At Sterne we understand that a critical component of effective instruction is the engagement of students at their instructional level. A child’s instructional level in a given academic area, also known as the zone of proximal development, is the difficulty level that is just beyond the child’s ability to work independently, where new learning is possible.
It is often the case that a child’s instructional level is not in alignment with their grade level in a particular academic area. The placement of students in small groups of learners that share their instructional level enables Sterne teachers to target instruction in ways that build on academic strengths or remediate lagging skills. We also know that a student who struggles in one academic area may show incredible strength in another, so groupings change from one subject to the next.
A variety of assessment resources contribute to our understanding of a student’s instructional level. At intake, we look at any information that a family can provide. This could include psychoeducational reports, observations from prior schools, parent observations, or other assessments. The intake process includes visits to classrooms to determine whether a child is a social fit for the school, and also the administration of the Wide Range Achievement Test (WRAT). The WRAT gives us further insight into the academic levels a child brings to Sterne.
As a student progresses through the program, we continually assess his or her academic growth to ensure optimal placement. We administer the Measure of Academic Progress (MAP), a standardized assessment in the areas of math, reading, and language usage, three times per year. This information, combined with curriculum-based formative and summative assessments, teacher observation, and parent feedback, keeps us informed as to how a child is responding to instruction.
When a student demonstrates lagging skills in the area of reading, we monitor progress more closely using assessments native to our core reading intervention, Tattum Reading, as well as more commonly used measures such as the Developmental Reading Assessment (DRA).
All of this information helps us develop and maintain groups that maximize the learning potential of each student. As the instructional level is the primary variable in forming groups, we often have classes with students from different grades. Personalities, peer relationships, and other aspects of a student’s learning profile are also considered as a part of this process. Our groupings are dynamic and our schedule is flexible so that we can continually ensure that students engage with learning in the most impactful way.
- lower school