The Windward School Academic Program
The Windward School's academic program focuses on three basic challenges faced by all students who learn differently:
- acquiring the academic strategies and skills necessary to reach their academic potential,
- developing self-confidence in their ability to achieve success,
- understanding their learning differences so they can become effective self-advocates.
Students are encouraged to take ownership of their learning and define themselves by their character and by their accomplishments, not by their learning disabilities. Most Windward students spend 3-5 years at the Windward School, and 99% of Windward students place out into mainstream schools. Our students matriculate into a broad range of schools that report back to us that two years after leaving Windward, 99% of Windward alumni are performing at or above grade level.
Reading, writing, and the content subjects are taught with a strong emphasis on language competence, skill development, and cognitive strategy. Students are grouped within their grade level according to their levels of development in language arts and mathematics. There are usually two teachers and rarely more than twelve students in each academic classroom; this provides maximum time for direct instruction by highly trained teachers and helps students achieve success. Since students progress at different rates; progress is monitored continually; academic groups are flexible; and students move among groups as their skills develop. Students are grouped heterogeneously in other content areas and special area subjects.
Windward's curriculum is multisensory and language-intensive:
There are three periods of language arts each day, including reading, writing, language skills, and study skills. Our language arts curriculum is highly structured, using a sequential, multisensory, language-based approach. Listening, speaking, reading, and writing are all emphasized.
For beginning readers of any age, reading instruction includes an Orton-Gillingham-based program, Preventing Academic Failure (PAF), created by Phyllis Bertin and Eileen Perlman. This program integrates reading, spelling, and handwriting into cohesive and carefully sequenced lessons. Students first master the foundational skills of decoding and spelling and then continue to develop skills and strategies in the carefully designed Windward Reading Program that improves word knowledge, expands background knowledge, and develops comprehension strategies necessary to succeed in mainstream schools. The entire Windward Reading curriculum is based on the latest research as validated by the National Reading Panel, the largest and most comprehensive research study to date on reading.
Windward’s writing program enables students to express themselves accurately in written form. Using strategies from the Teaching Basic Writing Skills program (TBWS) that was created by former Head of School Dr. Judith C. Hochman, students develop the skills needed to write clear, linguistically-complex sentences, and well-organized paragraphs and compositions. The writing strategies and activities for writing sentences, paragraphs, and compositions are applied systematically during structured writing time and integrated into the instruction of all content areas. Skills taught through the strategies from TBWS are supported by Teaching Elementary Students to be Effective Writers, Writing Next, and Writing to Read, three studies that summarized the results of large-scale statistical reviews of writing research.
The math program is taught in small groups at various instructional levels to ensure individualized attention. Students develop their ability to solve problems, reason logically, and communicate using the language of mathematics. Classes focus on concept acquisition and the problem solving process, meeting NY State guidelines.
The science curriculum is laboratory intensive and involves students in hypothesizing, measuring, observing, interpreting, and classifying through hands-on investigations for each curriculum topic, meeting NY State guidelines for problem solving. Students are exposed to a wide range of scientific topics designed to motivate engagement, generate deep inquiry, and spark a lifelong interest in and respect for the sciences.
This program helps students develop the skills and processes needed to be educated citizens. It integrates content with reading, writing and study skills, following NY State guidelines.
In addition, all students enjoy regular periods of physical education, library, and art. Music is a weekly part of the Lower School schedule and an optional extra-curricular in the Middle School. Computer classes for keyboarding and word processing begin in the fourth grade. Students in grade 8 take a course called GAINS, an acronym for Getting Ahead in School, to help them examine their learning strengths and weaknesses so they can become more effective advocates for themselves.