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iCademy Middle East – WSA Q and A

iCademy Middle East – WSA Q and A

What is the official name of your School?
iCademy Middle East

What is your Web site address for more information?
www.icademymiddleeast.com, or call +971 4 440 1212

What qualities and characteristics would you say define your school… Why should parents consider iCademy as an option? 
iCademy Middle East allows students residing in the Arabian Gulf region—including United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, Lebanon, Iraq, Iran, Syria, Egypt, Jordan, Libya, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Turkey—to enjoy the benefits of the full program at home.

Students who enroll with us and who meet the iCademy graduation requirements, are eligible for a U.S. accredited diploma. In addition to its international and U.S. accreditations, iCademy Middle East is licensed by Dubai’s Knowledge and Human Development Authority.

Our school provides a very unique program. We offer a fully accredited curriculum that can be studied from anywhere, at any time.

The curriculum can be adjusted in order to meet the individual needs of each child and each student is provided with an individual learning plan based on their personal strengths and/or weaknesses. We offer over 240 courses so that students can study a vast range of subjects in which they are interested.

The program utilizes a blended learning model. Blended learning combines different methods of instruction to enrich student learning and personalize education. Blended learning harnesses the power of technology, enabling multiple modal strategies to allow teachers to personalize students learning in an efficient manner.

An educated person in the 21st century is one who has a solid understanding of fundamental concepts presented in the core academic subjects, and has the ability to think critically about the issues we face as part of a global community in the age of information and technology. The school will equip its students to be well-educated 21st century citizens, and provide them with the online and offline communication and collaboration skills essential to succeed in the 21st century.

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The primary vision of the school is to serve students in grades K-12, with the purpose to improve the readiness of students in grades 9-12 for university and the challenges associated with the next stage in their education.

As proven by research, we believe that a technology intensive educational model will optimize each individual student’s performance and help prepare them for university through access to a comprehensive individualized curriculum, leveraging technology, and strong online and face-to-face instructional support.

Students that benefit from the services we provide are:
• Gifted and talented
• Advanced learners
• Those that may have learning difficulties, special needs or medical needs
• Children that have been excluded from school
• Individuals that suffer from social anxiety
• Children that have been bullied in a school setting
• Those requiring additional support
• Students that like the ability to study from home or in various locations
• Those that don’t settle into a traditional brick and mortar school
• Those that cannot get a place in a brick and mortar school and/or are on waiting lists
• Those that are not being challenged enough at school
• Children that are aspiring professional athletes or those in performing arts
• Students that come from a military background
• Expat children living in the GCC

We offer several methods for studying with iCademy Middle East:
1. At home in an online, homeschool environment
2. At one of our learning centers in Dubai

How many nationalities are represented within iCademy?
18+

Are there high proportions of particular nationalities?
Our largest proportion of students are western expats from various English-speaking countries (US, Canada, UK, Australia etc.)

What is the teacher: student ratio?
Learning Center Program: Ratios range from 1:3 for students with certain special needs, to 1:10 for regular education high school.
Online classrooms are typically 1:30 or lower depending on the course.

What percentage of your students achieve entry to higher educational institutions and, in general terms, which countries?
Approximately 75% or higher, in general to the US, UK or UAE.

Our program is fully accredited, so the US diploma is very widely recognized and accepted by universities around the world.

Physical education and sport is an important aspect of a healthy lifestyle. How can/doesiCademy help with this…
As we are a virtual school, High School students are required to take courses in PE and Skills for Health.

Students participate in at least thirty minutes per day of physical activity, and submit a fitness log weekly to the teacher.

The Health courses also cover nutrition and wellness, the importance of exercise and physical activity, and social and emotional health.

Some of our school outings are fitness-centered, such as an annual Sports Day whereby children engage in fun competition and a healthy barbecue in one of the local parks.

Other trips have included indoor trampoline jumping, nature walks, and camping.

