School year success: What parents can do now

Being proactive now can help your teen feel greater confidence when school starts. Sam Cummins, Shelterwood Dean of Student Services, shares our tips on what parents can do over the summer to help teens start the school year on the right foot.

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1.) Show, don’t tell.

Showing your teen what to do carries much more weight than telling them what to do. “One of the biggest things I’ve learned as both a parent and an educator is that parents need to model the behaviors they want to see in their children,” Sam says. “When your teen sees you practicing certain habits, there’s nothing better.”

2.) Build on both strengths and weaknesses.

Spend some time reflecting on both your child’s strengths and weaknesses from the past school year. “If your teen had a tough year in math, for example, help them with some enrichment activities there,” Sam says. Look for resources both through your local library and online. Khan Academy is an especially helpful platform that guides students in learning different concepts. Allowing teens to dive deeper into areas where they excel is also a smart summer strategy. Encourage them to pursue subjects they really enjoy.

3.) Begin ACT and SAT prep.

Just 10 minutes a day can make an impactful difference when it’s time for your teen to take college entrance exams. “After your teen does some practice questions, take some time to look together at the answers. Help your teen notice why she got certain questions right and why she got certain questions wrong. Then, approach those areas where knowledge gaps need to be filled.” Teens can be reluctant about test prep, so encourage them to start with a few minutes each day. This attainable goal sets your teen up for success.

4.) Model work-life balance.

“For many teens, their schedules are crowded during the school year. So summer can be a good time to model a healthy work-life balance for your teen,” Sam says. “Teens can feel like they are under lots of pressure during the school year and so they do not learn healthy ways to have fun. Think of ways that you can do some positive leisure activities together.” Sam and his daughter enjoy going for hikes together, for example.

5.) Start healthy habits now.

Creating new habits happens gradually, so set the stage for healthy habits now. “Especially as you move into July, it’s time to start slowly turning the ship.” Again, modeling smart behavior goes much farther with teens. If your teen has been staying up late and sleeping in, start the shift as a family with earlier bedtimes. “Starting small can be helpful and can show your teen what it looks like to make positive changes in life.

Ultimately, Sam says, focus on using time this summer to build a relationship and earn influence with your teen. “As a parent, you don’t have to have it all together and you don’t have to be perfect,” Sam says. “Starting small can be helpful.”

A Fresh Start: Credit Recovery at Shelterwood

Students can fall behind in school for a variety of reasons. They can struggle academically because of poor attendance, and failure to complete assignments. Some may face other circumstances, like anxiety or depression, which have made school more challenging. When a student falls behind, getting back on track feels impossible; but at Shelterwood, students get a fresh start and the opportunity to catch up and excel academically.

“The time and effort our teachers put into the students, combined with our clinical approach and credit recovery options, set the stage for success,” explains John Lawrence, Shelterwood Principal. “In most cases, students are able to catch up and move further along in their academic career.”

When a student arrives at Shelterwood, John and his team begin by assessing where the student is academically. “We look at what credits they have, what courses they may need to make up and what credits they will need to graduate.”

Shelterwood’s curriculum offers several options designed for credit recovery. “For incomplete or failed courses, students start with a pre-test. If they test out of the areas they already understand, then they can move past that unit and catch up more quickly,” John explains.

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For some students, course completion can continue even after the student graduates from Shelterwood. “If a student has not made up all the needed credits while they are here on campus, they can complete their courses through our online platform,” John says. “Our goal is to help our students complete as many credits as possible, so they have the best chance for academic success when they return home.”

“Not only do we help students catch up, we also work with students who want to get ahead and finish early,” John says. Highly motivated students are able to complete two full years of school in one year’s time if they are consistent, disciplined and work hard. “We have students who took it upon themselves to work hard, gain additional credits and graduate early,” John shares. “They left Shelterwood with a fresh start.”

Students also benefit from our smaller class sizes at Shelterwood. Our students receive personal attention and academic support not always available in a traditional school setting.

The support of Shelterwood’s academic team can also make a big impact on student success, John explains. “Every student has an academic advisor, who monitors the student’s progress. We meet regularly as a team to discuss how each teen is doing, so they can be as successful as possible in their school setting,” he says.

When the barrier to academic success is emotional, such as anxiety in the classroom, Shelterwood helps students in those areas as well. “Therapists work with students on focus, drive and determination. Our goal is to help them get back in the classroom and to be successful in that setting, so they can get back on track,” John explains.

No matter where a child is academically, Shelterwood will help that student make the progress needed for success. “Students get back into the academic routine and practice what they are learning in a therapeutic setting. This sets the stage for them to catch up and find success in the classroom at Shelterwood and most importantly when they return home,” John says.

Shelterwood marks 20 years of academic accreditation

When a student completes coursework at an accredited school, those credits are transferrable to any other high school in the country. Especially for Shelterwood students, many of whom return to a home high school or continue on to higher education, accreditation makes all the difference. As Shelterwood Academy marks 20 years of accreditation, we explore why this is such a significant distinction.

Accreditation, explains Shelterwood Principal John Lawrence, is validation of Shelterwood’s academic program to any other educational organization. “Accreditation legitimizes what we’re doing here. AdvancedED is the governing body that backs us, saying our credits are valid and should be accepted elsewhere,” he says.

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AdvancED (formerly North Central), with more than 100 years of work in school accreditation, AdvancED is unique in its commitment to not only certify a program, but help schools improve. In the accreditation assessment, Shelterwood was described as exceptional in our demonstration of standards, and exhibiting practices not commonly found in other schools.

