Learning Centers Aid Students With Learning Disabilities
The push to mainstream students with disabilities into the general education population in the public school system has led to several innovative programs. One of them is the learning center.
Although operated differently throughout the United States, it is generally set up as a classroom or lab in which students with learning disabilities can receive academic support. Some schools have designated an hour in the day for the students to take part in this program. Others simply keep it open throughout the school day for students to go to when they need extra time to complete an assignment, take a test, or get assistance from the teachers or instructional assistants coordinating it.
In many cases, it is a service offered to resource students (RSP) – students with learning disabilities who've been mainstreamed or placed in general education setting for the majority of the day. However, most districts offer it to special day students (SDC) – those who may spend less than a half of their day in a regular education classroom – and to general education students who are seeking help on a particular subject.
Also included in some centers are programs and technology for the physically disabled. This may included print enlargement for those with visual impairments; note-taking support for the physically immobile (a teacher from the center may go to a class to take notes for the student); or closed-caption media for the hearing impaired.
Types of Learning Centers
As mentioned, learning centers are often placed in a classroom setting. Its configuration can range from having “stations” (where there’s books or programs associated with an academic subject are found), group seating, computer labs, libraries or “cubical” desks and setting. However, some districts and/ or individual schools have utilized a separate room within the school’s library. In other cases, the “center” might be a computer lab or office.
Often, the well-equipped learning center will have nearly every tool of accommodations for the student’s use. This may include audio-books and headset; copiers or computer programs for enlarging the text of an assignment; note-taking support devices; calculators and manipulative for math; charts for all subjects; and additional help from the teacher or instructional assistant.
Often, the well-equipped learning center will have nearly every tool of accommodations for the student’s use.
A Lesson in the Basics
Besides offering assistance, learning center teachers may teach subjects such as study skills or reading intervention courses. Many use the first 10-15 minutes of class time to teach these skills and have them do school work form other classes for the remainder of the hour. Also, it is not uncommon for the teachers at the center to have notebook or note-taking checks to ensure the students are organized and participating in the general education classroom.
Learning centers are utilized at every level of education. Elementary schools offer them as part of a “pull-out” system (student is pulled out for a half-hour to an hour each day to learn the basics), whereas secondary schools will either offer it as an elective course or as a service. Usually, middle schools and high schools will offer it as a credit/no-credit course. Students will be graded on assignments given by the learning center teacher, the work they do from other classes, or both.
Most learning centers are designed to have one teacher and instructional assistant in the classroom. However, in other programs, RSP teachers with specialties in certain academic areas are paired up and placed in a team-teaching situation. For instance, one teacher may have specialty in English while the other is an expert in math. Also, these RSP teachers will have instructional aides*. As a result, a learning center can be covered by four adults.
Based on the school or district’s policy, learning center will differ greatly. Still, its flexibility has become a desire, if not essential, part of educational process for special education students.
Update: Some changes in Learning Center policies
Recently, many schools and districts have streamlined their special education programs. Designations such as SDC and RSP are being eliminated at some districts as they begin the process of going toward full-inclusion model. Also, some districts have reduced their instructional assistant core. This can affect the learning center by removing additional adults in the classroom.
Also, most districts have limited enrollment into these courses to RSP or fully mainstreamed students.
An example of a Learning Center in a classroom (from Katie Bonin)
© 2014 Dean Traylor