The Special Stevenson Program
Robert Louis Stevenson is a small school by design. To provide an optimum level of personal attention, we limit enrollment to approximately 75 students. This allows a ratio of about one staff person to every four students. Our staff of teachers, advisors, psychologists, and learning specialists work as a close-knit team. We believe that only as all of us work together, complementing each other's efforts, can we have sufficient impact to successfully promote change in our students. To ensure that close collaboration, the entire staff meets together daily to share information, provide mutual support, and recommend strategies and interventions.
Learning to Learn
Learning is what Robert Louis Stevenson is all about. We believe that our educational responsibilities go far beyond traditional academics to encompass social and emotional learning as well. While most students come to Stevenson with academic achievement problems, many need help to develop balanced, rewarding peer relationships and all need help to deal with emotional issues - certainly to restore damaged self-esteem and frequently to deal with other matters as well.
Learning is an essential ingredient for growth - intellectual, social, and emotional. All the knowledge, inventiveness, support, and structure that the school can bring to bear are focused on the goal of fostering and encouraging learning.
Adolescents come to Stevenson because they have not been successful students. Schools have tried to help them, but they have failed because necessary ingredients for studentship - motivation, effort, behavior, study, and organization skills - have been inadequate. Schools usually offer help, and then expect improvement. Parents are contacted. When improvement still doesn't occur, the school becomes frustrated, the student fails, and ultimately changes need to be made.
Stevenson expects first to help adolescents become students, and then to teach them. We provide the direction and support necessary to develop motivation and effort, cooperative behavior, improved organization and study skills.
With the close guidance of their Advisors, students learn to set realistic, attainable goals. They are given opportunities to try again and again without being labeled as failures and without feelings of defeat. We expect progress to be made in incremental, sometimes uneven steps (though at times a surge forward may occur). Small, individualized, stimulating classes provide opportunities for achievement and help eliminate the fear and boredom that so often contribute to failure.
Some students have school adjustment problems that are compounded by learning differences, difficulties, or disabilities. Rather than removing them to remediation or diluting the curriculum, we help youngsters with mild learning disabilities achieve in regular, content rich courses with other bright students. Learning specialists help teachers understand individual learning styles and modify instructional techniques. Accommodations are made to provide alternative means of demonstrating achievement. Stevenson seeks to make students aware of their learning issues, helps them understand their learning needs, and prepares them to become effective advocates for themselves as they move on to higher education.
To be effective learners and participants in our technology-driven age, students need to become comfortable, proficient, and responsible in the use of computers. Enhanced expression of ideas and arguments, intricate analyses of data, access to almost unlimited information, and communication of ideas among small and large audiences vial e-mail and web publishing are now ordinary educational activities. Stevenson continues to make significant investments in the acquisition and upgrading of our computer resources. These new technologies are making profound changes in the way we teach, how we learn, and how we communicate. Beyond attaining necessary technical understanding and skills, Stevenson considers it essential that students come to understand the ethical, cultural, and societal issues involved in the responsible use of technology and information.
Joining the Community
Alienation- passive withdrawal, both social and academic - is a common response to failure and rejection. At Stevenson, staff and students together create a nurturing milieu of concern and provide a sense of belonging. With respect for privacy and the understanding that sometimes one needs to be alone, the school consistently conveys the feeling that every student at Stevenson is a member of the school community. The community provides support and promotes growth.
The daily Advising meeting is a place for improving social skills, recognizing progress, and achieving and providing a setting in which students help each other. Informal peer groupings, at lunch and other times, allow students to share common interests. These are friendly and fluid groups which are not exclusive or antagonistic. Students at Stevenson move among groups and are welcomed by their peers. There are a variety of special activities and events, often coordinated by the Student Council or Advising Groups. The whole school convenes weekly in a Community Meeting which promotes this cooperative, helping milieu and provides opportunities to share ideas and concerns.
Groups have an important role at Stevenson. They meet a variety of interests, offer new interpersonal experiences and provide enormous opportunities for growth. With adult leaders serving as guides, moderators, and models, students can safely test their changing attitudes toward themselves and their interactions with others. As group members, they can actively work at personal, social, and intellectual learning - examining, appraising, encouraging, helping, risking, sometime challenging.
Structured to Succeed
Students need help and support even as they assert their independence. Stevenson's structure allows students freedom to think and act, while providing them with the security of knowing that adults are ultimately in charge. In this safe environment, they have opportunities to make decisions - and make mistakes. At Stevenson, mistakes do not generate recriminations, shame, and guilt. Instead, mistakes become opportunities to take responsibility and to learn.
Stevenson's small size helps us to make sure that no one "falls between the cracks." Every student is expected to check in and check out with his or her Advisor every day, which insures that the school knows precisely when every student arrives and departs. Students all take six classes during a school day; there are no free periods. All academic expectations are accompanied by support systems for the student. An example is the daily period known as "Student Prep," when all students receive additional assistance, including individual tutoring. Students learn to identify their needs and ask for assistance during this time.
Since homework has been a problem for many Stevenson students we provide a number of supports to help them attend to schoolwork and studying outside the classroom.
• Teachers assign homework as necessary but help students to understand the assignment, often help them begin, and always check on completion.
• Advisors provide further support by reminding, encouraging, helping, and requiring that attention be give to assignments.
• For students who need even more help to complete assignments in a timely fashion, we provide an additional period after school three times per week. This time allows teachers to give individual help to students who may have significant organizational problems or need help to learn effective study skills.
Stevenson believes that students must have regular, frequent feedback on their progress. Staff must be fully informed as well. We have many systems to achieve these objectives. The staff meets daily to communicate about students. This leads to student conferences which occur many times each day. Each student prepares a weekly personal evaluation form and teachers enter comments. These reports are reviewed by the student and the Advisor and used as a subject for counseling. At the mid-point of the quarter, each teacher prepares a progress report on every student. These mid-quarter reports are the basis for substantive student-advisor meetings. At the end of each quarter, the student receives a full written report and a grade for each class. Teachers share these reports in private conference with each student. Meetings with each teacher are followed by a student-advisor meeting to review progress and to set objectives for the next quarter. Each quarter represents an independent unit of study for grading purposes. Thus, four times per year, the student has the opportunity to make a fresh start.
It is not surprising that students react with negativism and hostility or withdrawal when past school experience has been characterized by failure and frustration. Destructive negation may have been their only means of self-assertion. Stevenson attempts to engage the vitality of such students, helping to channel them in the direction of creative expression.
Work in creative areas is particularly valuable in helping students discover and appreciate their own unique abilities, interest, and values. Courses in visual arts, theater, poetry, and media promote creative expression. The emphasis is on process as well as product, on the joy of creation rather than arbitrary standards of performance. We know that the expression of talent through the growth of artistic skills and discipline can greatly bolster self-esteem.
In physical education, emphasis is placed not only on development of strength and skills, but on socialization, cooperation and participation. Students discover the value of team work in classes, intramural games and competition against other schools.