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School History

Benchmark School was founded in 1970 by Irene W. Gaskins, Ed.D., as a small, part-time program with borrowed classroom space.
Under her guidance, it grew into a full-time, independent school, situated on a wooded 23-acre campus in Media, Pennsylvania, complete with a 20,000 volume children's library, 35,000 volume curriculum library, modern classrooms, science labs, music and art rooms, and a gymnasium. In 2003, Benchmark dedicated two state-of-the-art buildings: the A. Palmer West Performing Arts Center and the Dorrance Hill Hamilton Middle School Building, and in 2018, Benchmark opened its state-of-the-art Innovation Lab, complete with 3D printers and laser cutters. 
Irene Gaskins stepped down as Head of School in 2007, when Robb Gaskins, Ph.D., a former professor in reading education at the University of Kentucky, took over as Head of School.
Robb Gaskins continued Benchmark's emphasis on research-based, individualized instruction during his twelve year tenure as head of school. Consequently, this tradition remains a fundamental component of a Benchmark education. In addition, Robb Gaskins was instrumental in creating the 1:1 laptop program in the middle school, integrating technology and design thinking across the curriculum, and fostering a culture of mindfulness among faculty and students. 
In June 2019, Robb Gaskins stepped down as head of school and the Board of Trustees appointed Ralph Wales  as Interim Head for one year beginning on July 1, 2019.  
Benchmark School administrators and faculty are frequent presenters at local, state, and international conferences on best teaching practices. Benchmark also is proud to frequently host visitors from schools around the world who are interested in learning about Benchmark's research-based approach to teaching children who learn differently.

Benchmark School is licensed by the Pennsylvania State Board of Private Academic Schools and has been accorded 501(c)(3) status by the Internal Revenue Service. A not-for-profit, independent school, Benchmark relies on tuition and charitable gifts for its operation.  Accredited by Pennsylvania Association of Independent Schools, which is a member in good standing of the National Association of Independent Schools’ Commission on Accreditation.

Benchmark School does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national or ethnic origin, religion, gender and sexuality diversity, age, or against qualified individuals with disabilities on the basis of disability, in its admissions and financial program, in the administration of its educational program, or in its employment policies.

Irene Gaskins designed Benchmark not only to be a special school for helping struggling readers, but she also wanted it to be a laboratory for designing instruction that works for all students.

Tim Rasinski, Ph.D., Professor of Literacy Education, Kent State University

Benchmark has perfected its instructional model over a 49-year period and yet continues to refine it and extend it. All struggling learners should be taught so well and so intensively.

Dick Allington, Ph.D., Professor of Literacy Studies, University of Tennessee; Member, International Reading Association's Hall of Fame