Thursday, September 22nd, 2005
Sanford Shapiro looks at Ben Bronz Academy
Ã‚Â© 2005 Sanford Shapiro
Ben Bronz Academy is a school for children with learning disabilities, grades 2 through 12, and is located in West Hartford. It was a real treat for me to spend a few hours with the school’s leadership and meet some faculty and see kids engaged in various learning activities. This does not appear to be a widely known school, but it should be. Not knowing much about the school previously, I saw how focused it is on identification of students’ strengths and weaknesses, daily and specific tracking of individual student learning and progress, and detailed, task analyzed lesson-planning. Surrounding a high level of standards for faculty and students appeared to be a kind caring place for students to be themselves.
Executive Director Aileen Spence, Ph.D (left) and Education Director Susan Sharpe, Ph.D are serious in their commitment to their students but it doesn’t stop them from having some laughs.
It started in 1985 and its founders Drs. Aileen Stan-Spence and Ian Spence, remain central influences in the school. The education director, Susan Sharpe, Ph.D has also been with the school since its early years. I mention the founders continued involvement as evidence of the school’s health and success. They seem to have made the difficult shift from directing the day-to-day operation of the school in all aspects to a more meta-oversight. They seemed to have moved from what I would call a “parent” role to one of “grandparent.” This represents a significant achievement in a school’s development and not as easy as it might sound. There was a clear sense of history without being overly wedded to it.
Though historically serving students with language-based learning disabilities, Ben Bronz also enrolls some students (up to about one fifth of the kids) with a more NLD profile. The school has developed a behavior tracking, teaching and management system that gives a high level of good feedback to teachers, parents and students that serves all children well.
Ben Bronz teacher.
The curriculum is skill based on foundation skills of literacy and also metacognitive skills, meaning teachers and students work on awareness of personal thinking patterns to increase learning. A program called “Instrumental Enrichment” for example, designed to develop such skills as categorization (which helps lead to paraphrasing) is embedded into all grades. Average length of stay is 2.4 years and children come from all over the state of Connecticut.
Ben Bronz is a good match for who it says it serves, those with good thinking skills compromised by language processing weaknesses. I think parents who are looking for a day program that is highly academically and skill centered would be quite happy. The focus on the meta-skills requires I think, a kid who is ready for that and isn’t looking for a school with lots of extra-curricular experiences. While there appears to be a compliment of elective opportunities, with kids coming from a distance, families often choose to have their kids engaged in “extras” outside the school day, off-campus.
The school is part of a parent organization called the Learning Incentive, which promotes services for parents as well.
Related at this site: Ben Bronz Academy