There are essential differences between The Lewis School and other schools. Education is designed to discover and cultivate each student's unique potential and character and should be made available in a school that functions as a vigorous, diverse, and integrated educational community of programs and support for all members. Our model of education is not compartmentalized.
Teachers are the specialists in our model because they are rigorously trained and prepared, step by step, as educational therapists in the academic areas and age groups for which they are State Certified. It is these extraordinary teachers who are not only the glue of The Lewis School, but its very foundation, its delivery system, and its advocates. Our teachers are the architects and the inspiration of our students' education.
Our teachers are empowered. They are essentially and directly involved in every aspect of educational planning and development. Whether they have first-hand access to a student's neuro-psychological or psycho-educational test results, whether they participate as clinical assistants, or whether they help resolve parents' frustration with homework or design multi-sensory teaching materials for their next morning's lessons, they are prepared and participatory. They have both carefully supervised authority and also the responsibility that goes with that authority. Our teachers are integral participants in the evolution of all spheres of education at The Lewis Clinic and School, not merely peripheral, dutiful servants of it.
At The Lewis School, all students' learning problems, as well as their gifts and talents, are considered diverse reflections of individual strengths and weaknesses, and not as classifications that isolate or stigmatize children unnecessarily. The first step children must take in a successful education is to learn that they can learn.
The Lewis School has developed an education that works. One proof of our education's effectiveness is that it works for the most academically needy students whom other schools have forsaken or neglected. It works for children who are routinely assigned various euphemistic labels for their learning problems, shamed as lazy, unmotivated, slow-track learners, resource-room kids, or learning-disabled students. These are bright children with different and diverse educational needs that the majority of schools fail to understand or are at a loss to repair, children whose promise and gifts remain obscured in an educational system not suited to meet their needs.
Children who fall through the cracks elsewhere have been discovered at The Lewis Clinic and School to be bright, fully capable persons of ability, talent, and untapped promise. Ironically, as the neuro-scientific research of recent years has corroborated, the different environments and organization of the brain that result in dyslexia, ADD, or related, atypical styles of learning may also be responsible for the skills of three-dimensional thinking and invention apparent in the artistic, musical, creative, and athletic ability of so many of our students.
The Lewis School has always recognized, valued, and developed the intelligence and creative strengths of its bright, learning-different students. The idea of Multiple Intelligences is an underlying, fundamental principle of a Lewis School education. The many dynamic expressions of intelligence were suggested in the early research of Norman Geschwind, Richard Masland, Bruce Pennington, and by the studies of educational experts in the neurosciences like Martha Denckla, et al. The research of these pioneering experts has been corroborated and expanded in the more recent work of Howard Gardner, Joseph Renzulli, Dee Dickerson, and Linda and Bruce Campbell.
At The Lewis School, students begin to flourish as they learn how to learn the underlying mechanics and processes of language for the first time. As they do so, their self-confidence, trust, and motivation are restored. They learn to respect and enjoy school as a safe, structured, and understanding environment. When students finish their years at "Lewis," they become enthusiastic alumni who attend the nation's best colleges and graduate schools. They contribute to society in a wide variety of pursuits as artists, entrepreneurs, poets, teachers, original thinkers in science and math, and good citizens.
These students' diverse learning needs and styles, their academic struggle or school failure, too often become the consuming focus of mainstream educators who generally have little subtle knowledge of learning differences because of inadequate testing procedures as well as the limited means of remedial intervention available to them. The resultant tragedy is that inherent abilities, and important talents and gifts, are neglected or remain fettered. Good minds and their great possibilities need not be lost.
The Lewis School is truly a cross-curricular program. The individual strengths and weaknesses of all children, their academic and their personal needs, do not stop at the science or math classroom, or at the resource-room, or at the school doors. These travel with them every moment and everywhere within and beyond school. Excellent progress in learning how to learn is not enough alone to develop and sustain the best in children, unless learning in the other "languages" of behavior, emotion, socialization, honesty, responsibility, problem-solving, conflict-resolution, inter- and intra-personal intelligence, and spirituality is an essential part of their daily educational experience. This integration of these many "languages" and learning happens every day at The Lewis School.
The School Day
Multi-sensory education is provided in all classes and in every subject or program at The Lewis School. During the early morning hours between 8:30 and 10:30 a.m., every student, regardless of age, begins preparing the brain by studying the mechanics of language, adapted appropriately for the student's age and current level of ability. This includes reading, writing, spelling, listening comprehension, auditory sequencing, active working memory, visual-motor discrimination, and decoding and encoding skills presented in sequential, unisensory increments, one step at a time.
These skills carry over into all classes and all subjects during the rest of the day. They are practiced within course content and implemented by teachers trained as Multi-Sensory Learning Therapists in their own areas of expertise: math, science, literature, art, music, history, etc.
Course content is challenging and sophisticated, following, in the least, State Education Curriculum guidelines and, more often than not, enhancing these requirements. A child's effort as well as his or her achievement is valued by all teachers. In this way, learning weaknesses are repaired, and the aptitudes and acumen of our bright children are developed.
The students' classes, their school day, and the school year provide other significant design differences. To encourage socialization and bonding, most children spend the first half-hour of the morning in larger homeroom classes of 10 or 14 students. This experience gives children who have been out of the mainstream of education a sense of belonging and community.
While the idea of an extended school year is considered progressive, and has been implemented recently by a few school districts in the country, The Lewis School has had such a calendar in place since 1973. During the summer our students keep learned skills honed and practiced, maximizing automaticity and internalizing learning. All students at The Lewis School attend classes from September to the end of July. This allows our teachers to take advantage of what research has taught them about brain function, mental receptivity, and memory. It also provides for a continuity of learning that can greatly benefit any student.
A great education takes time and timing. Children are a revelation, for they seem to have their very own learning clocks in their heads that few educators know how to read. In addition, children's minds are changing in our changing, technological society. Their minds are more dynamic and more aware because of access to information in contrast to the rigid framework of public-school grade- and age-appropriate performance assumptions. A student's progress is formally assessed in the spring of each year. It is at this time that we can determine the level of progress and the future planning. On average, students stay at The Lewis School for three years, keeping in mind that each child is different and progresses according to their own internal clock.
When a student at The Lewis School achieves mastery in learning, and this competency has been internalized and applied by the student in self-initiated, self-directed study, he or she moves on to the next challenge. As a result, it is not uncommon at The Lewis School to find an accomplished 10th grader studying weighted word meanings in a vocabulary class with our high school, college-preparatory students.