It is important that students feel safe and supported in their learning environments. As a small school, TLC Leadership is able to provide a personalized, relationship-based approach to supporting students’ learning. While we use the term personalized learning to describe some of the work at TLC, this term has been called many things and is often interpreted in different ways to mean adaptive learning, blended learning, competency-based learning, differentiated learning, and individualized learning.
We define personalized learning in a way that is congruent with the U.S. National Education Technology Plan (2017) which defines personalized learning as: “instruction in which the pace of learning and the instructional approach are optimized for the needs of each learner. Learning objectives, instructional approaches, and instructional content (and its sequencing) may all vary based on learner needs.” Our approach to personalized learning is rooted in relationships and not just understanding students’ academic needs on some learning trajectory but also understanding their social and emotional needs in order to be successful in school.
Intentionally Small School Design
There is strong, nonpartisan research which provides data to suggest that small schools increase graduation rates, create more opportunities for children to build relationships with teachers and other adults in the building and, because of their small nature, can allow students to foster trusting and caring relationships with both adults and peers.
Low Student to Teacher Ratio
As a school community, we will be deliberate about working to cultivate strong relationships and leverage them in service of meeting our mission. There are two teachers in each classroom 6-8, with a maximum of 25 scholars per class. This 12:1 student teacher instructional staffing ratio will allow teachers to develop better relationships with students. All TLC Leadership students need to know that they are fully known, accepted, and loved, and our staffing model supports this by prioritizing closer-knit classroom communities.
Inclusive Approach to Special Education
With our unique approach to education, we seek to motivate students’ self-discipline, build self-esteem, develop character, and foster creative energy and logical reasoning skills. Because of our low teacher to student ratio and the presence of a certified special education teacher in every classroom, we can better engage our students and individualize instruction based on their academic needs.
We subscribe to a multi-sensory and open classroom approach, incorporating a fundamental principle of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) along with a similar principle from the Pennsylvania Child and Adolescent Service System Program (CASSP): The Least Restrictive Environment (LRE). The open classroom model reinforces the importance we place on creative thinking and our efforts to create an accepting atmosphere.
Multi-Age Learning Environments
Students at TLC Leadership will experience their education in two grade bands, which we call houses: 6-8 and 9-12. Within these houses, there will be intentionally small classes of no more than 25 students with two teachers. While a student might stay with the same teacher year after year within a grade band, that will not be required and may not always be ideal. Sometimes having a student build a relationship with a different teacher will make the most sense. Multi-age groupings will be made intentionally each year based on students’ instructional, social, emotional, and mental health needs.
Our multi-age environments are learner-centered with high academic standards. Research on learning in multi-age learning environments suggests that such environments create a strong-sense of community, allow for peer modeling, and allow students to learn at a pace that is appropriate for their learning needs rather than within the context of a grade-based curriculum-centered model of schooling. Importantly, TLC Leadership students will be held accountable to PA Core Standards at all grade levels. A detailed image of the school organization is included. (see Appendix A1 – School Organization Graphic).
Instruction that is culturally responsive recognizes that students come to school with a culture, and that including students’ cultural references in all aspects of learning no only enriches classroom experiences, it helps keep students engaged. Culturally responsive schools, like TLC Leadership, focus on designing educational experiences that are more fully student-centered and inclusive of student voice and experience while working to ensure that students receive equal opportunities to achieve their full potential. In order to achieve this goal, teachers must be prepared to effectively design and facilitate learning for every student.
Students at TLC Leadership will feel like they are part of the larger Audubon community through integrated project based learning activities, college and career readiness seminars, junior year internships, and capstone projects.
Families as Partners
TLC Leadership recognizes the important role that families can play in any students’ success. Families are a child’s first educator, and they have a huge influence on children both during their school years and beyond. Research demonstrates that effective schools have high levels of parent and community involvement. When families are connected to schools, student learning, attendance, and behavior improve. TLC Leadership recognizes the crucial role that families play in a child’s education and therefore why it is so important that families and schools work together in partnership.