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TIG will be updating the self-advocacy suite.  Please note the resources may be discontinued after the 2023-2024 academic year.

Academy of Accelerated Learning

Grade Level
Elementary School

Creating a better world through intercultural understanding and respect

As a visitor at the Academy of Accelerated Learning in Milwaukee you can’t help but notice the importance placed on building relationships to develop the whole child. Principal Eric Rian and his team agree that the effort is critical to their success, because when you know your students, you can meet them at their level– academically and behaviorally–and provide the help they need to move forward. Having a student population of whom 70% qualify for free or reduced lunch, 20% are English language learners, and 12% are students with disabilities, some schools might see obstacles. They see potential.

The Academy of Accelerated Learning has been an International Baccalaureate (IB) Primary school since 2011. This status requires schools to develop a system where inquiry, knowledge, and compassion are the foundation of all they do. The goal of IB is to empower young people to create a better and more peaceful world through intercultural understanding and respect. To implement this vision, the Academy of Accelerated Learning embraced an equitable, multi-level system of supports for both academics and behavior.

High expectations and flexible supports

The school has high expectations for all students, and as a result they have created an inclusive, fluid, systematic literacy block for students in K-5. Within this 120 minute daily block, teachers provide differentiated instruction at the universal level for all in addition, to intervention and/or extensions for those who are below and/or above benchmark.

To accomplish this, teachers intentionally deliver a model of whole group and small group instruction. The flexibility in this model has allowed specialists, teachers, and support staff to layer on interventions and extensions unobtrusively. Due to the variety of supports within the literacy block, students rapidly improve their skills.

Behavior is another important component in helping nurture the whole child. The Academy of Accelerated Learning’s behavior system reinforces and supports their academic instruction. School-wide expectations are posted throughout the building with weekly dedicated instruction time to teach and reinforce them. For students needing additional supports, recess and lunch are used to provide another layer of instruction. Positive acknowledgment of students happens in a number of ways. Teachers use specific positive reinforcement in classrooms. Students get to add “honeybee links” in a paper chain for cooperative achievements–like perfect attendance. Paper paws, which recognize individual student accomplishment for behavior and academics, are awarded and are proudly displayed on classroom doors. Staff cultivate strong relationships with students and their families. The staff points to these relationships as one of the reasons they have achieved such high attendance.

Using qualitative and quantitative data

At the Academy of Accelerated Learning, decisions about academic and behavior instruction and supports are made based on data. In the spirit of developing the whole child–both behaviorally and academically–collaborative teams analyze both quantitative and qualitative data, elicit feedback from families, and engage the student in their learning process. Teams meet weekly to monitor student progress, and determine where support is needed.

These approaches have led to impressive results. Their reading scores continue to increase on the on the Measures of Academic Progress (NWEA MAP) assessment and at a rate faster than the district average.

In 2014-15 attendance was 95.7%. Over several years they have consistently maintained a high percentage of students receiving one office discipline referral or less. The Academy of Accelerated Learning has been a recipient of the Wisconsin Title 1 School of Recognition award for four consecutive years, and have also been awarded the Spotlight Grant. In 2014-15, the Wisconsin RtI Center recognized them as a school of distinction for their RtI implementation in reading, mathematics, and behavior.


Collaboration is key

In part, Principal Rian and the team attribute this success to professional development along with internal and peer coaching. They are committed to collaborating to help each other identify not only what needs to be done, but why. They find value in applying the same qualities to themselves as they do their students: setting goals, monitoring progress, measuring success, and taking the steps to grow over time. By applying these guidelines to both their students and themselves, they are able to enrich the whole child, and the whole school.