Ambassador's Fund for Catholic Education
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St. Agnes School
West Chester, Pa.
$50,000; Funded 2019-20
St. Agnes School was already known for its learning support system when school leaders decided they wanted to make a change. Administrators had observed the positive impact of initiatives implemented in the learning support room on the approximately 25% of students attending with IEPs, indicating various learning disabilities. They now looked to apply those successful principles and practices in every classroom. Their goal was to become a model Catholic elementary school that provides a multi-sensory learning environment within the general education setting and produces maximized learning for all students performing at every level.
Alternative seating encourages students to find their perfect spot within the classroom to learn, focus, and stay self-disciplined. It provides the means to meeting the needs of students who particularly exhibit learning and behavioral challenges, including those with autism, Asperger’s, and executive function, attention deficit, and sensory processing disorders. Provide standing desks, floor seating, wobble stools, cushions, therapy/exercise balls, and other special dynamic seating options to all students across every classroom, the math honors classroom, and the library — a total of 16 rooms. Form a team of three faculty members and the learning support specialist to educate classroom teachers on the use of alternative seating and guide them in developing and managing a flexible classroom environment.
Prior to the COVID-19-required transition to virtual classrooms in March 2020, St. Agnes School reported “tremendous progress” toward meeting its student goals, including decreased off-task behaviors, greater focus during instruction, improved test-taking habits, heightened engagement, increased achievement scores, more independent reading time, and fewer circumstances requiring redirection. Math instruction, in particular, drew eager students actively engaged in problem-solving directly on whiteboard desks and in a collaborative setting. A particular result is the use of these furniture options by high-performing students who appreciate the option to work independently on, for example, writing or math projects at individual tables separated from the traditional classroom configuration. St. Agnes is spreading its experience riches by sharing insights and progress with other schools.
“Giving our students choices in seating has strengthened collaboration, increased attention, and decreased off-task tendencies.”
Honors Math Teacher
St. Agnes School, West Chester