Fredericksburg Parent

February 2020

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18 Fredericksburg Parent and Family • February 2020 Ask the Expert a sk t h e e x p e rt The Marshall School was founded in 2006 by Christina Carson, an educator who saw a need for a school where students could escape the anxiety she was seeing them experience as they tried to memorize spe- cific answers to questions on the Virginia Standards of Learning (SOL) tests. Instead, the Spotsylvania-based Marshall School focuses on helping children build the learning and thinking strategies needed for a lifetime of learning and real-world success. The school's smaller environment and customized learn- ing programs are a particularly good fit for children diagnosed with ADD, ADHD, central auditory processing disorders and non-verbal learning disabilities. But as her school has grown, Carson has found that the "common- sense" approach the Marshall School takes to education benefits all children. As our February Expert, she shares her knowledge about learning challenges, the Marshall School's different approach to meeting learn- ing needs, and how that approach can change the way we think about our own children's school environments. Q: Why did you start the Marshall School? I didn't set out in the beginning to run a school. I set out to solve real problems I was seeing as a special education teacher in a public school. I was frustrated that my students with learning disabilities were being passed along to the next grade level year after year because they could pass a state test that was allowed to be read to them. Nobody cared whether they could read—as long as they chose the right answers on this test, they were ready for the next grade. Knowing that these kids were moving through the system without gaining critical life skills sent me home in tears almost every night. I researched and went through training on specific brain-based strategies that could help these students overcome their obstacles to learning—but I was told these strate- gies would be impossible to implement in my school. Desperate to help students in this situation, I opened Learning Enhancement Centers in 2003. Learning Enhancement Centers takes a specialized, brain-based approach to helping children learn. We quickly realized that many of our students needed more than just a few hours a week of help. They needed a structured learning environment—in other words, a school. The Marshall School opened in 2006 as a place where students could come for a year or two and catch up, but our families have found our approach so effective that most of them stay with us, and we are now a K-12 school. INTERVIEWED BY EMILY FREEHLING The

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