The academic program at Rock Point School is supportive, engaging, and allows students to learn at the right pace for them. Our small class sizes, trusting relationships between teachers and students, and variety of ways in which we accommodate lessons and assignments, makes it possible for students to do well in and enjoy our academic program.
Explicit Instruction in Core Academic Skills
Teachers at RPS approach every lesson with attention not only to content, but to the way students learn, and the strategies and skills necessary for learning and academic success. Our goal is for students to emerge from their classes with an understanding of the major ideas of the class, as well as new or improved skills for being successful in school In ninth and tenth grades, we focus on teaching skills such as: reading-comprehension, note-taking, studying for tests, developing writing skills (both on the sentence and paragraph levels, and in terms of constructing an essay), organizing time and materials, keeping a planner, communicating with teachers, and, generally, taking responsibility for themselves as students. In eleventh and twelfth grades, we reinforce and build upon these skills, and introduce students to more advanced skills, which help them take their learning to the next level and become prepared for college. These skills include analyzing texts and writing analytical essays, learning foundational research skills, and planning and prioritizing for long-term projects and assignments.
Students have two scheduled hour-long study halls a day. One happens in the afternoon, and is supervised by teachers. Because teachers supervise the afternoon study hall, it is often a time when students get extra help on homework. Afternoon study hall is a very interactive time between teachers and students. Evening study hall is supervised by the residential educators and is optional for students who can demonstrate they have completed their work. While teachers are not in these study halls, residential educators provide structure, supervision, and often assistance while students complete homework.
Differentiation and Accommodations
Our classes are set up so that lessons and assignments can be adapted for varied levels of students. Teachers begin their work with each student by teaching in a diagnostic way to understand how students learn best. Accommodations are readily made for students such as extended time on tests, answering questions out loud, talking with teachers about shortening written assignments, receiving copies of notes, constructing a study guide to use on tests, etc. Students are also offered a wide variety of assessments to appeal to different learners. For example, there may be a creative writing option, a research option, a performance option, and a literary analysis option for an English assessment.
Many students come to Rock Point School with an IEP or 504 plan from a previous school. We take information from that plan, as well as from the student’s file of grade reports, educational testing, and general biography, and create our own plan. This is called a Rock Point School Individual Student Plan (ISP), and consists of an overview of the student’s learning profile, our goals for the student, and the specific ways in which we will accommodate the student.
Rock Point School is granted special education approval through the Vermont State Board of Education.
Sometimes students need or want to take classes outside of Rock Point School’s regular offerings. Their options may include: online or distance learning courses, classes available next door at Burlington High School, and, during the spring semester, local college courses. There are extra costs associated with courses taken for credit that are not taken at Burlington High School. Arrangements are made on an individual student basis, taking into consideration scheduling. For more information about options outside of Rock Point School, please contact us.
Teachers supplement classroom work with individual academic assistance for students as time permits in study hall. Additionally, there are tutors at the school who can provide some one-on-one support in class and at study hall. Tutoring focuses on strengthening basic academic and study skills, assisting with comprehension of material, and building good habits of homework completion. Tutors also help students learn to communicate with teachers and manage daily responsibilities. For students who have specific academic needs, or have a learning disability that may need remediation, we encourage families to consider supplemental private tutoring, which can be arranged by Rock Point.
Preparation for Standardized Tests
Rock Point School provides basic preparation for the SAT, in the spring semester for juniors and the fall semester for seniors. Students are introduced to the overall test, the distinct sections, and the directions for completing each section. Test preparation focuses especially on helping students understand how a standardized test differs fundamentally from normal high-school tests, requiring different strategies for an optimal score. We help students practice these strategies in a simulated test environment. In addition, the math curriculum includes a unit on SAT math problems, and other classes take some time to support test practice drills. Students are also coached in how to plan and carry out further test-prep practice outside of class. The school can connect students and families wanting additional test preparation with available local businesses and tutors that provide these services.