The Carroll School curriculum is based on the belief that smart children with language-based learning disabilities, such as dyslexia, become successful students given proper instruction within a positive environment. Our goal is to nurture the full potential of our bright, capable students through mastery of skills, development of a “toolbox” for lifelong learning, and the celebration of the individual strengths of each student. With an overall student-teacher ratio of 3:1, our faculty is able to deliver instruction that is customized for each individual child. Carroll’s curriculum is based on the principles of the highly structured Orton–Gillingham approach and provides our students with a supportive, developmentally-appropriate platform from which they can reach their academic potential and prepare for future success.
The goal of the academic program at Carroll is to challenge and support each student as s/he learns to:
In the Lower School, as reading skills develop, class work moves from listening to reading comprehension where our dyslexic students are making connections, visualizing, understanding text structure, predicting, summarizing, and questioning. The students are introduced to different elements of grammar and they learn how these elements support sentence structure. After the students are reading with sufficient skill, they write paragraphs applying their new understanding of comprehension and sentence structures.
Each English Language Arts lesson is designed to promote our students’ success though explicit instruction, guided practice, and after building a solid foundation, our students are encouraged and learn to take charge of their academic success and perform independently.
In the Middle School, each student meets twice a day in his/her double language class. This class covers all aspects of reading and writing instruction. Additionally, students are assigned to a Focus Area class, designed to provide a “double dose” of instruction in the area(s) of greatest need. Focus Area classes are assigned based largely on teacher and tutor recommendations, work samples, and end of the year assessments. The language-based Focus Area courses vary depending on the needs of the students. A student may focus on more than one element over the course of a school year. In addition to the nine course offerings, students may be assigned to an Orton-Gillingham tutorial.
Orton-Gillingham (O-G) is a structured, sequential, and multisensory approach to teaching reading (decoding) and spelling (encoding) to individuals. All learning modalities are engaged during a lesson (auditory, visual, tactile, and kinesthetic). Since O-G is diagnostic-prescriptive in nature, the teacher designs individualized lessons that include specific strategies that enable each learner to be successful. As students are directly and explicitly taught new skills, they continue to review previously taught materials to a level of automaticity. This cumulative approach to learning allows a student to experience a high degree of success thus gaining in confidence as well as in skill.
At a more advanced level of Orton-Gillingham, students work with Latin roots and affixes, Greek combining forms, accent patterns, and then apply this information to reading, writing, spelling, and vocabulary development.
Traditional math with rote memorization of facts focused on computation does not harness the strengths within the typical child with language-based learning difficulties. Carroll’s math teachers have developed a very different approach to math education, working along-side Dr. David Stevens. A Carroll math class begins with logic activities that challenge a student’s cognitive/thinking skills related to quantity, grouping, relational logic and sequence. Carroll students then utilize their evolving thinking and problem solving skills to solve more traditional arithmetic, geometric, and algebraic problems. The same underlying cognitive processes that can make learning to read a frustrating challenge for dyslexics can make learning math equally daunting: (1) difficulty with access to abstract symbols, (2) slow speed of processing and answer retrieval, (3) struggles with working memory, and (4) problems with attention to salient details (Krasa, 2009). One essential change has significantly improved the conceptual, application, and computation skills of our children: whereas in the sound-symbol association of letters, sounds have no intrinsic meaning, there is a fundamental quantity-symbol association in math that is ripe with meaning. Dyslexic students can be strong math students when conceptual understanding (number sense) is firmly embedded in the curriculum and valued equally (or greater) to computational competence.
An approach to math education that centers on teaching children to think logically has a far greater prospect of success than one that over-values computational speed. Problem solving is a crucial part of the Carroll math program, as well as software programs that develop both computational and conceptual skills. Traditional approaches to math education are no more suited for our students than traditional reading instruction. CarrollMath accentuates the strengths within a dyslexic profile, as we create students who will succeed in traditional math settings.
Carroll’s math curriculum is aligned with the Massachusetts Department of Education Mathematics Framework.
Carroll’s Social Studies/ History curriculum is aligned with our Language Arts classes allowing our dyslexic students to build upon critical skills like developing proficiency in reading, improving comprehension of written text, expanding use of vocabulary, and fostering thoughtful and critical thinking. Our youngest students learn about ancient and modern cultures, and the rich diversity of their traditions, through integrated Language and Social Studies classes. History instruction begins formally in the fifth grade, where students learn about differing perspectives of historical sources, how to evaluate the objectivity of these sources, and then, they begin to develop sound historical reasoning.
In the Middle School, students study world geography and early civilizations, the foundational pillars of the American Government, and 19th and 20th Century United States history. Our 6th, 7th, and 8th grade students demonstrate their understanding of geography and history studies through engaging in and completing written, oral, multi-sensory, and multi-media projects and reports. History lessons also encourage our students to develop a sense of social and civic responsibility.
Throughout the grades, Carroll’s Social Studies/ History program follows the guidelines established by the Massachusetts Social Studies Frameworks and Language and Literacy Frameworks.
The philosophy of the Carroll School Science Department is that hands-on, multisensory learning and activities that foster critical thinking are integral to our population of dyslexic learners’ acquisition of science concepts and skills. To help develop critical thinking, classroom experiences place an emphasis on the process skills of observation, recognition of similarities and differences, categorization, sequencing, recognition of patterns, recognition of part to whole relationships, determination of cause and effect relationships, recognition and control of variables, making predictions, and drawing conclusions. Visual presentations coupled with hands-on, inquiry-based, and design activities provide students with the tangible experiences that form the foundation for building an understanding of concepts and their associated vocabulary (scientific literacy). Technology provides integral tools in the science classroom for instruction, data collection, research, and communication of ideas and understanding.
Carroll’s science curriculum is aligned with the Massachusetts Department of Education Science and Technology/ Engineering Framework.
The Carroll Cognitive Development program uses a developmental approach to build students’ cognitive skills which is based on the foundational work of Dr. Jean Piaget. The cognitive domains addressed include visual-spatial thinking, logical reasoning, general sensorimotor development, ocular-motor development, and digital-motor development. The goals of the program are two-fold: one goal is to identify and address domains of cognitive weakness for each student and the other goal is for each student to foster independent thinking and problem-solving skills.
The Multis Program at the Carroll School consists of three main mediums— Art, Movement, and Library. The Arts area includes Performing Arts and Studio Arts, the Movement area includes Bounders, Movement Arts, and Physical Education, and, in the Lower School, the Library classes which are an integral component of the curricula. Participation in the Multis Program reinforces how our students with dyslexia tend to learn the best—in an active learning environment where they can imagine, problem-solve, create, and model their own ideas.
Assessment at the Carroll School is designed to clearly identify strengths and weaknesses in a student’s learning profile and to develop interventions and programming to address all of the learning needs for that student. We start with a comprehensive admissions process which examines a multitude of variables to determine the appropriate fit. We take great care to enroll students who fit our distinct student profile, and who will be responsive to our approach. Once students are enrolled at Carroll, their individual progress is monitored frequently, and benchmarks of achievement are examined in both short-term and long-term areas. At Carroll, we use Curriculum-Based and Standardized Assessments throughout the year to determine how a student is responding to our specific instruction. Our careful approach to monitoring student progress and gathering data informs instruction and provides opportunities for teachers to adjust their teaching strategies, integrate support, and individualize instruction.