly enrolled students meet with the OLP team in the beginning of the school year. The OLP specialists also participate in the parent-teacher conferences that take place across all schools. In addition, communication between the professionals of the Optimal Learning Program is continuous and ongoing throughout the year via phone calls or emails as often as necessary.

 

OLP Consultation

The Optimal Learning Program Consultation is a support service for students who need support as well as testing accommodations to help them succeed in the regular class; however, these students have achieved higher levels of independence and do not require OLP class time.

  1. The Optimal Learning Program specialist meets with the student on a pull-out basis during a scheduled convenient time for both. This consultation lasts between 15 and 20 minutes and takes place once a week. The Optimal Learning Specialist is responsible in contacting the student in the beginning of the school year and arranging the regular weekly meeting. After three times that the specialist may call on the student to come to the session, the responsibility is the student’s to remember the appointment and show up (this applies for Academy students).
  2. Optimal Learning Program consultation students receive an ILP as described above and are entitled to accommodations, which are specific to each student's needs. Accommodations are stated within the ILP as guidelines for teachers to follow so that individual student needs are met.
  3. The Optimal Learning Program specialist communicates regularly with members of the faculty which help support the consultation student’s progress.
  4. Formal communication with parents takes place at the end of the school year, where the ILP is reviewed, progress is discussed and new goals for the following school year are set. The parents of the newly enrolled students meet with the OLP team in the beginning of the school year. The OLP specialists also participate in the parent-teacher conferences that take place across all schools. In addition, communication between the professionals of the Optimal Learning Program is continuous and ongoing throughout the year via phone calls or emails as often as necessary.

 

OLP 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 classroom. This service 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.

  1. 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. It is the responsibility of the student to contact the Optimal Learning Program specialist.
  2. 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 student’s Support Plan for Instruction and Accessibility (SPIAA). Classroom teachers are responsible for implementing/providing these accommodations. For example, 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 either in the regular classroom after communication with the teacher or in the OLP unit.
  3. The Optimal Learning Program specialist communicates with members of the faculty which helps to regulate the progress of a SPIAA student.

ILP/SPIAA Documents

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.
  • The ILP and SPIAA documents are based on the psycho educational assessment report the student must have received from either an external assessor or through the Diagnostic Center of ACS.
  • The ILP/SPIAA is renewed every end of the school year after meeting with parents and reviewing the student’s yearly progress. New goals are set for the next school year. These meetings take place every school year during May and June.
  • For new oncoming students, the ILP meetings take place by end of September of the new school year.

Differentiated Instruction at ACS Athens

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

Read more below:

"Even though students may learn in many ways, the essential skills and content they learn can remain steady. That is, students can take different roads to the same destination" (Tomlinson).

Differentiation is connected to the key attributes of learning.

How Do People Learn?

  • People learn what is personally meaningful to them.
  • People learn when they accept goals that are challenging but achievable for them.
  • Learning is developmental.
  • Individuals learn differently.
  • People construct new knowledge by building on their current knowledge.
  • Much learning occurs through social interaction.
  • People need feedback to learn.
  • A positive emotional climate strengthens learning.

Differentiation involves the following key principles:
  • Ongoing, Formative Assessment
  • Recognition of Diverse Learners
  • Group Work
  • Problem Solving
  • Choice

At least four classroom elements can be differentiated based on student readiness, interest, or learning profile:
  • Content – what the student needs to learn or how the student will get access to the information;
  • Process – activities in which the student engages in order to make sense of or master the content;
  • Products – culminating projects that ask the student to rehearse, apply, and extend what he or she has learned in a unit;
  • Affect- how student emotions and feelings impact their learning and;
Learning Environment – the way the classroom works and feels.

 

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 Chair of the Optimal Learning Program JK-12
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.

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.

 

Brochures & Documents



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