How can you promote healthy eating?
Students in our Learning Centers are asked to bring healthy lunches; i.e. no crisps, sweets or fizzy drinks, and including a variety of proteins, carbohydrates, fruits, and vegetables. We also offer an elective course in Nutrition and Wellness, which provides an overview of good nutrition principles that are necessary for physical and mental wellness and a long, healthy life.

The course emphasizes an understanding of today’s food and eating trends and gives students the capacity to intelligently evaluate all available sources of nutrition information and to make informed decisions.  Unit topics include wellness and food choices, digestion, body size and weight management.

Is there a starting and finishing time of a school day?
In our online environment students can choose to study at times that are convenient to them.  Students are expected to spend one hour per course, per day on school work.  Class Connect sessions with teachers are delivered at various times during the day, but are recorded so that they can be reviewed by students who miss the sessions for any reason.

In our learning centers, timings vary based on grade but are generally 8 am-2:30 or 8 am-3pm.

Do you have a discipline policy?
iCademy Middle East  strives to maintain a positive learning environment where students, families, teachers, and staff are treated with respect, and where they respect the personal rights and property of others.

All staff members are expected to meet key standards of work performance: achieving committed goals, meeting deadlines, having a positive effect on others, and continuously seeking ways to enhance and improve the school.

Students and families are expected to contribute likewise to create the most effective educational environment possible.

Students enrolled in iCademy Middle East should be aware of the following guidelines and expectations. These expectations are not limited to interactions among students. Communication and interaction with faculty and staff should also be governed by this code of conduct. This code of conduct is applicable to the online school environment as well as for any on-site/in-person school events. Any activity that is not listed here that violates local or country laws is considered a violation of the Student Code of Conduct and Terms of Use.

Failure to follow these guidelines could result in the following:

• A grade of zero points for the specific activity, assignment, or exam which violates the Code of Conduct.
• Failure of the course or courses in question.
• Removal of student access to instructional computing resources, which could result in the student’s inability to complete learning activities
• Suspension or expulsion from iCademy Middle East and loss of paid tuition
• Involvement with law enforcement agencies and possible legal action

Honor Code
The iCademy Middle East Honor Code is found within the Orientation Course  to be completed by each student.  All work submitted is assumed to have been completed only by the individual student. Students are responsible for observing the standards on plagiarism, cheating, and properly crediting all sources used during the composition of work. Students who fail to abide by these standards will be reported to the appropriate administrative authorities, which may result in a conference with the Learning Coach, failure of the course assignment or exam, loss of credit for Upper School courses, revoked access to course(s), and suspension or expulsion.

Inappropriate Behavior
iCademy Middle East is committed to maintaining a learning environment that is free from inappropriate behavior and harassment. Inappropriate behavior includes the following:
• Insults or attacks of any kind against another person.
•  Use of obscene, degrading, or profane language.
• Harassment, continually posting unwelcomed messages to another person, or use of threats.
• Posting material that is obscene or defamatory or that is intended to annoy, harass, or intimidate another person. This includes distributing spam mail, chain e-mail, viruses, or other intentionally destructive content.
• Knowingly and intentionally reporting or giving false or misleading information, either oral or written, which may injure another person’s character or reputation or disrupt the orderly process of the school.
• Intentionally destroying, damaging, defacing, or stealing records or property (whether physical or electronic) owned by the school or school staff
• Exhibiting lewd, indecent, or obscene behavior and/or activity, either in person or online.
• Possession, sale, distribution, or use of controlled substances, including alcohol at any school-sponsored event. Students traveling abroad are required to adhere to this policy regardless of local regulations.
• Possession of knives, firearms, lighters, explosives, or any other object used or construed as a weapon at school events.
• Any conduct that disrupts the education process.

What is your policy on mobile devices such as mobile (cell) phones in school?
Within the Learning Center, students must have mobile devices on silent and they are not to be used during instructional or study time.  The question is not applicable to the online model.

