The way the QSIL manifests itself for Winston students is through twice-annual assessments, done by the student as well as his/her teachers and staff, to evaluate the student’s progress towards these qualities. I’ll admit – my husband and I used to make fun of the QSIL especially when we saw that our son’s assessments of himself were uniformly better than his teachers’ assessments of his QSIL qualities. However, in looking back at the process, and seeing how he is today – the QSIL taught him to self-reflect not only about his successes and strengths but about his challenges in the learning environment. Today I know that the QSIL is an integral component to the independent learner that he has become.
But how does the school support those “Qualities of a Sustainable and Independent Learner”? In short, the school meets the needs of its students, encourages its students to thrive, and stretches them for the person that they will become, through an integrated support network of teachers, faculty, and administration. I mentioned the Focus Teacher before but each individual academic teacher was fully invested in the Winston methodology and support network for the students. In addition, the student’s Academic Dean was also an essential element of the support network. And finally, the Head of School – in our case Beth Sugerman from the CT campus – was always there to support our son when he needed it. All of this resulted in a multilayered support framework that gave our student what he needed when he needed it, but was able to back off or peel away when he did not.
I’ve heard lots of stories from families whose children, in desperate need of support at their school, are made to walk long hallways in search of the right personnel who is assigned to help them in their moment of need. I’ve heard more stories from families where students are forced into a resource room, or secluded, because they cannot be supported in their moment of need. And finally, there are the horrific experiences of students across the state of Connecticut and beyond who were restrained, often repeatedly, because they were not able to receive the support they needed in a moment of crisis.
This piece is the first in our series “Special Education Schools: Getting Past the Sticker Shock.” This series, which will continue for the balance of the 2021-2022 year, is intended to highlight the differences between independent special education programs and give parents a sense of what makes each program unique, and what lies behind statistics like student-teacher ratio and “behind the sticker.” The schools highlighted in this series represent a wide range of special education independent schools in Connecticut and New York; each school serves specific and particular profiles of learners and may not be appropriate for all students with special education needs.
Disclaimer: As noted in the above post, the author’s son attended Winston Preparatory School for three years from 2015-2018. Winston Preparatory School (CT) Head of School is a Member of Special Education Legal Fund’s Board of Directors since 2020. Winston Preparatory School has been a sponsor of Special Education Legal Fund events and fundraisers from 2018 to present, including but not limited to the Parent Education Program webinar series and Dance for S.E.L.F. gala scheduled for September 18th, 2021.