The Learning Center


Highland School’s educational philosophy is grounded in the understanding that students learn in a variety of ways and the Learning Center exists to support that philosophy. The Learning Center is based on two objectives:

Provide Direct Support

To provide direct support to students who have documented learning disabilities and differences as well as to offer feedback and guidance to those students who are struggling but who don’t yet have documentation. We seek to ensure students leverage their academic strengths, address their challenges, and develop the skills needed to be successful students and lifelong learners.

Serve as a professional resource

To serve as a professional resource to the faculty who work with those students. We believe that each Highland student has the potential to succeed academically if given focused support and that teachers are most effective when equipped with the proper skills  and strategies. Our goal is to provide a common baseline of skills, language, and understanding among faculty through ongoing opportunities for additional professional development.  

At Highland, our l
earning specialists recognize each student’s abilities, learning styles, and learning differences in order to provide academic support based on the student’s individual needs. Additionally, specialists work closely with teachers to create and review the student’s learning profile and to suggest effective teaching strategies based on guidance specified by licensed psychologists in the psycho-educational reports.  

We are committed to staying abreast of developments and evidence-based learning practices to ensure we are providing the most effective support to students, parents, and teachers. There is a  Learning Center in each division to respond to the changing needs of students and to allow for developmentally appropriate services, which can include coaching, organizational support, remediation, direct teaching of study skills, and the management of testing accommodations.

For more information on Highland's Learning Center by division, please click on any of the expanding boxes below:

List of 5 items.

  • Learning Center in Lower School

    Early intervention is key in Lower School
    Early intervention of reading issues is a primary focus at Highland School. The Lower School Learning Specialist works with Kindergarteners and first graders if there is a concern about the student’s reading development. In January, all Kindergarten students are given the CTOPP (Comprehensive Test of Phonological Processing). All new first grade students are also given this assessment. The CTOPP quantitatively identifies students who may be at risk for a reading disability. Most students who show weaknesses on this test are already receiving support from the Learning Center, but based on the testing, services may be increased.

    We use specialized systems to teach reading and spelling

    Highland School uses the Orton-Gillingham approach to reading through the Barton Reading and Spelling System. Barton is used with Learning Center students from Kindergarten through second grade and occasionally into the higher grades. Highland has established a parent-tutoring program where trained parents work one-to-one with a student throughout the school year.

    For the student who continues to struggle with reading and/or other subjects, a recommendation for a psycho-educational evaluation may be made. Please review the information available on psycho-educational testing. Students in grades 3 and 4 may receive academic support and accommodations in most subjects based on the recommendations in the psycho-educational report.

    Learning Center staff work directly with classroom teachers

    Classroom teachers and Learning Specialists work together to provide the best possible academic opportunity for all Lower School students. Weekly meetings are held to review all student’s successes as well as areas of concern. A weekly Student Support Team (SST) consisting of the Director of the Lower School, the Learning Specialist, speech or occupational therapists (if appropriate) and the Director of the Learning Center also review any student concerns.

    Additional services available if needed

    In addition to the Learning Specialist at the Lower School, there are also two independent services – speech therapy and occupational therapy – available for a fee to Highland families.
  • Learning Center in Middle School

    Direct intervention in Middle School
    The Middle School Learning Center provides direct intervention in the form of a dedicated class, testing accommodations, or academic monitoring. Students who receive direct intervention in the Middle School Learning Center must have a foreign language waiver identified in their psycho-educational report.
    During the Learning Center class, students work on remediating reading, writing or math, organization, quiz and test strategies, class projects and sometimes homework. Students who receive testing accommodations may come to the Learning Center out of their regular classroom for a quiet environment or extended time. Students may also test in the Learning Center to use a computer for word processing.

    Classroom teachers work directly with Learning Center specialists
    Subject area teachers work directly with the Learning Specialists to provide the best possible academic opportunity for all Middle School students. Grade level team meetings are held regularly to review students’ academic and emotional well-being. The progress of Learning Center students is closely monitored and reviewed regularly with the parents.  Learning Center report cards are provided twice a year. In the event of concerns, the parents are alerted and suggested improvement strategies are recommended.