How does your school differentiate learning?
An inclusive, personalized learning model is the key to the success of each student at iCademy Middle East.  Since each student will have a thoroughly developed personalized plan — that is continually updated — teachers can focus on the learning needs of each student. This will be true for students with special learning needs, English Language Learners, as well as those who are categorized as gifted and talented. For younger students, early intervention is the goal.  In essence, each student, regardless of skill and ability level, will have his or her own Individualized Learning Plan (ILP).  The ILP, designed for each student, outlines academic objectives, documents strengths and challenges, and sequences the student’s course work for maximum success.
At the beginning of each school year, full time students take the Scantron Diagnostic Assessments (grades 3–8) in English and Math to pinpoint proficiency levels, guide the creation of the student’s Individualized Learning Plan, and to allow us to measure progress over the school year.

The Upper School offers an expansive curriculum of over 150 course choices, including Core, Comprehensive, Honors and AP level courses, plus a wide variety of World Language options.  Students are able to choose courses that are tailored to their educational needs and interests.

Do you develop independent learning through homework and, if so, what are your recommendations regarding this, particularly time spent on homework?
The majority of the students in our program school from home, which fosters a high degree of independent learning.  Students within the program are expected to spend one hour per course, per day (more for Honors and AP High School courses).  For students in our Learning Centers, work that is not completed during the day would need to be completed after school hours as homework.

How do you feedback progress and attainment to students and parents?
All students and teachers have constant access to the gradebook and student progress via their own student or parent account.

Certified teachers are assigned to students and communicate with students and parents on a regular basis through Kmail and online web conferencing. Teachers remain constantly involved to help with pacing issues, comprehension challenges, positive reinforcement techniques, and other facets of the instructional experience.  Highly qualified subject-certified teachers are there to help guide and track each student’s progress across all grade levels. Middle School and High School teachers grade student work and provide feedback regarding their progress.

They are available to help with coursework and answer questions online or via email. They respond to personal questions and classroom-related questions posted in the “Teacher’s Office” bulletin board. They also host live “ClassConnect” sessions to help students through difficult topics and/or prepare for assessments. The role of all our teachers is primarily to make each student’s education as successful as it can be. They are available each day to answer questions, address issues, and provide support. If they are not available immediately, they respond with a call or e-mail within 24 hours.

How often is the more formal feedback such as reports and parent/teacher meetings?
Teachers and academic coaches reach out to students and families biweekly either through scheduled conference calls or by sending progress updates through Kmail.

Formal reports will be issued to students twice per school year: at mid-term (90 school days) and year-end (180 school days). Students who withdraw during the school year will be issued a withdrawal report that can be used for enrolling in a future school. While official report cards will be issued twice a year, students and their parent or Learning Coach have continued access to current progress and attendance 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for the period of their term. Parents and students may also connect with their homeroom teacher, Subject Specific Teacher, or Middle School Academic Coach if more information is desired.

Is Arabic taught as both a first language and second language in your school?
Yes. The school meets the requirements set by the UAE Ministry of Education in respect to the Arabic Language, Islamic and Social Studies curriculum. Qualified teachers teach UAE approved Social Studies, Islamic Studies, and Arabic via our online whiteboard, Class Connect, and also incorporate homework and exams. The Ministry of Education curriculum is used, comparable to that of traditional (non-hybrid) schools in the UAE.

Which other languages are taught?
Students have the option of studying French, Spanish, German, Chinese, Japanese, and Latin (grades 3 and higher).

Do you offer EAL or TEFL support for those students where English is not their first language?
To support English Language development, students may participate in an innovative hybrid ELL program developed for K12 Middle East by Advance Consulting for Education (http://www.aceducation.ca/).  All students who required further English Language Development may be enrolled in the ESL course their first year, either online or in a classroom-based environment.  Students that need additional English language support after the first year of enrollment may continue with a second year of ESL instruction.

