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A Sad Passing: Pine Ridge School Announces June 5th Closing

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We saw today in the Burlington Free Press that Pine Ridge School (Williston, VT) will close after graduation in June.

Twenty faculty member will lose their positions; Pine Ridge will help students and their families find schools for the fall during these final months.

Pine Ridge had restructured and changed its mission over the past few years and changes never found traction with potential students and families.

Photo credit: Pine Ridge School
Having worked their way into the open and everyday conversations and perspectives of education over the last couple of decades, I suppose I shouldn't be surprised by the latest wrinkle in the ADD and ADHD world of definition and treatment. We've certainly known that students with ADD/ADHD are more than capable of harnessing their talents and abilities; and, many are supremely talented.

The latest wave of ADD/ADHD dialog now takes the disorder beyond strategy and treatment- repackaging the diagnosis into a positive trait that some argue is a blessing. I'm left scratching my head. Why define, diagnose, and treat ADD/ADHD if it's such a valuable tool/perspective?

Framed by Michael Phelps, his ADHD status, and his unbelievable Olympic performance, Tara Parker-Pope highlights both sides of issue in her New York Times article, "A New Face for A.D.H.D., and a Debate."

The two perspectives (as told to Ms. Parker-Pope):

"It's not an unmitigated blessing, but neither is it an unmitigated curse, which is usually the way it's presented," said Dr. Hallowell, who has the disorder himself. "I have been treating this condition for 25 years and I know that if you manage it right, this apparent deficit can become an asset. I think of it as a trait and not a disability."

From the other side,

"This reframing A.D.H.D. as a gift, personally I don't think it's helpful," said Natalie Knochenhauer, founder of A.D.H.D. Aware, an advocacy group in Doylestown, Pa. "You can't have a disability that needs to be accommodated in the classroom, and also have this special gift. There are a lot of people out there -- not only do their kids not have gifts, but their kids are really struggling."

Ms. Knochenhauer, who has four children with the disorder, says they too were inspired by the astonishing performance of Mr. Phelps in Beijing. But she added, "I would argue that Michael Phelps is a great swimmer with A.D.H.D., but he's not a great swimmer because he has A.D.H.D."
As the past admission director at Dublin School, a co-ed small boarding school in Dublin, NH, I'm now forced to look differently at the school- with consultant's eye. I now have to think about Dublin using a consultant's critique:

"Does the school do what it says it does; what kind of students will do well here; and are Dublin's students healthy and pleased with their work; is the school healthy; how are the faculty; is the school vibrant?"
I'm happy to say Dublin does make a difference. The school has a great sense of community; students and faculty have a special closeness that comes with small school environment. All students enjoy success in some significant way be it through their academics, visual and performing arts, athletics. The school brings the appropriate level of challenge to each student. Everyone has a voice on this campus.  

Brad Bates, the new Head of School, is the perfect Headmaster with his leadership and direction. I would not think twice about sending a student or a family to visit Dublin School. It is not only safe, but probably the most caring small boarding school community in the northeast. Visit the school's website to learn more.

My notes from a recent visit to  The Winchendon School...

I didn't expect to be so taken by the beautiful campus; beyond beauty, the campus boasts a golf course, new academic building and  new ice hockey rink. The student body appears very diverse and multicultural.

Winchendon is working to expand the strength of its boys athletics to it's girls teams. Boys athletics sports strong PG programs in boy's soccer, basketball and ice hockey. The school will have a girl's ice hockey team for the first time this year.

Academics are influenced by Ted Sizer's principles of the Coalition of Essential Schools, with "teachers as coaches, students as workers." The curriculum emphasizes individual skill building, team effort and positive reinforcement.

Students seem happy and focused! Students with learning difference could be very successful academically at Winchendon through the support of their daily tracking and grading system. John Kerney seems a great new Head of School who has made some good changes and will make some more.

Photo credit: The Winchendon School

Update: For those interested in learning more about the program, checkout my podcast, Cardigan Mountain School Introduces PEAKS, with Cardigan's Brian Beale, Associate Director of Admission, & Ryan Feeley, English Teacher & Summer Session Director.

During a visit to Cardigan Mountain School (an all-boys, junior boarding school in Canaan, NH),  I saw a school in the midst of implementing a new academic initiative. Personalized Education through the Acquisition of Knowledge and Skills  (PEAKS) will serve as a backbone for the school's academic life. Old standbys like study/learning skills and language lab- fee based services at most schools- will be incorporated into PEAKs and become part of every student's curriculum without extra fees. 

Focusing on study skills and teaching the different ways students learn, Cardigan expects PEAKS will provide each student with more control and insight into the ways that he learns- instilling an approach to learning that a student can use in any setting.  When entering or confronting a new environment, a student who's learned through PEAKS will have an idea of how to identify what he needs to and strategies that he might employ to work through the material. 

The program will be both highly accessible and supportive. Not only will students take formal PEAKS classes during the school day, they'll have opportunities throughout the afternoon & evening study hours for additional group sessions and one-on-one tutoring. 

At the end of their Cardigan experience, each and every graduate should prove well prepared to succeed carrying the abilities of self-recognition and self-sufficiency into their chosen secondary schools. You can read a brief description of the school's program below:

"Guided self-development is the cornerstone of the class, and its focus lies in helping each student, no matter his skill level, become a better learner and self advocate. In this course, students will be introduced to different types of learning styles and a variety of study skills. After identifying their own learning style(s), students will explore and practice effective study strategies for each type of learner. Upon completion of the course, students should be fully cognizant of what type of learner they are, be able to describe their learning style, and be able to both explain and execute relevant strategies that will be effective in their future educational pursuits."

Photo Credit: redjar

The Greenwood School Featured on PBS

Looks like I'm a little late to the game on this one, but I wanted to bring attention to this segment on The Greenwood School that aired over the winter on PBS's National Education Report. Tom wrote about his visit to Greenwood's campus in an earlier post about junior boarding schools for LD students. The video acts as a perfect compliment to his observations about the school and the type of students it serves.

Here's a bit of background in case you're not familiar with The Greenwood School:

Greenwood is a boarding school in Southern Vermont dedicated to taking bright and talented boys with learning differences and learning disabilities (LD) such as dyslexia, attentional difficulties (ADD / ADHD), or executive functioning deficits and empowering them with the skills and strategies necessary to bridge the gap between their outstanding promise and present abilities.

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This page is a archive of recent entries in the Learning Differences category.

Junior Boarding Schools is the previous category.

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