In seeking to respond more fully to our mission of forming young women in a way that nurtures the whole person, Mount de Sales launched the Sacred Heart Program. This program provides academic supports and instruction to meet the specialized needs of college-bound students with identified learning disabilities.
Named after the devotion that is beloved both in the Visitation and Dominican traditions, the Sacred Heart Program provides academic support and remediation for continued improvement of academic skills as well as enable the student to discover her learning strengths, build on these strengths, and advocate for her needs.
In its first year, the program received the National Catholic Education Association’s Edward M. Shaughnessy III Award for Inclusive Education. The Sacred Heart Program continues to build on this strong start and rise to meet the challenges of students with learning disabilities.
The Sacred Heart Program at Mount de Sales Academy is a four-year program that provides accommodations and academic support based on the individual needs of each of its students.
The Sacred Heart program provides services commensurate with each student's level of need. All students in Sacred Heart have a Student Support Plan (SSP) which formalizes the student’s accommodations, and is based on her full educational-psychological evaluation.
Students will be placed into courses for which they are qualified at any level that MDSA offers, including Concept Classes, College Prep Level II, Honors classes and/or AP classes. Coursework is not modified; students are expected to complete all the course work and meet the requirements for a particular course with accommodations and the support of program staff.
In tandem with their other courses, Sacred Heart students take a class called Sacred Heart Seminar, which is a credited course that includes explicit instruction in school-based skills. Seminar sections are small, with just 3-5 students per section. Instruction is individualized to each student's needs, and focuses on remediation in particular academic areas of identified weakness, as well as targeted building of efficient executive functioning, including goal-setting, study skills, time management, organization, self-advocacy, note-taking and test-taking strategies, and assistance with managing class work. During this class period, students report to a learning support center to meet with program staff for instruction. Part of this session may also be used as a study period, or to accommodate the extra time given for assessments.
Upper-classmen in the program who have demonstrated effective implementation of the school-based skills taught in Seminar may be recommended by Sacred Heart staff to have the option to enroll in Phase 2, Coach. This non-credited section provides students with a class period designated to work independently, with the assistance and supervision of a Sacred Heart Learning Professional. It also designates time for the administering and monitoring of testing accommodations, and other basic supports as needed.
Sacred Heart maintains frequent and consistent communication between home and the program staff to assure that parents are kept abreast of the student’s academic progress. There will also be frequent communication between program staff and teachers. Program staff is available to assist teachers with implementing accommodations in the classroom and to help identify and address any concerns in the classroom.
Accommodations provided will be individualized to the needs of each student in the program, and are based on a full educational-psychological evaluation, a requirement for all students in the program. Accommodations include but are not limited to additional time to complete tests and in-class assignments, the use of various assistive technology for reading or writing assistance, use of a computer for tests or to take notes, oral testing, copies of teacher notes, and preferential seating in each class.
Each student in the program is issued a formal student support plan (“SSP”) that addresses her learning strengths and weaknesses, as well as what accommodations will be provided during the school year. This plan is shared with parents as well as the student’s classroom teachers. The Sacred Heart team will help the student become familiar with how to use this plan, and her accommodations, to her best benefit.
All students in the Sacred Heart Program take all timed, graded assessments (tests and quizzes) in the Sacred Heart Center to ensure effective and consistent use of testing accommodations.
All students in the program are required to have a full educational-psychological evaluation completed by a licensed/certified professional that meets the criteria below. A note from a doctor stating there is a learning difference is not sufficient documentation of a learning disability.