Empowering students with language-based learning differences
Siena seeks to create a highly individualized and personalized learning experience for each student. We accomplish this by maintaining a small overall school size and small class sizes, as well as by providing students with a range of individual supports such as a faculty advisor and an individualized learning plan. The school faculty meets regularly to discuss and actively manage individual student progress. Teachers collaborate to ensure each student is successful, discussing what does or does not work for them and personalizing their instruction, work, or accommodations as needed. This may mean that students in the same class are studying the same topic but doing slightly different work.
For example, in math, students will study a single concept but their individual work might differ based on level. The teacher may provide three sets of problems with increasing difficulty and allow the students to choose the set they work on, or they may specifically assign sets based on ability for a nightly homework assignment. Teachers often work to challenge those who may be ahead with more in-depth or advanced applications, while providing additional support to those who may have not yet achieved mastery. Multisensory lessons and practices help students to access materials and showcase their individual strengths.
Personalized attention to each student is further enhanced by faculty advisors who provide individualized guidance and support. Each student is assigned a faculty advisor who acts as a counselor for the student and monitors their academic progress. The advisor also serves as the primary point of contact for all communication with the parents, helping to streamline and coordinate communication between parents and the school. Students meet with their advisor twice a day, once during morning homeroom and again in the afternoon before dismissal. The morning homeroom provides opportunities for D.E.A.R. time (Drop Everything and Read) and to check that the students are organized and prepared for the day. Finally, afternoon homeroom provides a smooth transition home, including the gathering of all materials required for homework.
Effective home–school communication is a critical element of student success at Siena. Our staff works in close cooperation with parents to ensure regular communication of important information and individual student progress. Parents receive e-mails or phone calls from the advisor updating them on their student's progress. Advisors call home to discuss mid-quarter grades (four times a year) and regular parent–teacher conferences are also scheduled.
Communication between home and Siena is supplemented by the use of student assignment planners and communication folders. Assignment planners record homework and other assignments in each class period, and students maintain a communication folder in which all important letters, memos, and other documents for the parents are placed. We encourage parents to check these each night. In addition, a weekly parent newsletter is e-mailed home on Fridays. Starting in grade 8, students and parents can also access their grades through a portal. Assignments and grades are updated regularly, and students are encouraged to check their grades and progress regularly, advocating with teachers throughout the quarter as needed.