The Basics, Information about the Whole Life Charter School
As educators and parents deeply familiar with the frustrations of children struggling with a language based learning disability (LBLD), Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and Asperger‘s Syndrome (AS), we have observed the following issues surrounding the education of these children:
- Despite the best and purest intentions of administrators, teachers, and parents, and the most carefully constructed Individualized Education Plans (IEP’s), a percentage of learning disabled children having average to well above average intelligence still find little support at their school, become frustrated by their lack of performance, feel marginalized by their peers, feel misunderstood by virtually everyone, and are occasionally bullied because of their differences.
- Many LBLD, ADHD, and AS children learn to survive by “flying under the radar,” risking less in the classroom for fear of making a mistake. They become ‘C and D’ students (provided, they don’t quit) despite having the intellectual ability to accomplish at much higher levels.
- Individualized Education Plans (IEP’s) are sadly often designed to answer the legal requirement that the school district provide an ‘appropriate’ education to the struggling child. This is a minimum educational requirement and as such is not required to answer the social and emotional needs of the child.
- IEP’s are difficult to enforce when your average secondary school classroom teacher is educating a minimum of 99 other students during a semester, a number that will sadly rise in the face of upcoming education budget cuts.
- With specialized schools costing a minimum of $28,000 per year and rising to over $60,000, a tuition that still may not include the additional expenses of extra tutoring and support services, only the wealthy or those willing to be heavily in debt are able to afford the help their children need.
We believe these children deserve the same chance at an education as any other child and went to work figuring out how to provide an affordable education for the small percentage of learning disabled children in working class families still under performing despite good intentions and well developed IEP’s. We wanted to create an affordable program that would help these children succeed to the absolute best of their abilities by:
- Reducing the size of classes and the size of the school.
- With the reduced class and school size, helping these children identify how, when, and where, their specific learning disability gets in the way of their progress and then, helping them to develop uniquely personal strategies utilizing techniques as diverse as meditation/visualization and those offered by assistive technologies to help them succeed.
- Allowing them to fail without it jeopardizing their GPA or their college eligibility while they experiment with their new skills and gain mastery over their learning disability.
- Providing a peer group in which each member is similarly struggling and in which each child feels understood, accepted, and safe.
- Insuring that all teachers interacting with these children receive consistent and intensive training in the range of learning disabilities and Attentional Disorders so that they are each expert in educating their charges.
- Providing a safe and caring school and faculty.
Eventually we arrived at the idea of creating a charter school. Here’s why:
- According to Commonwealth of Pennsylvania law, charter schools were originally mandated to be laboratories that experimented with innovative educational ideas. Those ideas that proved to be successful would then be adapted for use in the Commonwealth’s public schools. We identified our collective ideas as innovative and therefore felt that the charter model was appropriate and that were we successful, students everywhere might benefit.
- Charter schools were originally mandated to work with at-risk populations; students that were in danger of failing or dropping out. We thought, kids with learning disabilities and attentional disorder drop out far more frequently than kids who are not struggling so our targeted population falls into that mandate.
- Charter schools are held accountable to the school district and the Commonwealth by virtue of the fact that they can be closed if they don’t produce capable graduates that perform according to the educational standards issued by the state or if they do so in excess of what their budget allows. Our founding team thought that requiring that our students perform to the highest standards is nothing less than we would expect of ourselves as educators and as parents and that this requirement would help keep us on our toes.
- Charter schools are considered public schools. As public schools they are free to attend. This answered our commitment to providing an affordable option for parents unable to pay for a private school in a similar specialty.
Starting in early 2005, our founding team worked to design a school that would answer the requirements we set forth. We have held tenaciously to our vision during the past years and continue to work to create a school that will more holistically answer the academic, social and emotional needs of children struggling with invisible learning disabilities. We believe we are on the cusp of bringing this school to life in Chester County, Pennsylvania.
You can get an overview of our educational model in the remaining pages of this website. If you would like to get more detailed information or are considering the Whole Life Charter School for your child, please call us at 215.517.5331.