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Integrated Literacy Model Yields Incredible Results at AIM Academy

AIM students are exceeding national fluency norms for average rate of improvement, not simply compared to peers with learning differences, but as compared to all students nationally.

AIM Academy does everything with research, with purpose, and with an eye towards real and demonstrable achievement for its students. An independent, college-prep school for first through 12th grade students with language-based learning differences, AIM provides an education that is both individualized and based in scientific evidence.


Part of what makes AIM so unique is its Integrated Literacy Model (ILM), which combines foundational skills for reading and writing (such as word recognition), with skills necessary for comprehension and expression through immersive programs like Interactive Humanities. As AIM has grown, they have kept the fidelity of the program consistent through an implementation model that monitors the way in which teachers deliver instruction and student progress, while leaving room to make individual adjustments as needed.


With Interactive Humanities, a student is immersed in a time period like the Renaissance or the Middle Ages in order to learn about history with costumes, key vocabulary, and arts-based projects. Jill Sides, mother to rising fifth grader Max, describes: “The information just sticks.  There is a specialness to it. They are given their own costumes and a character to identify with that helps them encompass and personalize the learning.”


Max, who has been diagnosed with dyslexia and ADHD, is just one of many students who have benefited from the ILM. AIM knew its students were making incredible progress, but last year they decided to gather historical reading accuracy and fluency data for AIM second through fifth grade students and send it to Georgia State University for analysis.

“There is so much anecdotal information out there muddying the waters on what schools are offering children. In order to be true to our mission as a school we needed to be certain that what we were doing was excellent and the only way to truly evaluate yourself is to ask an objective third party to do it for you,” explained Chris Herman, Head of School.


The results showed that the majority of AIM students are exceeding national fluency norms for average rate of improvement, not simply compared to peers with learning differences, but as compared to all students nationally.


Most surprising to Herman, these gains continue even after the ILM intervention period. “High schoolers are out-performing their age peers who don’t have those learning differences,” he tells us. “The byproduct has been wildly successful young people being accepted to top universities around the country and most importantly, finding success in college.”


Meanwhile, Max’s mother says the influence of this personalized programing and evidence-based literacy techniques that benefit visual learning has exceeded her expectations: “Even at home during homework he accesses all the skills and techniques he’s been taught to do his work. He’s able to hone in and get a good grasp on that, and he wants to learn because of the support and encouragement he received. This past year his reading has skyrocketed.”


AIM Academy supports the Philly Family community.

Profile by Laura Swartz. Photographs by Abbe Foreman.

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AIM Academy is a coeducational, independent school in Conshohocken dedicated to providing extraordinary educational opportunities to children in grades 1-12 with language-based learning disabilities such as dyslexia, dysgraphia, and dyscalculia. Our rigorous, academic elementary, middle and high school programs, taught by experienced and creative faculty, incorporate evidence-based interventions in an arts-based learning environment that is college preparatory in scope and sequence. Our programs are designed to foster self-esteem and social responsibility both in the classroom and through our comprehensive athletics, extracurricular and summer camp programs.