The Whole Child: Understanding Students and Their Unique Learning Styles

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Glens Colman

Excerpted from our newsletter: Carroll Connection, Winter 2017. In this edition, we highlighted 4 key belief statements that came from our all-staff meeting held prior to the 2016-17 school year. Read the full edition.

BELIEF STATEMENT #2: We believe that through a dynamic process informed by parents, teachers, counselors, data, and student performance, we can identify and provide each child with what she or he most needs in order to optimize performance in both academic and social/emotional realms and become strong self-advocates and lifelong learners. Read our belief statements.

“The most dynamic change that we found from when our daughter was in public school to Carroll was that she could finally access her education and she stopped feeling like a failure every day.”

We hear this story so often from our parent community - their bright children struggling to achieve academically as their confidence takes a hit, parents frustrated as they spend extra hours supporting homework outside their child’s grasp. It’s what fuels our vision to give each child what he or she most needs.

But how do we accomplish this? The answer is simple - get a whole picture of a child’s strengths and the struggles that inhibit learning. The solution is complex.

Understanding a child’s profile is the concerted effort of many staff and faculty members, an incredible amount of data, and the time to ensure careful and thoughtful review. It looks something like this.

Admissions Team and Team-to-Team Transfers

Admissions and/or previous team members gather and communicate important information to current teachers through team-to-team transfers at spring/summer meetings, at the beginning of the year, and within our student information system.

Teachers and Tutors

Teachers and tutors participate in a “file review” of their students prior to school beginning. Observations, formative assessment, curriculum-based assessments, and standardized assessments are all tools teachers use to monitor progress.


Every faculty member has a coach that meets with them weekly to discuss students and programming. Often coaches are department heads and will work with teachers to understand each of their student’s learning profiles.

Academic Teams

Each grade level has a team of teachers who meet weekly with relevant administrators to discuss student progress across disciplines. In the middle school, each advisor presents a student’s profile to all other team members through a case conference. Action plans are developed for all students.

Administrative Teams

Each division has an administrative team that meets weekly to discuss student progress and concerns. These teams look closely at data pertaining to both the performance of each department as well as the progress of each student. Department Heads also participate in administrative meetings once a week to address important relevant issues regarding student programming.

Child Study

When specific concerns about a student persist, the student is then brought to a focused review by the academic leadership team. During these meetings, a cross-section of educators from various departments (academic, counseling, cognitive, administrative) meet together to complete a “grand round” study of that student in order to clearly identify the presenting issue and discuss how the child’s neurological profile may be contributing to the difficulties s/he is experiencing. A formal plan is developed.

Parent Communications

Parent communication is paramount to this system and Carroll School faculty try to stay in close contact with parents regarding student progress. This includes frequent emails and conversations with teachers, department heads, counselors, and administrators as well as parent conferences and progress reports eight times per year.

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