Q:  What is “Advanced Learning (AL)?”

A:  Advanced learning is work that is above and beyond grade-level expectations.  We think of the layers as “tiers.”  Tier 1 advanced interventions include the many things teachers do in their classroom every day to challenge students, and small group work within the classroom focused on above-grade-level students.  Tier 2 advanced interventions might be more in-depth extensions or enrichment and could take place within or outside of the classroom.  An example might be working on a school newspaper, or developing a class research project with greater depth and complexity.  Tier 3 advanced interventions are for those very few students who need full replacement curriculum.  These might include full grade acceleration, going to a higher grade for one subject area, or taking college courses as a high school student.

Q:  What is an “ALS?”

A:  This is an Advanced Learning Specialist in the Advanced Learning Division of MMSD, typically placed in two or more schools to support advanced learning needs in those schools.

Q:  What kind of support does the ALS provide for a school?

A:  The ALS is a data point-person for advanced learning, identifying advanced learning needs.  S/he is an instructional coach who can provide materials and collaborate with classroom teachers about advanced learning needs.  The ALS might recommend, facilitate, or provide short-term advanced interventions for individuals or groups of students.  S/he also documents and monitors interventions given and acts as an additional link between parents and the school.

Q:  What do advanced learning interventions look like?

A: There is a huge variety, but some examples include: curricular resources to provide enrichment within the classroom setting, intervention within the school model (e.g., during intervention block or section), enrichment activities with a volunteer mentor, direct service from the ALS within or out of the classroom, acceleration into a higher grade-level classroom for specific academic areas, full grade-level acceleration, honors classes, performances, exhibitions, events, leadership opportunities, online courses, compacting or extending learning within a unit. 

Q:  How are advanced learning needs identified in academic areas?

A:  We use classroom and district assessments (e.g., developmental assessments, reading levels, Measures of Academic Progress) as “screeners” to give us a first peek at students who may need a second look.  We then follow up with those students by seeking classroom evidence and perhaps further diagnostic assessments.  All of this information is used to determine the student’s need and the intensity of the need.

Q:  What does the MAP RIT score mean?

A:  Here is a link to a website that gives a pretty good description of RIT.

Q:  How do I know if my child will be in the Advanced Learning program?

A:  The Advanced Learning is a department in Central Office, not a program for students to join   (Although we do think it would be fantastic if your child aspires to join the Advanced Learning program one day, as a colleague!).  The question is, “How will my child’s advanced learning needs be met?” Rather than identifying students as “in” or “out” of a program, MMSD aims to meet every student’s learning need.  To that end, the Advanced Learning department works to identify advanced learning needs within a classroom, grade level, subject area, school, or across the district.  Then we strive to fill those needs with resources available within a classroom, grade level, subject area, school, district, community, or from the Advanced Learning department.

Q:  Who do I contact to find out how my child’s advanced learning needs will be met?

A:  Your first contact regarding your child’s learning is his or her classroom teacher, who has the best information about your child’s performance in class and how classroom instruction serves him or her.  Your child’s teacher can include the ALS when it makes sense to do so.  You should, of course, feel free to contact the ALS (or any other district employee) directly, who can collaborate with the teacher to explore the answer to your question.

Q:  When should we contact the ALS?

A:  If you want more information about how the Advanced Learning department works or the type of data used to identify advanced learning needs, you could consult with the ALS.  If your child is receiving a direct intervention from the ALS as a teacher, it makes sense to contact the ALS about your child’s work in that intervention, just as you would contact any or your child’s teachers.  You should, of course, feel free to contact the ALS (or any other district employee) directly, who can collaborate with the teacher to explore the answer to your question.

Q:  What does the ALS do when students seem to need advanced learning interventions?

A:  The ALS will collaborate with teachers to discuss the students as learners, and may suggest or provide additional diagnostic assessments.  The ALS will refer to department parameters, school population, personnel availability, and school programming model to suggest and discuss possible interventions or support. When students require a completely different  set of learning tasks in order to continue to grow, parents are invited to a problem solving and planning meeting.  At this meeting, the ALS, principal, teacher/s and parents discuss and determine appropriate interventions, including a plan for providing the intervention/s and how progress will be monitored.