Ask the Expert: The Marshall SchoolFeb 20, 2023 05:00AM ● By Chris Jones
The Marshall School has grown out of a quest to help students with diverse learning styles
Every child can learn. That belief motivated Christina Carson to take a leap of faith in 2002 and open a tutoring center to help children with learning differences.
Carson’s business, Learning Enhancement Centers, grew so quickly that she soon left her full-time teaching job to expand her tutoring work. Four years later, she opened the Marshall School in Spotsylvania County to provide a supportive, individualized learning environment where children in grades K through 12 can overcome learning challenges, find their gifts, and unlock their true potential.
The Marshall School was born out of frustration that Carson experienced as a special education teacher in public schools. She saw schools using Band-Aid approaches to pass children through grades while never addressing the underlying issues that were causing them to struggle with academics.
“Whereas the public schools accommodate and modify the activities for the student, we are trying to fix what is causing the problem in the first place,” Carson says. “We are trying to correct the problem, not just treat the symptom. If they can’t read, we aren’t just reading the material to them. We are identifying the specific breakdown that is interfering with their ability to read and working to improve that area. That is the most important thing that distinguishes us.”
Every year, more families are learning what a difference this approach can make for their children. Since 2019, the school has grown from 37 to more than 100 students. It has added a second campus for grades 7-12 in the Salem Church area of Spotsylvania County. Amid this growth, the school maintains a 1-to-3 ratio of teachers to students.
The growth brings more social opportunities for students, as well as leadership opportunities such as clubs and student government. But the school’s small size still ensures that every student is seen for his or her individual gifts, needs, and contributions. This shows up in everything from the one-on-one help students get with learning challenges to the fact that no student can walk down the hall without being greeted by name.
“You are definitely known in this space,” Carson says of her school.
A different approach: The Marshall School gets to the root of students’ learning strugglesMany parents know this feeling: No matter how hard their child works at school, that “lightbulb” moment doesn’t come, or the grades don’t improve. If you are seeing this happen with your child, it’s important to trust your gut—your child can learn; he or she may just need a different approach.
Children with learning differences benefit from an educational approach that targets the specific ways in which their brain processes information differently from others. The Marshall School focuses on helping children from kindergarten to 12th grade build the learning and thinking strategies needed for a lifetime of learning and real-world success.
Because the Marshall School’s approach is built around targeting the specific processing challenges that each child faces, one of the most important parts of exploring enrollment is the evaluation educators conduct. School Director Christina Carson has tailored this evaluation over her many years of researching how brain-based training techniques can help children improve academic skills.
Prospective students will be asked to come to the school in-person for this evaluation. They will also get the opportunity to spend a portion of a day at the school with students, so that families and school leaders can determine whether this customized environment is the right next step in the student’s educational journey.
What does the Marshall School’s approach look like in a typical school day?
- Students learn at the pace their brains are ready for; not the pace that a standardized test dictates. The Marshall School meets students where they are and creates tailored instruction to help them master concepts before moving them through the curriculum. For example, because a child is behind in math skills in sixth grade, doesn’t mean they’re “bad at math.” Giving them the extra time they need to develop computational skills can help them move along. The Marshall School has seen students make multiple grade levels’ worth of progress in a single year with this approach.
- The social-emotional connection is part of the school day. Community is at the center of everything at the school. This has been an important part of the Marshall School’s culture from the beginning. Students feel known, valued, and accepted for who they are. Daily check-ins and a small environment where educators know all children by name ensure that mental health is a priority.
- School is a safe place to grow. Growth requires getting out of your comfort zone, and students are routinely reminded that, “We can do hard things.” They are encouraged to take ownership of their struggles, all with the support of a positive and encouraging faculty and peer group.
- Students are honored for their academic achievements AND for their gifts, talents and personalities. From musicality to empathy, the Marshall School’s signature awards ceremony celebrates the whole child.
- Executive function and life skills are not afterthoughts. High school students receive practical, hands-on instruction in budgeting, buying insurance, filing taxes, as well as other skills such as checking oil, putting air in tires, sewing, cooking and meal planning. Students learn how to manage their time, as well as important organizational strategies that will help them study, take tests, apply for jobs or run a business after they leave school.
