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Expanding Our Learning Experiences: Student Services at ISDenver

 

Our Student Services team, only two years old, has already made a significant difference at ISDenver with impressive programming, assessments, and learning experiences now available to our learners. 

As the mission of the department states: 

The International School of Denver is an inclusive school offering an education to students with a wide range of learning differences and individual needs including those with specific learning difficulties and differences and those who are highly achieving or gifted and talented and require challenge and enrichment. As a school, ISDenver has adapted the IBO’s definition of inclusion as: “Inclusion is an ongoing process that aims to increase access and engagement in learning for all students by identifying and removing barriers. This can only be successfully achieved in a culture of collaboration, mutual respect, support, and problem solving.”

The Support team is made up of 5 specialists: our Head of Student Services, Marzia Mauffrey; 2 Lower School Support Specialists, Deanna Foss and Debra Mcqueen; 1 Student Counselor, Elizabeth Souba; and one Challenge & Enrichment (C&E) /MYP Learning Support Specialist, Chrissie Vroome. This team also provides support to English Language Learners (ELL), through 4 English teachers that provide individualized interventions.  Student Services also oversees our Measurement of Academic Performance (MAP) standardized assessments, held twice a year from G3-G8, as well as the CogAT testing in 3rd and 6th grades, a cognitive ability test to screen for C&E students. Mauffrey also trains ISDenver faculty on how to use MAP data to drive instructions, model differentiated instructions. and support staffs in needs with teaching and learning.

As our Student Counselor, in less than a year, Souba has implemented a variety of programs to assist and empower all learners. This includes launching the Student Ambassador program; Mix It Up Lunches (where students across grade levels socialize together instead of by class); weekly Social and Emotional Aspects of Learning (SEAL) lessons for MYP; and creating videos that send powerful messages to our community.

Learning support in the Lower School provides intervention in reading, writing, and math, as well as behavioral intervention in collaboration with Souba. Our specialists have also built a relationship with Denver Public Schools, where their specialists come onto our campus to provide specific services for some of our learners.

With regards to Challenge and Enrichment (C&E), our team believes “in a growth mindset and that all children have the potential to learn and grow. Some learners demonstrate the potential to learn more quickly and achieve at higher levels than their peers at any given time. Our team ensures that these highly achieving students are recognized, engaged, and challenged accordingly.” They also recognize that giftedness, intelligence, and talent are fluid concepts and may look different in different contexts and cultures. 

Student project as part of Challenge and Enrichment. Specialist Chrissie Vroome coordinates the assessment of students who are recognized as needing support, and liaises with teachers to provide these mechanisms. These students are recognized based on their MAP test scores, cognitive ability tests, behavior characteristics, and demonstrated performances in their schoolwork.  Additionally, Chrissie meets with the C&E students once a week during lunch (G5&6 and G7&8 groups), setting learning plans and goals together, and developing projects to hit these goals, such as a Shark Tank enrichment activity that required students to develop, produce, and pitch an invention. 

In the Upper School, Challenge and Enrichment is provided with projects that go beyond their curriculum. For example, tracking for Math Honors starts in 5th grade, all the way through 8th, preparing these students for Algebra 2 and Trigonometry in high school. In English, all classes are differentiated and the students are reading to their ability. Across MYP, all students are challenged to their ability and preference in instructions, and are provided with advanced English classes, as well as Math Count challenge preparation, for students who qualify.

For learners who need even further differentiation, Student Services develops individual programs that are recorded in personal portfolios. The portfolio is shared with the learner’s teachers and parents, and passed on to successive teachers as the learner progresses through school, year to year. They also use various tools to differentiate, such as: iXLl (an immersive K-12 learning experience that provides comprehensive, standards-aligned content for math, language arts, science, and social studies); Khan Academy (practice exercises, instructional videos, and a personalized learning dashboard that empower learners to study at their own pace in  and outside of the classroom); and DreamBox (an online K-8 math program, with Intelligent Adaptive Learning technology, offered in multiple languages) - all of which provide individualized instructions for all learners.

And this program is just getting started: while this year the team is focused on targeted, differentiated instructions in math and learning support tools, in the future they plan to develop more opportunities for Challenge and Enrichment students in the Lower School to participate in extra lessons and outside school events to extend their learning. They also will be researching and evaluating new reading assessment tools for K2 - K3 learners, and plan to create a better system to evaluate, intervene, and support ELL students, to make the transition to ISDenver more efficient and effective. To learn more about Student Support and our offerings, visit our Student Support page, or contact our Head of Student Services, Marzia Mauffrey.

 

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