During the transition to a proficiency-based system of teaching and learning, districts and schools will need to review and possibly revise existing policies, while also creating new policies that address emerging models, practices, and learning experiences.
The following district policy exemplar on academic support can be adapted to suit local needs and contexts. The Great Schools Partnership encourages state agencies, nonprofit organizations, districts, and schools to use or revise our policies for noncommercial purposes in the public interest.
Western Mountains Regional School Unit No. 99
Academic Support: Interventions and Extensions
Providing appropriate academic support is essential to the success of every student in our schools. The District is committed to ensuring that administrators, teachers, support specialists, and other staff members assume responsibility for providing the support each student needs to succeed academically. Academic support should be available to all students regardless of whether their parents request additional support or whether state and federal policies (e.g., Title I, IEPs, 504 plans, English-language support) obligate the school to provide supplemental services. Academic support entails a variety of instructional methods, educational services, and school resources that help students accelerate skill acquisition and learning progress, meet expected school requirements and learning standards, and succeed in their education. In practice, academic support encompasses a broad array of educational strategies, including strategies such as alternative ways of grouping or instructing students, faculty and volunteer advisories, college and career services, tutoring and mentoring programs, supplemental courses and instructional opportunities, summer and vacation-break programs, after-school and off-site learning programs, and dual-enrollment and early college courses. The Board believes that academic support must be a fundamental component of all effective schools. This policy is designed to ensure that learning is personalized and that access to high-quality academic support is made available to all students in grades pre-K–12 by teachers, support specialists, and other staff members. In both design and practice, support systems must be integrated into the academic program and daily classroom instruction, and support strategies should be flexible, timely, and responsive to the intensity, length, and manner of support each student needs to succeed. For teachers, providing academic support to students is part of their daily professional responsibilities, and each school in the District shall create the necessary conditions that allow teachers to provide necessary academic support. The Board recognizes that comprehensive professional-development opportunities and job-embedded professional learning for all teachers, at all levels, is needed to ensure that our schools have effective academic-support systems in place for all students.
Extensions are academic support strategies that accelerate and enrich learning opportunities for students. Extensions are applied when students have demonstrated or exceeded proficiency on required standards and are prepared to take on new academic, intellectual, and experiential challenges. Extensions must be accessible to all students, and all teachers are expected to integrate extension options into courses, learning experiences, and classroom instruction. Extensions may vary in rigor, intensity, and duration, based on individual student needs, and for some students extensions may include learning opportunities offered by individuals, organizations, and institutions outside of the school or classroom.
Interventions are academic support strategies that provide remediation, peer or adult support, and extra time for learning, practice, guided instruction, or work revision and improvement. Interventions are applied when students have not yet demonstrated proficiency or are struggling to meet proficiency standards. Interventions must be accessible to all students, and all teachers are expected to integrate intervention strategies into courses, learning experiences, and classroom instruction. Interventions may vary in rigor, intensity, and duration, based on individual student needs, and for some students interventions may include learning opportunities outside of the school or classroom.
C. Implementation of Academic Support
Each school in the district will articulate a system of academic support—i.e., interventions, extensions, and advising—that will be provided or available to all students. Schools will specify how the academic support system will be monitored and evaluated, what professional development the faculty and staff will need to deliver effective academic support, and how support options will be clearly and regularly communicated to all students, parents, guardians, and families.
D. Examples of Academic Support
While the design and purpose of academic-support systems will vary from school to school, the support system may include, but is not limited to, the following examples:
- Classroom-based strategies: Teachers continually monitor student performance and learning needs, and then adjust how and what they teach to improve student learning.
- Flexible groupings: Teachers in a subject-area, grade-level, or grade-span team group, regroup, or exchange students to provide targeted instruction to learners with different needs.
- School-based strategies: Schools create academic-support opportunities during the school day, such as learning labs or peer-tutoring programs, to increase the instructional time that underperforming students receive. Supplemental support opportunities also offer more varied curriculum and instructional options designed to address the distinct learning needs of students.
- Outside-of-school strategies: Early college, dual-enrollment, and concurrent-enrollment courses offer students college-level learning experiences and first-hand exposure to collegiate life. Other outside-of-school strategies such as independent research projects; internships with local businesses, nonprofits, and community groups; and volunteer experiences and service-learning programs can help student meet academic standards while also promoting higher aspirations, improving civic literacy, and developing higher-order thinking, problem-solving abilities, skill application, and knowledge transfer.
- Extended-hours strategies: Schools provide after-school or before-school programs, within the school building, that provide students with tutoring, mentoring, or assistance preparing for class or acquiring study skills.
- Vacation-break strategies: Summer school, summer bridge programs, and intensive, short-term projects help students catch up academically, meet grade-promotion requirements, or increase preparation for the next grade. Support programs and learning opportunities may be provided during the summer session or shorter vacation breaks.
- Technology-assisted strategies: Digital and online learning applications, such as virtual courses, visual simulations, or game-based learning, can help students grasp difficult concepts, fill gaps in existing curricula, or augment and enhance existing courses and learning opportunities.
- Skill-based support: Specialized services focused on deficits in literacy, math, or language proficiency, for example, provide students with targeted instruction, practice, and guidance in specific learning areas. Skill-based support may be integrated into regular classes, provided during the school day, or offered after regular school hours.
NOTE: Most schools offer some form of academic support, interventions, and extensions, but the range of opportunities is often limited. In a proficiency-based system, however, schools need to provide more diverse and intensive support opportunities to students. In local policy, districts may wish to articulate and specify the support systems, interventions, and extensions that exist.
E. Evaluation of Academic Support
The Board expects that the administration in the district office and in each school will periodically evaluate the effectiveness of academic support, interventions, and extensions in the schools using both qualitative and quantitative measures. The administration will make recommendations for modification and/or expansion as needed.
IKA: Grading and Reporting System
IKF: Graduation Requirements
Download the District Policy: Academic Support (.doc)
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