Who is a good fit for the Marshall School?The school’s smaller environment and customized learning programs are good for all children and have been found to be particularly helpful for children diagnosed with ADHD, dyslexia, auditory processing disorders, learning disabilities, and executive function disorders. Creative, gifted, and struggling learners benefit from the school’s teaching strategies, low student-teacher ratios, and individualized approach. While the school is specially equipped to help students with brain processing and executive functioning struggles, it is not a fit for students with behavioral or emotional disorders.
Parents who are interested in learning more can call the school at 540-412-0992 to talk about whether their child may be a good match. The next step would be to come in for an evaluation of to determine how the child processes information as well as their academic levels. This evaluation provides the information to craft a learning program that will serve their needs.
Education is not one-size-fits allWithin a small, supportive learning community, the Marshall School offers programs that cater to students’ individual needs and help them find their individual path. Here are some examples:
- Music and performing arts.
- Dual enrollment with Germanna Community College for high school students.
- College counseling and help with college applications.
- Career counseling to help students find apprenticeships and other opportunities to build skills for a fulfilling work life.
- Instruction that helps students build executive-function skills.
- Social-emotional learning that helps students build resilience and self-regulation.
- Life skills lessons.
- Daily check-ins ensure students feel valued and help them empathize with peers.
- An overall school culture that emphasizes optimism, caring, and responsibility.
Take the next stepVisit TheMarshallSchool.org to learn more. Call the school at 540-412-0992 to talk about whether this supportive learning environment could be right for your child.
TESTIMONIALS“The Marshall School has been an absolute blessing! When I found them, I was at the end of my rope trying to figure out how to keep my kids interested in school. They HATED the one they were attending, and I felt that they were ready to call it quits completely. Christina sat down with them, and after a little testing, she was able to tell me what they needed more help with, provide a plan, and lay out the goals to get them back on track. Knowing that there was someone who truly cared, and wanted the best for my boys was a godsend. I knew after the first week at the school that we had found where we belonged.” – Parent Rebecca Hill
“The Marshall School is a perfect representation of Christina Carson’s dream for a place where children learn in the best ways possible for their individual needs. She is a blessing to every family fortunate to be part of the Marshall School.” – Parent Christina Abbott
“Our son, who was diagnosed with ADHD and slow processing, started attending the school in second grade after attending public school for his first two years. During those first years, he struggled to keep up with the teachers' expectations, and found math challenging. He rarely finished his assignments within the time provided. After attending TMS for second and third grade, we have seen a remarkable improvement in his processing speed and math competence. He's been so successful at TMS because his teachers recognized his slow processing, modified their expectations of him, and provided him with one-on-one sessions throughout the week. The teachers are concerned about their students' competence of the material and less concerned about finishing a worksheet. Beyond the academic benefits, the school values each student as a person and teaches respectful social skills, which creates a bully-free environment. – Parent Brian McVicker
The Marshall School
What We BelieveOur vision
Given the right environment, students can be confident learners, equipped for future success as a student and become civic-minded citizen leaders. [Text Wrapping Break]
This goal is supported by guiding beliefs:
We believe, All students can succeed when given the right tools and strategies.
We believe, When parents and educators work in partnership, students experience the strongest personal growth.[Text Wrapping Break]
We believe, All students should be met “where they are” and taught using research-based, effective teaching strategies that nurture and build the whole child.[Text Wrapping Break]
We believe, Parents and educators should provide a balance of both confidence-building and challenging experiences for children socially and academically.
Changing schools isn’t the only optionLearning Enhancement Centers offers one-on-one tutoring
Since 2002, Learning Enhancement Centers of Spotsylvania County has been using research-based methods to identify and improve specific brain processing issues that can lie at the heart of children’s academic struggles.
At Learning Enhancement Centers, students receive one-on-one coaching sessions where learning specialists work with the child to improve a specific skill. This skill-based work helps children with learning differences find greater success in academic work.
Typical tutoring takes place twice a week, and the center re-evaluates after every 20 hours of coaching, because improvements tend to come quickly.
“To give you an example of the kind of progress we can see,” said Founder and Director Christina Carson, “we had one student who came to us, a sixth grader who had been diagnosed with dyslexia and was on a second-grade reading level. After seeing her for 20 sessions over the course of one semester, this student was up to a fifth-grade reading level. Another student with us went from a first- to a fourth-grade reading level in a similar period of time. While everyone will progress at a different speed, it is not unusual for us to see growth like this with the methods we are using.”
To learn more, visit learningenhancementcenters.com, or call 540-412-0992 to talk about whether your child should be seen for an evaluation.