The Benchmark Approach

The Benchmark Approach is a unique way of teaching children with dyslexia, executive functioning issues (ADHD/ADD, auditory and visual processing differences), and other language-based learning differences.

Developed and refined over decades of research and hands-on experience, the Benchmark Approach teaches children how to be critical, analytical thinkers with excellent emotional, social, and decision-making skills.

The Benchmark Approach is intentional, reflective, supportive, and teaches the whole child. Our approach meets children where they are, and creates personalized instruction for each student. We use an array of tools and strategies—honed over fifty years—to scaffold student success.

How the Benchmark Approach Enables Student Success

The Benchmark Approach is Intentional.
The Benchmark Approach is Reflective.
The Benchmark Approach is Supportive.
The Benchmark Approach teaches the Whole Child.

The Benchmark Approach Is Intentional

Everything we do in the classroom is the result of deliberate intention. Benchmark’s instructional practice is rooted in academic research and collaboration with experts in the field, and is continually refined by practice.

At Benchmark, we get to know each student’s particular needs. We develop personalized instruction and support strategies that meet every student where they are, and then provide the right level of challenge to help them grow as learners. We draw on a combination of our research-based foundations, our proven practice, and our deep expertise to make adjustments and refinements to promote individual student growth, month-by-month, and day-by-day.

The Benchmark Approach Is Reflective

When you speak to a Benchmark student, they will tell you that they are well-versed in the art of educational reflection. Reflection—on planning, on process, successes and challenges, and on knowing one’s self as a learner—is part of our daily practice. Reflection builds growth.

In every subject area, we reflect: Why are we learning this? What’s the big idea? Our questions are open-ended, and we construct knowledge.

Working together, teachers and students reflect holistically on what works well for each learner, and we celebrate successes.

Our reflections are not confined to academics. We also guide students to reflect on themselves as learners. When our students become knowledgeable about their own learning style, they are empowered to become self-advocates. Self-advocacy is a skill that Benchmark students carry with them into their high school years and beyond.

The Benchmark Approach Is Supportive

Students feel motivated when they feel successful. We start with the student where they are, and apply scaffolding as needed. We take the time to teach students how to learn. At Benchmark School, a critical key to our success is providing students with the tools and strategies they need to be successful learners. These tools and strategies are woven into our educational culture.

With guidance, our students learn where and when to apply their personalized strategies to achieve success. As students gain strategies that facilitate their learning in one content area, they quickly learn to apply those strategies to other content areas, deepening their competence and confidence overall.

Reinforcement of strategies occurs over the course of the school day, the school year, and cumulative years. Reinforcement is continual exposure to and practice with strategies multiple times, with multiple teachers, across multiple subjects. Strategy reinforcement enables students to make discoveries and practice what they’ve learned, establishing life-long educational habits.

About Tools and Strategies

We like to say that tools and strategies open the door to content. Benchmark’s collection of tools and strategies have been honed over our decades of hands-on experience. Benchmark’s array of tools and strategies encompass techniques to support students with language-based learning differences, auditory and visual learners, and students who have difficulties with written expression and executive functioning skills. 

The Benchmark Approach Teaches the Whole Child

A Benchmark education is transformative. Our classroom practice is paired with a deep and holistic commitment to helping children develop strong emotional, social, and decision-making skills.

Building executive functioning skills—how to plan, how to organize, how to keep focus, how to be persistent, and how to regulate emotions—has been a core part of our Benchmark Approach from the time of our founding. Executive function and self-regulation instruction begins when students first enter Benchmark, and is taught in a spiral with increasingly more sophisticated tasks, texts, and environmental factors as the student’s self-knowledge and beliefs evolve.

Beyond classroom supports, our in-house team of psychologists and counselors partner with students and families to support social and emotional development. Support services are integrated throughout the school day, and include speech and language therapy, individual and group counseling, a weekly class delivering social/emotional instruction, regular consultations with classroom instructors, and one-on-one meetings with students to support their learning.

Boy reads in class

The Benchmark Approach & Reading Programs

Unlike some other schools, Benchmark does not use a published phonics/decoding program (such as the Orton-Gillingham approach and the Wilson system). Why? Because we have yet to encounter a program that does everything we need it to, and so we’ve built our own.

Traditional programs support children in learning to read. Our Benchmark Approach goes beyond the scope of traditional programs; we teach literacy and support the whole child as a learner in every context. Our holistic Benchmark Approach—incorporating our own reading program—guides children to read, to write, and to reflect; to cultivate a love of reading; and to know themselves as learners and thinkers.

Reading is the foundation for all learning. Benchmark School’s exclusive phonics/decoding program, called Word ID, is the creation of our founder, Irene Gaskins.

This comprehensive and world-renowned reading program is unique to Benchmark School.

Operating at levels appropriate for each child, and continually refined year after year, Word ID helps students investigate rhyming, spelling patterns, key words (that “unlock” other words), and a host of other reading strategies.

The language arts skills that students learn at Benchmark—breaking things down, having a whole-book experience, writing, and evaluating writing—apply to all subjects.

These reading and writing skills, once gained, create powerfully adaptive students.

When I came to Benchmark, my teachers individualized things for me and saw what worked and what didn't. Being here helped me gain the confidence I need to both do schoolwork and to contact teachers and ask for help if I need it. My time at Benchmark helped me grow in every major way.
Anna Lodge, Benchmark '13, Great Valley High School '16