Twin City Catholic Educational System (TCCES) is dedicated to meeting the scholastic needs of every student. This commitment entails providing an outstanding education to typical students, as well as learners at both ends of the spectrum. Whether by providing individualized assistance to students who are struggling or by offering opportunities for academic acceleration, TCCES educators truly put this philosophy into action. Programs such as differentiated instruction, trained learning specialists, targeted testing and small class sizes create an atmosphere in which every learner can reach the height of his or her potential.
Differentiated instruction is based in the recognition that learners come to school with individual instructional needs and varying levels of academic skill development. To address this spectrum of needs and abilities, educators plan a variety of ways to present the same material to facilitate each student's success in learning. All teachers and administrators in the TCCES system have participated in a graduate class on differentiated instruction and individual teachers have attended additional classes and workshops on this topic. Teachers put this information to work on a daily basis in every classroom. Because they are with their students throughout the day, elementary classroom teachers are able to identify students' needs and determine what accommodations will be helpful
At Seton and St. Mary Central, learning specialists are on staff to continue and enhance the differentiated instruction begun at the elementary level. These specially trained educators work in conjunction with subject teachers to augment classroom work by teaching study skills, adapting lessons, providing supplemnetary materials and modifying test-taking methods. Each elementary school also has a degreed person trained as a supportive consultant who helps identify needs and suggest teaching methods to best fit individual students.
Among the tools used to determine students' academic strengths and challenges is Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) testing. Traditionally, Iowa Tests of Basic Skills (ITBS), commonly known as Iowa Basics, were used each year to track scholastic trends in individual classes and schools, and to gauge the general progress of each student in a few academic areas. Although they were the best data-gathering method for many years, the test format was often intimidating to students and took a significant amount of valuable classroom instruction time to administer. In addition, the results took months to obtain and were cumbersome to analyze and often confusing to parents. Iwoa tests looked at potential, while MAP tests give an instructional level with many tools to use to enhance learning.
In 2007-08, TCCES began using MAP testing. Principals, teachers, students and parents alike find this program to be much more user-friendly, and the results are immediate and very useful. TCCES is currently using MAP testing in the areas of reading, math and language arts in grades 3-9. Each school has a MAP proctor who facilitates the testing process. Faculty members have access to the data in 24-hours after the test is administered. Faculty teams meet to discuss how to use individual student's test results to individualize instruction as needed. Importantly, in addition to being useful for individualized student plans, data is also being used to determine what concepts within a subject area can be quickly reviewed with a class and which need more attention. Test results can be used to determine groupings for math classes, literature circles and much more.
Targeted tests are also used by TCCES as students prepare to enter high school. St. Mary Central administers placement tests in math and world languages, and has advanced course options for incoming freshmen in English and science. These options enable the guidance department to enroll students in classes where they can be most successful; some students will benefit from the assistance of the learning specialist and others will qualify for out-of-grade level or advanced placement.
A significant number of St. Mary Central juniors and seniors (and some sophomores) participate each year in the College Board's Advanced Placement (AP) testing program, enabling them to earn college credit. In Spring 2010, SMC students took 75 tests for college credit. CAPP classes are also available to juniors and seniors - yet another way to earn college credit. In addition, 100% of St. Mary Central juniors take the ACT test each year, and SMC's average score has ranked among the top five in the Fox Cities for the past several years.
Particularly at the high school level, the Guidance Department plays a significant role in each student's academic progress. For more information, please click on that link.