Is Islamic Education/Studies for the Arab Muslim students delivered in Arabic for them?
Yes

If external examinations and assessments are part of your curriculum, which ones do you offer?
Measuring and reporting student achievement gain is an important activity during the school year. To correctly assess whether students are on track to make significant gains during the year, the school conducts interim assessments in each core subject. Students take lesson, unit, and semester assessments built into the program and accessible from the online School as well as in paper form. The staff is trained on how to interpret test data, and is engaged in critical analysis of the data in order to determine how the school can address any performance deficiencies or negative data trends. The data analysis is tied to professional development on instruction, so that teachers can enhance their understanding of student performance and modify their instructional designs accordingly. In this way, staff will continuously be challenged to rethink current pedagogical practices to meet the changing needs of students.

The school uses Scantron adaptive testing to identify baseline and end-of-year achievement of the students in Mathematics and Language Arts. Teachers administer the Scantron at the beginning of the year and, if necessary, adjust student placement in the curriculum accordingly. The data is used to help teachers understand the baseline achievement of their students along with specific areas of strength and weakness. Teachers review the test scores as well as previous student records and additional data provided by the learning coach to ensure that the student is placed in the correct level of the curriculum for each subject.

Administered to full-time students in grades K-2 (and upon discretion to some students in 3rd grade), AIMS is used as a diagnostic tool to ensure that our students have a strong foundation in literacy. The AIMS test is a required assessment administered to our students 3 times each year at the beginning, middle and end of the terms. The results provide immediate data for the Learning Coaches and students to target areas of need and monitor student growth. Teachers use these results to create goals for our students and communicate with Learning Coaches about student achievement.

High School students are provided guidance on registering for SAT and TOEFL testing at local testing centers.

iCademy Middle East also participates in PISA and TIMMS testing with a sampled percentage of students.

What is your medium of instruction?
Our rigorous Programs follow a philosophy of education based on the principles of educating the whole person:  promoting international understanding, offering a broad and balanced curriculum that believes in respect for cultural diversity.  Courses are delivered online, by highly qualified and certified teachers.

A technology intensive education approach in any form assumes that students learn best when information is presented through a variety of learning styles. Thus, each lesson contains content that is presented through the following modalities: visual, auditory and kinesthetic. This guarantees a solid foundation for learning.

To support optimal student learning, the school employs a team teaching approach with certified teachers and learning coaches involved in the instructional process. Students are instructed by appropriately certified teachers, who assist students to achieve mastery of learning objectives, and provide guidance, instruction and support.

Teachers are available to assist students with supplementary materials or recommended approaches should the student have difficulty understanding the content of a lesson. Teachers also provide direct instruction in all subject areas as needed by their own assessments, embedded assessments or other performance assessments. The presence of online lesson and embedded (unit) assessments ensures that teachers are able to quickly identify and assist students who are having academic difficulties. Learning coaches guide students through the instructional program on a daily basis and help ensure that students are learning effectively.
Online teachers employ methods such as the online school, Kmail (our school communication platform), and synchronous web-conferencing sessions as needed, which allow for real-time instruction and assessment for individual or small groups of students. This includes online lessons, worksheets, and teacher guides that can be downloaded, as well as traditional material such as books, CDs.

Lower School is tailored to the early years of education and focuses on a child’s willingness to explore, learn new things while surrounding students with a team that drives focus and guidance. Teachers and parents come together to ensure success and every course allows students to move at their own pace. Hands-on materials allow students to engage in learning at an interactive level.

Middle School courses continue to build on four core subjects—language arts, math, science, and social studies. Each course continues to be flexible, allowing students to set their own pace. Students gain independence and confidence in their online learning to prepare them for Upper School. Teachers still play a major part in assisting students in mastering more complex ideas, which can include live tutoring sessions.

Upper School combines a team of academic coaches, counselors, and subject-specific teachers to lead students on their path to their future careers. Each student works through an Individualized Learning Plan (ILP) that ensures they stay on track to meet their goals. Students gain knowledge on a broad range of subjects so they can make informed decisions on their future career goals.  Subject-specific teachers provide direct instruction and monitor peer discussion threads, while holding students accountable to stay on track and put in the effort to succeed. Parents play a supportive role in helping students succeed.

