The Sterling Program serves students in grades 4K-5th utilizing the Multi-Tiered Systems of Support Framework and focuses heavily on personalized learning. Now we know that personalized learning is a buzzword in education and lots of educational institutions claim to personalize the learning of their students, but our school has made personalization of learning a priority for our students. What does this look like in practice for Sterling Program students? It looks like the following:
- Technology enables teachers to extend the general curriculum in order to build foundational skills or extend beyond the grade level standards.
- Students in kindergarten through 2nd grade have Chromebooks and/or iPads in their classrooms to begin learning to navigate technology and build a strong foundation in technology proficiency.
- Every student in grades 3-5 is issued a Chromebook so that they have exposure to 21st century technology skills. Our teachers utilize the guided reading framework for differentiated reading instruction based on ability level.
- Our teachers utilize the guided math framework for differentiated math instruction based on student ability level. Ongoing professional development is anchored in the Laney Sammon’s framework for guided math.
- Our teachers emphasize an inquiry-based, hands-on approach to learning in science and social studies through the use of our school’s maker-space and STEM Carts, in addition to what individual teachers offer in their own classrooms.
- Our teachers have also been Smart Arts Certified and integrate the arts into the core curriculum at every opportunity, including partnering with artists in residence to foster creativity in learning.
Additionally, we do not believe student learning should be bound by the walls of a classroom. We believe in continually measuring and monitoring the progress of our students and using multiple data points to determine appropriate placement and setting for our students based on their needs rather than on their age or “typical grade level”. Our unique situation, being home to both an elementary and middle school combined with hosting the Charles Townes Center for Highly Gifted Students, allows us to offer a highly personalized program of study with flexible grouping that other schools are unable to offer. For example, while all schools use student achievement data to inform student placement, we are able to use that same data (from MasteryConnect Benchmarks, MAP Scores, SC READY and SC PASS, etc.) to identify students who are advanced in one or more areas and we have developed a master schedule to allow for grouping by ability. In other words, all Sterling Program teachers begin the day with a 2 hour or longer block to teach reading/language arts, writing, and mathematics. For example, if a student in 2nd grade is advanced in math, he or she can join a 3rd or even a 4th grade class for math, but return to their homeroom for reading. And, unlike other elementary schools, we have the ability to provide academic support up to the instructional level of 10th grade because of our structure.
All of these frameworks and initiatives are supported by our school’s emphasis on the whole child. In addition to the academic content and cognitive skills your child will be taught, we also focus heavily on social-emotional learning. Research shows that students learn best when their emotional needs are met. We have a strong school counseling department that partners with our teachers and all have been trained in best practices for addressing the various challenges that children face as they grow and learn. We strive to ensure that each child has the opportunity to learn and grow in a school environment that is safe, supportive, challenging, engaging, and promotes healthy development.