Maria came to Alma del Mar a few weeks in to her third grade year. She had an extensive IEP and struggled with the structure of the classroom, including raising her hand and staying in her seat. When she arrived for her first day as a third grader at Alma del Mar, Maria did not know her letter sounds and was unfamiliar with basic math concepts like addition. English language instruction was also a challenge since she only spoke Spanish at home. Learning was hard for Maria and, as a result, she didn’t want to go to school.
The Alma del Mar team began providing Maria with extra supports, including daily one-on-one help in literacy and math. Alma teachers met Maria’s learning needs by creating pictorial booklets to help her remember reading and math strategies. Maria caught on quickly, coming in every day prepared to learn and utilize the strategies she had been taught. It wasn’t long before she was waking up her mother in the morning, wanting to be sure she’d be at school on time! Maria wanted to be pushed academically, striving to learn more and enjoying the challenge. For the first time, she had the tools to be academically successful.
By the end of the school year, Maria was reading on grade level. She passed her math interim exam and scored an 80% on her literacy interim exam. She no longer struggles with the structure or expected behaviors of the classroom. This year, Maria is in the fourth grade at Alma del Mar. She is thriving academically, personally and socially.
Jeremy had already been held back in first grade. With third grade just around the corner, Jeremy still couldn’t read. He struggled with anxiety and had very low self-esteem. He had been diagnosed with dyslexia, but he still wasn’t advancing academically.
Jeremy joined Alma’s third grade this past August. He didn’t know his alphabet and was reading on a kindergarten level. At first, Jeremy was very nervous about going to Alma. School had always been hard and the lessons just didn’t make sense to him. He would say, “I’m just not smart.”
It wasn’t long before he changed his mind. At Alma, Jeremy started receiving one-on-one tutoring from a dedicated volunteer, one-on-one conferencing four times per week with the literacy interventionist to focus on phonics and reading skills, one-on-one daily check-ins with his teachers, extra math support after school, typing lessons and special testing accommodations for his dyslexia, and occupational therapy. As of May, Jeremy has grown by eight reading levels (more than a full year’s worth of progress). He has also made huge progress in math thanks to Alma’s use of Singapore math with its focus on a strong conceptual understanding.
“He really feels that his teachers are helping him. He doesn’t cry in the mornings anymore – he’s excited to go to school,” says Jeremy’s mother. Recently, Jeremy’s mother was washing the dishes in the kitchen while Jeremy and his sixth-grade cousin played in the other room. Even from the other room she could hear the pride in her son’s voice as he said, “Guess what? I went up 5 reading levels!” His mother couldn’t be more thrilled. “He’s proud of himself for the first time. My biggest goal for him this year was to increase his confidence, and that dream has already been fulfilled! Sometimes I think to myself, it’s only November and he’s already come so far!” Jeremy still has a long way to go to catch up to his peers, but for the first time, he is motivated and excited to learn.