Not all schools are staffed or resourced to offer learning support to those children with either moderate or significant learning needs. To what level can you offer support for those with learning differences?
Special needs do not necessarily disqualify a student from enrolling with iCademy Middle East; in fact, our curriculum works well for many students with mild to moderate learning disabilities, health impairments and other special needs.  The academic program can be tailored up to two levels higher or lower than age-appropriate grade as necessary, in a single course or all courses.
We are able to cater to children with mild to moderate special needs including autism spectrum, dyslexia, dyspraxia, and other needs.  In the Learning Centers, children with certain special needs may be assigned to smaller groups, and/or the curriculum levels may be adjusted in one or more courses as necessary.

The School’s teachers will also identify students who are achieving below expected academic levels using the school progress and attendance screens, periodic assessments, standardized test results, direct teacher involvement and parent and student feedback. These students will have one or more of the following characteristics: slower progress towards completing lesson assignment goals, missed days of attendance, and/or have retaken lesson/unit assessments multiple times. Parents, students and the teachers will discuss the results to identify areas of weakness or strength and use this information to assign lessons, select curriculum level and explore other ways to support the student. Teachers will provide students with guidance as to maximize student-learning opportunities within the curriculum. Teachers will provide information on additional resources that are available such as special learning projects or useful websites. Teachers are available for one-on-one guidance and the structuring of additional challenges. The curriculum is designed to meet the individual needs of each student. Thus, teachers can pick and choose from the entire K12 curriculum to identify the lessons that will best meet their students’ academic needs.

Do you have a learning support team within iCademy?
When it becomes necessary, our learning support is delivered by the homeroom or course teacher, department leadership and/or head of school, and our staff who may have expertise in a particular area of special need.  Since each student will have a thoroughly developed personalized plan — that is continually updated — teachers can focus on the learning needs of each student. This will be true for students with special learning needs, English Language Learners, as well as those who are categorized as gifted and talented. For younger students, early intervention is the goal.  In essence, each student, regardless of skill and ability level, will have his or her own Individualized Learning Plan (ILP).  The ILP, designed for each student, outlines academic objectives, documents strengths and challenges, and sequences the student’s course work for maximum success.  As necessary, we have the option to implement a Student Study Team (similar to a Learning Support team) who will meet to discuss any necessary interventions and accommodations, in addition to the Individualized Learning Plan.

How do you support gifted, able and talented students?
At the Lower and Middle School levels, we are able to tailor the curriculum individually two levels higher or lower than age-appropriate grade level.  Lower and Middle School students who are advanced can complete the curriculum at a somewhat faster pace, and move on to more challenging material.

Any student seeking enrichment in grades K-8 is welcome to take part in the K12 Advanced Learner Program (ALP). The ALP has been developed in close coordination with the National Association for Gifted Children.

Through the program’s Learning Circles, students can explore an exciting spectrum of topics that help enhance reading, writing, research, critical thinking, and other skills. ALP coordinators meet every other week to share best practices on exercises and projects for the gifted and talented.

Unlike typical “gifted” programs, the Advanced Learner Program is uniquely inclusive of motivated students at all levels who seek extra academic enrichment and stimulation.

Most K12 high school courses are offered at several levels including Core, Comprehensive, Honors and Advanced Placement (AP) in order to meet the wide range of student needs.  Core courses are basic level content that meets high school graduation requirements.  While Core classes meet graduation requirements, they are more suitable for students seeking employment right after high school.  Students aspiring to attend college are advised to concentrate their efforts on Comprehensive courses and above.  Comprehensive courses prepare students to enter and succeed in college.  Students wanting more challenge or who have a particular interest in a content area may decide to enroll in Honors courses.  These courses contain similar content to Comprehensive classes, but with additional detail, reflection, writing and collaborative projects.  12th grade students with a high level of interest and competency in a particular subject area may choose to take (AP) classes in preparation for AP exams.  Many colleges and universities award college credit based on scores achieved on AP exams.

