The goals of the High Road School are:
- To provide each student with the academic and social skills necessary to be successful in school, at home, and in the community
- To prepare students to return to a less restrictive school setting
- To prepare students for Maryland State testing programs
- To provide students with consistent and structured tutorials designed to prevent regression and produce both academic and behavioral gains
- To provide students with an array of cultural and recreational experiences
- To provide students with the opportunity to increase their knowledge of the history of Maryland
The High Road School of Cecil County offers a graded program for both boys and girls aged 6 to 21 in grades 1–12. Classes are small (no more than nine students to one teacher and teaching assistant), ensuring that personalized instruction is provided to each student.
In addition to primarily serving students with behavioral problems and serious emotional difficulties, the High Road School provides services for students who also have been diagnosed with specific learning disabilities, communication disorders, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, intellectual limitations, and other health impairments. Students are referred to the High Road School through the local school systems (i.e., Cecil County Public Schools and surrounding jurisdictions) and are enrolled, on average, for one school year. Students may be eligible for the program regardless of their current living situation (e.g., parents’ home, foster care, or Alternative Living Unit).
A personalized educational program is developed for each student. The program utilizes the Cecil County Public School System curriculum for grades 1–12, operating Monday through Friday, from 9:45 a.m. to 4:15 p.m. The educational program focuses on academic instruction in English, math, science, social studies, and career training. The morning is devoted to academic instruction through a variety of tutorials, and the afternoon incorporates academic and recreational activities, including field trips. Additionally, when students are ready, they receive school-to-work training in the community. A strong behavioral management system is also implemented throughout the school, which emphasizes the development of appropriate behaviors necessary for scholastic and social success.
To supplement the regular 10-month school year, our school offers an Extended School Year (ESY) program that provides academic and behavioral support through subject-area tutorials in the summer months as well. Recreational and cultural experiences are provided in the form of half-day field trips, many of which relate to the culture and history of the State of Maryland.
We prioritize family involvement at the High Road School of Cecil County, and parents are always encouraged to visit the school at any time. Opportunities are available to learn more about our educational program and to become involved in our students’ comprehensive educational experience here.
All of the programming that is designed to transition the student from school to work emphasizes preparation for productive employment after graduation. To make this employment as successful and fulfilling as possible, we help the student explore his or her interests and then build upon natural talents in choosing possible career paths. As students mature, we encourage them to gradually become more self-reliant. Our Transition Services staff aids in this process by giving the students just the right amount of independence and interaction with the wider community, while still providing the supports necessary for the students to feel secure and confident.
Our School-to-Work Program offers students the opportunity to participate in true-to-life jobs within the school setting. The end goal of the program is to develop the students’ employment skills and social skills in order to maximize their potential for success in the real world. As such, students seek to obtain jobs by first filling out an application and interviewing for the position they are interested in, as they would in real life. Once the student obtains a suitable position at school, they are held accountable for their attendance and performance, so we work with them on such aspects of employment as punctuality, responsibility, and working independently. Many of the jobs the students procure involve our student-run, on-the-premises retail business. Students participating in the School-to-Work Program are trained to operate many of the state-of the-art machines that make customized products for sale through this retail business.
The High Road Academy of Cecil County affords students the opportunity to take their learning outside of the classroom and transfer it into the community. We work with our students to practice the proficiencies they have mastered in the School-to-Work Program, and then, when a student is ready, a job coach accompanies them to volunteer or paid job sites out in the community. We partner with a wide array of local-area businesses (including restaurants, hospitals, preschools, and retail shops) to expose the students to real-life work experience and social interactions. In this way, students can explore numerous career avenues and gain valuable work experience to list on their résumés.
The High Road School of Cecil County is committed to providing services, programs, and activities that provide opportunities for students to grow both inside and outside of the classroom. As part of that commitment, our school has been participating for several years now in a sports league comprised of other schools in our company’s Maryland North Region. The league gives students a chance to interact with kids from other regional schools and to show school pride in their own.
Throughout the school year, we compete in three sports: (1) flag football in the fall; (2) basketball in winter; and (3) volleyball in spring. Each sport has its own play-off and crown champions for the season. In flag football, the play-offs are conducted in bowl format, similar to the NCAA. Naturally, we have our own form of March Madness to crown our basketball champions.
Participation on these sports teams allows our students not only to cultivate athletic skills, but also to gather experience and learn critical lessons in such areas as teamwork, collaboration, and good sportsmanship. Playing sports in our league is a highly sought after activity on campus, so only green-level and blue-level students who have demonstrated sound judgment and good decision-making skills in school can participate in practices and games.
Each year, all the schools get together for a Sports Banquet at which the students are celebrated for their athletic performance and sportsmanship. All participating students receive a participation award at the banquet.
The Role of the Reading Specialist: In My Own Words
By Nicole Zaph
The position of Reading Specialist can play a number of different roles in a variety of school settings. This position is found at all levels, from elementary through high school, private and public schools. Sometimes the Reading Specialist serves as a coach for classroom teachers and at other times as a one-on-one intervention teacher with the students. In my position at SESI, I wish to fill both of these roles as intervention teacher and coach.
The students who meet with a Reading Specialist are most often recommended by their classroom teachers or administrators. These referrals are based on discrepancies between potential ability and performance, or reading skills that are far below what would be expected. When a student is referred, further testing is completed to determine the most effective course of action. I use a variety of assessments, such as the QRI-IV (Qualitative Reading Inventory, 4th edition) and vocabulary and phonics surveys. These assessments allow me to identify whether a student’s weaknesses are in decoding alone, comprehension, or a combination of both.
Following the individualized nature of our school programs, I am able to decide upon a plan with the classroom teacher that best meets each student’s needs. This may come in the form of individualized intervention in phonics utilizing one of a number of research-based programs, or as supplementary activities to assist the classroom teacher. If a student has strengths in phonemic awareness but weaknesses in comprehension, the plan for that student’s individualized sessions will reflect that.
Some of the programs utilized in our schools are: Edmark Reading, Orton-Gillingham, and Wilson Reading. Each of these is a research-proven program that addresses the “Big 5” areas of literacy: (1) phonics; (2) phonemic awareness; (3) fluency; (4) vocabulary; and (5) comprehension. Through such programs, students receive intense, individualized instruction in identified areas of weakness.
It is our responsibility as educators to ensure that students have the opportunity to reach their potential. It is my wish that all of our students find independence in their reading and that this independence helps them reach their goals.