Shelterwood was first accredited in 1996, John says. While the school is formally evaluated every five years, the AdvancED accreditation process is ongoing and improvement is continuous. “This is all about making changes to benefit students and always improve how we are educating them,” John says.

The accreditation process focuses on five key standards: purpose and direction, governance and leadership, teaching and assessing for learning, resources and support systems and using results for continuous improvement. The accreditation itself takes place over a two-day visit, with professionals from a variety of educational institutions on campus.

“They do everything from observations in the classroom, to interviews with teachers and faculty, to gathering parental input,” John explains, plus plenty of preliminary documentation and review.

“Because our accreditation commission comes to see what we’re doing and how we’re doing it, they can give us feedback, and challenge us on how to improve our school. We know what areas we need to work on for school improvement and how to help students in the classroom,” John says.

John, as well as several other teachers from Shelterwood, are also part of the AdvancED accreditation teams for other schools. “It is exciting for us to be able to share our expertise and also see how other institutions are improving.”

Accreditation benefits students long after they leave Shelterwood. John points to a student whose school back home in Texas was uncertain about accepting her Shelterwood credits. John simply contacted the state’s AdvancED representative, who facilitated the acquisition of the student’s credits. “It was because of AdvancED that the student was able to receive her full credits,” John says. “This made her transition back home far more seamless.”

“By continuing to make our school better through accreditation, we are helping students learn and grow,” John says. We’re proud of our commitment to accreditation and look forward to constant improvement. Accreditation is one more way that Shelterwood Academy provides an outstanding and valuable education for our students

Celebrating Graduation at Shelterwood

At Shelterwood, we always cherish the opportunity to celebrate our students’ accomplishments. May 27, 2016, was an especially meaningful occasion — graduation.

For Shelterwood students, graduation marks more than a purely academic achievement. This is a celebration of perseverance, explains Shelterwood Principal John Lawrence.

“Some kids come to us not even interested in graduating high school, feeling that they were too far gone,” John says. “Others face issues in their high school, and Shelterwood provided them a way to continue school and education in a different setting. So for all our graduates, this is an exciting time in their lives.”

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Students from the Shelterwood Class of 2016

Not only is graduation special for the students, it is meaningful for the Shelterwood team too. “This is a significant stepping stone for these students and we played a part in helping the student’s achievement come to fruition.”

The Shelterwood class of 2016 is made up of students with a variety of aspirations and ambitions. Some hope to be teachers, one wants to pursue sports therapy and some want to do social work. Our students’ fully-accredited diploma from Shelterwood means that they can go to college anywhere. Our graduates’ plans include work, community college, distance coursework and attendance at state universities.

Families and loved ones traveled from across the country to support their students. The graduation ceremony began with the traditional Pomp and Circumstance, and students entered the Shelterwood chapel in caps and gowns. A Shelterwood teacher continued the ceremony with a welcome and opening prayer. Another teacher gave a graduation charge, encouraging students to always look forward.

As students received their diplomas, a staff member read a short biography about the student’s hopes for the future, plans for school and what they want to accomplish. Students moved their tassel from one side to the other and graduation caps flew.

“Anytime we have a graduation, whether it’s graduation from high school or from the program, it’s fantastic for our other students too,” John says. “They get to see themselves in it, and see what’s possible.”

For staff, students and families, Shelterwood graduation represents obstacles overcome and dreams realized. “All of us are excited for graduation, because it celebrates what felt impossible before.”

College Readiness at Shelterwood

When a student enters a therapeutic boarding school, parents may fear their teen’s college dreams are over. But for Shelterwood students, it’s often the opposite. From our top-tier academics to ACT and SAT preparation, we work hard to help students get ready for higher education on all fronts.

“Just because they’ve entered into a therapeutic boarding school, that doesn’t change their goals,” says Sam Cummins, M.A. Ed., Instructional Specialist at Shelterwood. “It’s not a dead end for higher education. Actually, the door to college is more open than ever.”

Sam has been at Shelterwood for nearly four years. In addition to leading the independent and online studies program, he guides students in preparation for the ACT and SAT exams.

“The way we help students prepare for college entrance exams has really evolved over the past few years,” Sam says. Shelterwood students have an individualized test prep plan. “Since our students come from many different backgrounds and ability levels, it’s important that they can move at their own pace.”

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Sam Cummins guides Shelterwood students in ACT and SAT exam preparation.

For both ACT and SAT prep, Sam guides students through on online preparation program. Prep for these tests begins with a diagnostic pre-test, which helps students identify areas in which they are weak. Next, students take a deep dive into these subjects and get trained on the types of questions where they struggle. They’re tested again on these concepts to ensure learning.

Test prep at Shelterwood also covers test taking habits and how to prepare for the test day. Shelterwood helps students with test logistics too, from registration to transportation to and from the exam.

College preparation at Shelterwood extends far beyond test prep. “We offer opportunities both for remedial and for accelerated instruction,” Sam explains. Students in an unhealthy high school environment, for example, may benefit from the chance to complete high school courses earlier and receive their diploma ahead of schedule — so they’re ready to start college earlier. Other students may be very close to high school graduation when they enter Shelterwood; they can seize opportunities for college classes to stay ahead of the curve.

Ultimately, Sam explains, students are better prepared for college because of their time at Shelterwood. “We’re going to work with students not just on their outward behaviors and academic skills, but also their hearts, the way they view themselves and on their goals. We address social skills and heart skills so our teens are ready for college,” he says.

By addressing our students’ educational and therapeutic needs, Shelterwood produces strong results. “We’re seeing students do very well and many are accepted to competitive universities,” Sam says. “It’s important to us to help students achieve their goals.”