Does your school have particular expertise in dealing with a specific learning need such as dyslexia, dyspraxia, Asperger’s syndrome and so forth?
While we do not have a particular specialty with regard to learning needs, we can cater for students with mild to moderate special learning needs within the Learning Center, as well as within the online program, by tailoring the curriculum according to the needs and abilities of the students.  We offer small group options and an additional special needs program called iCad + which is based on vocational studies, life skills, and core academic concepts.

Does your school have an educational psychologist or access to one to assess and support those youngsters with more challenging learning and emotional needs?
As necessary, we can provide referrals to licensed UAE educational psychologists.

Does you school offer activities after school hours?
As a primarily online school, we do not offer after school activities in the same way that a traditional school might.  Our outings and extra-curricular activities are intended for students within our school. However, there are multiple opportunities for online students to interact with students in schools across the globe and to stay connected.  From student and family bulletin boards and school art competitions to a variety of online clubs and activities, the school gives students and families plenty of ways to share ideas and experiences with each other. We are committed to connecting students to students and families to families. The school is a vehicle to create new friendships and socialization in a vibrant virtual international community.

Do you have a parents’ group supporting the school?
Yes—we have a Facebook group so that parents from all over the GCC can connect to provide one another support, answer questions, and express concerns. Please go here.

Are there opportunities for parents to support the learning, activities and events within the school or on trips other than through the parent group?
iCademy Middle East, and our curriculum provider, incorporate feedback from parents and children constantly to ensure that the curriculum is working effectively. Parents participate in the creation of the programs through surveys, focus groups, lesson reviews, round-table discussions, and product testing.  iCademy Middle East also surveys parent and student satisfaction annually, and administrators are available to listen to concerns and ideas both from students and parents.

The parent (or other responsible adult), working in conjunction with the teachers, serves as a “Learning Coach” to student, helping facilitate progress through the daily lessons and working to modify the pace and schedule.  Across all grade levels, the parent or Learning Coach is responsible for ensuring that the student has an area conducive to studying, access to the curriculum via the Internet, checking “Kmail” daily for school communications, and ensuring (in cooperation with teachers and academic coaches) that the student is actively participating in the program.

Parents of children in grades K–6 can expect to spend 3–5 hours per day supporting their child’s education
• In grades 7–8, learning coach time typically decreases to about 2 hours per day as your child becomes more independent
• In Upper School, most learning is teacher-supported; however parents/Learning Coaches should continue to monitor progress and check Kmail for school communications.

Although parents play the role of learning coach for their students in managing the schedule and ensuring the student is completing work at a reasonable pace, they are never alone in the education process. The teacher communicates with parents or learning coaches via telephone, online Web meetings, or even face-to-face in some cases. Teachers remain constantly involved to monitor progress, ensure mastery, and develop specific intervention plans when a child is struggling. The teacher manages all facets of the instructional experience.

Parents are welcome to attend the majority of our school trips, events and outings.

Kindly add details of such parent group activities you deem will be of interest.
Students and families in the UAE interact with teachers and other students through regular outings and field trips.  Many of these activities are culturally and educationally oriented—visits to the Abu Dhabi Grand Mosque, Sharjah Wildlife Center, and Dubai’s Bastikiya have been among the events.  We welcome participation in most trips by parents and siblings.

Is there an opportunity for parental representation on your school Board of Governors?
Yes. Our newly-formed Board of Governors seeks representation from at least two additional parents; please contact the enrollment office for more information or email dclaver [at] icademydubai.com.

Do you offer specific activities, events or information sessions for those parents new to the school and/or area?
Yes—we offer Open Houses and Coffee Mornings periodically at Dubai Knowledge Village as well as at our other Learning Centers.  Please contact the enrollment office for a current schedule at +971 440 1212.

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