The Dartmoor difference resides in the shared ideal of student respect: the idea all students can and want to learn, and that all students learn uniquely. Everything Dartmoor does evolves from this simple premise.
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Most schools operate a chronological system in which the students' ages correspond to their placement (e.g., 10-11 years old = 5th grade), and in which instruction targets generic norms at each grade level and in each subject ("All fifth graders will be able to..."). Classrooms consist of 20 to 30 students of various levels and students progress based on seat time.
Dartmoor, contrarily, places students at instructional level and mastery (80% proficiency or higher) dictates student progress. While Dartmoor assesses grade and age level norms, these results are used primarily for reference purposes to inform the individual student's program. A 10-11 year old who excels at Math but struggles with Language Arts might place at 8th grade equivalency in Math and 4th grade Language Arts. Instructional level placement allows students to maximize their growth in all subjects, whether that subject comprises an area of particular strength or weakness. Dartmoor's one-to-one setting also permits students to enroll in a flexible scheduling plan.
Small group instruction allows for peer interaction inside and possibly outside the classroom in the form of athletics and extracurriculars. This can be a good solution for some students. Such a program, however, might risk sacrificing the needed academic intervention to approximate a traditional school atmosphere.
Dartmoor focuses wholly on one student at a time to build academic proficiency and success, which in turn promote positive self-image and social confidence. Many students dual enroll at a local public or private school for social and athletic activities.
Internet and distance schools have rapidly become a facet of the education industry, and continue to generate excited debate both pro and contra. As a general rule, these programs are only suitable for independent students. Internet and distance schools cannot provide the intensive support alternative learners need. A student, for example, who has learning differences or struggles with the clerical aspects of school such as time management or organization will be better served in a bricks and mortar setting where she or he can ask questions and receive individualized instruction and mentoring.
Dartmoor advocates for the use and benefits of technology, but remains dedicated to the nurturing role of a personalized, face-to-face education.
Special purpose boarding schools offer students a structured program in which they can stabilize, overcome complex issues, and learn or unlearn behaviors. These facilities range from therapeutic behavioral settings to wilderness programs, and often include an academic component. The primary focus, however, remains rehabilitation.
Dartmoor affirms the need for such institutions and agrees children with severe issues require substantial interventions. For students who face less severe issues, however, Dartmoor might provide part of a local, holistic approach. For example, a family could work with an educational consultant and other professionals to establish a network of support for a student that provides stability and structure here in the Puget Sound region.
A large number of individuals and agencies provide tutoring in small groups or one-to-one settings. Some of these options merely serve as "homework mills" to assist students with homework completion. Such options only serve as a temporary solution at best as they focus on completion rather than comprehension. Certain providers promise to "figure out" or "fix" children, comparing them to enigmas on the one hand and machines on the other.
Dartmoor takes a realistic, pragmatic approach to supplemental coursework: assess the student, determine where the strengths and weaknesses lie, and then pursue a targeted course of intervention. Instructors leverage interests and strengths to engage and challenge the student. Courses can incorporate study skills, strategies, elements of metacognition, and increasing expectations for independence to promote the student's post-Dartmoor success. A student does not outgrow ADHD or dyslexia, but Dartmoor teaches students to develop coping skills to deal more effectively with the issues surrounding both.