When did your organization launch and why?
Winston Preparatory School is a leading, nationally recognized educational institution for students with learning disabilities. Winston Prep’s Online learning program is an extension of its unique approach to learning and its virtual campus. Winston Prep opened its first campus in New York City in 1981, which was the first private high school for students with learning disabilities in NYC. Today, Winston Prep has six campuses in New York, Connecticut, New Jersey, California and continues to expand due to high demand from parents.
Due to Covid-19, since last spring, Winston Prep had to adapt its mode of teaching to continue to serve all our 520 students throughout our campuses in the New York Metro area, and our newest Marin County, California location. While other schools have been grappling with closures and providing an alternative education for their students, Winston Prep successfully moved its entire campus-based operations to a Distance Learning environment that is live and full-time online. Students can now receive the same unique education online or on our six campuses. Our school communities shifted their designated central meeting places to the G Suite for Education, and our students and teachers are as active and engaged in our online school community as they were on campus. Winston Prep’s interactive and synchronous model was so successful with our students that we decided to use this experience to springboard a new, fully online community for students with learning differences everywhere. It is important for all children, but especially those who learn differently, to feel understood.
What does your organization do? What are its main goals? Main projects?
Winston Preparatory School is a private school for students who learn differently. Ater developing a deep understanding of each student, they are grouped together based on similar learning profiles. All classes include frequent assessment of programs and adaptations to programming based on student response and feedback. Social Emotional Learning (SEL) and student wellness, with a focus on socialization, are crucial components of the Winston Prep community and embedded in all Focus, content, and nonacademic courses. The design and implementation of each student’s educational program begins with an understanding of their individual learning profile in the context of a neuropsychological model of learning disorders. This model is a result of neuropsychological and educational research that describes the learning process as an interactive one that involves three-part processing: language based, non-verbal and executive functions, which allows us to begin to focus upon and investigate primary areas of learning difficulty.
At Winston Online, our main goals are to develop our students into sustainable and independent learners. Winston Prep educators and leaders work each day to explicitly facilitate and encourage the development of these skills in our students. As with learning goals related to reading, writing, and math skills, the qualities of sustainable and independent learner objectives are developed for each student based upon their individual needs and strengths. The development of these skills are fostered through explicit instruction integrated throughout all facets of a student’s day as well as continually assessed through a data-based approach. Winston Prep’s Focus Program offers a one-to-one, daily teacher student session, where every student has the opportunity to hone in on their specific needs and learning disabilities. No other school offers a Focus Program like Winston Prep.
What makes your organization stand out? What would you say is the most unique thing about your organization?
Winston Online is a flexible, blended learning program for students with learning disabilities. Our program consists of live and highly interactive instructional sessions, autonomous learning opportunities with teacher support, and project-based learning opportunities that prioritize students interacting with the world around them. We offer an alternative to families who are looking for the education their children need and deserve. The most unique thing about Winston Online is how customizable and thoughtful we are with our programming. Students can enroll in a full day, choose certain classes to take, or only participate in the Focus program. We also collaborate with other Winston campuses through social groups in Focus, after school activities, and more.
What are the connections between the work of your organization and media literacy?
Aside from participating in this year’s Media Literacy Week, the Winston Online learning program is incorporating media literacy into many of the content and Focus classes! Just to give you some examples, our history classes incorporate critical thinking about media bias when discussing current events. Our literature classes are also incorporating media literacy, as understanding and analyzing media is just as important as understanding and analyzing literature. We are looking for ways to add media literacy into other content areas, such as looking at how the brain processes stereotypes in science class.
Why is media literacy important to your organization?
Media literacy is important to the Winston Online learning program because students everywhere should be developing their understanding of the world around them, in addition to academic and social problem skills. Unfortunately, these skills are not always explicitly taught in schools, but they should be. We want to make sure our students are becoming sustainable and independent learners who will be able to navigate through life post high school. Media literacy is integral to this process.
Anything else you want our readers to know about your organization, your mission, or your staff?
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The views and opinions expressed in the Organizational Spotlight blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of NAMLE or its members. The purpose of the Organizational Spotlight blog is to highlight our Organizational Partners and give them a place to share their reflections, opinions, and ideas.