    Independent services available during school hours

    In addition to the Learning Specialists at the Middle School, there are also independent services – tutoring, speech therapy, and occupational therapy – available for a fee to Highland families. Students who need these services can receive them during the school day.
  • Learning Center in Upper School

  • Educational Testing

    Educational testing available through the Learning Center
    Educational testing includes a battery of psycho-educational evaluations completed by a licensed psychologist or a neuropsychologist. Educational testing can be done through school districts, counties, or independent psychologists. 

    Educational testing may include but is not limited to an intelligence test, academic assessments, emotional evaluations, tests of processing ability and processing speed. These tests generally take about six hours to administer and are often given in two three hour sessions. 

    Results and analysis shared and recommendations made
    Following the testing, the evaluator will provide the student's parents with a multi-page synopsis of the evaluation, a list of tests and test results, and an analysis of the test results and suggestions of how to support the evaluated child. This evaluation should include a diagnosis of any learning, social, or emotional differences that are noted. The evaluation should also include recommendations to support the student at home and at school. Recommendations should be made for the student, the parent, and the school.
  • Accommodations

    What is an accommodation?
    What is an accommodation? According to Kathleen Nadeau in her book titled Survival Guide for College Students with ADHD or LD an accommodation is a change in procedure specifically designed to assist a student with learning differences to be able to perform at his or her best.

    Professional evaluation required
    All students who use the Learning Center in Middle and Upper School must have an up-to-date psycho-educational evaluation on file in the division’s Learning Center. This evaluation must have been administered by a licensed psychologist.  As a part of a psycho-educational evaluation, the psychologist should provide a list of suggested accommodations to be implemented by the student, the parents and the teachers. These accommodations provide guidance for the best support of a student’s academic, emotional and social needs.

    Personalized 'Individual Accommodation Plan' developed 
    Prior to obtaining academic support from the Learning Center, the division Learning Specialist and Director of the Learning Center review the student’s most current psychological report and develop an Individual Accommodation Plan or IAP. This Individual Accommodation Plan includes the accommodations available for a student at their current grade. As a college prep school, we provide our students with the level of support that will allow them to be successful both at our school and in their future studies. Accommodations provided at Highland align with the accommodations used by the College Board or ACT standardized testing.  

    Individual Accommodation Plans change as a student’s needs change with the different grades. Accommodation Plans may also change as a result of a new psycho-educational evaluation. Accommodations are intended to support a student’s academic needs as they develop in school.

    Applying for accommodations for standardized testing 
    Along with Highland’s accommodations, there are also accommodations for standardized testing. Prior to taking any of the college standardized measures, the application is made to the College Boards to obtain accommodations on the PSATs, SATs, APs and SAT subject area tests. There is also the ACTs, a different form of college testing. Application is made for these accommodations during the freshman year of the Upper School. Once accommodations have been acquired for these tests, they are available for the student throughout their Upper School career.

The Learning Center philosophy

At Highland School, we devote significant resources to the Learning Center to meet the needs of students with diverse learning styles and to be a resource for teachers to increase skills and understanding.  The Learning Center is committed to providing a safe learning environment that fosters respect for all learning styles and the expectation that, with the proper support and guidance, all students can succeed academically.

As a resource for students, faculty, and parents, The Learning Center provides a range of programs designed to enhance both individual and class performance for students in grades K-12. The close partnership between the teachers and the Learning Center specialists is vital to identifying learning differences, assessing students’ special needs, and guiding students and their parents through referral and external diagnostic processes. Varied resources are in place to respond to students’ changing needs as they transition through the grades and divisions. The program and practices are continually evaluated to meet the ever-changing and diverse needs of our students and families.


Highland School is a co-ed independent Pre-K2 to Grade 12 day school located in Warrenton, Virginia.