Children can experience learning difficulties for a variety of reasons. One of the causative factors could be dyslexia. It is estimated that as many as one in five kids has dyslexia and that 80 to 90 percent of kids with learning disorders have it. The most common symptom of dyslexia is difficulty learning to read, as it impairs a child’s ability to recognize and control linguistic sounds. Aware of the severity of dyslexia, Peter Gow Jr., founder of The Gow School, decided to take action to make a positive impact on the educational experience of intelligent students. With 20 years of expertise in teaching at Choate Rosemary Hall, Nichols School, and The Park School, Gow theorized that the key to success lay in small classes and intensive drills. He moved his family to South Wales and converted the farm where he had run a summer camp into a boarding school for boys who struggled in school. In 1926, The Gow School opened its doors for boys who struggled with dyslexia in the converted barn.
The Gow School has evolved and innovated over time. The campus has expanded from a single main building (a converted horse barn) to over 30 buildings. The co-ed Gow School Summer Program began in 1990, and the School decided to become co-ed in January 2012, offering day and boarding options.
What does The Gow School do?
The Gow School is a co-ed college-prep boarding and day school in New York for students in grades 6–12 with dyslexia and other language-based learning disabilities. Since 1926, The Gow School has helped students with language-based learning differences develop the skills and confidence to succeed in higher education and beyond as creative, compassionate adults and engaged citizens as a leader and innovators in dyslexia education, with a commitment to the values of kindness, respect, honesty, and hard work.
Gow specializes in the remediation of dyslexia (reading problems) and related language-based learning disabilities. “It is common for our students to have attention (ADD or ADHD) and/or executive function difficulties,” shares Meghan Mileham, Assistant Director of Admissions at The Gow School. Dyspraxia, CAPD (Central Auditory Processing Disorder), dyscalculia, dysgraphia, and disorder of written expression are all possible diagnoses. All Gow teachers are trained in the fundamentals of the RL program to support language development across the curriculum.
What is RL
Here’s a quick rundown of the RL program. Soon after the school opened, Gow met Dr. Samuel T. Orton, the pioneering neurologist whose research pointed to a phonetic approach to educating those with “specific language disabilities.” Over thousands of hours of teaching and experimentation, Gow developed the Reconstructive Language (RL) program, which Orton-Gillingham based and is still used daily at the School.
Reconstructive Language (RL) breaks down the elements of the English language using proven MSLE (multisensory structured language education) principles: multisensory, sequential/logical, systematic, synthetic/analytical, and diagnostic. Students practice phonics, spelling, vocabulary, and oral reading for fluency and comprehension. Meghan said, “Nevertheless, RL remains the foundation of our curriculum, kept current with the latest technology and validated by ongoing research. A growing cadre of loyal and grateful alumni, with a wealth of success stories, speaks to the success of Peter Gow, Jr.’s dream.”
Coordinating Parents and Teachers in the Process of Nurturing Young Talents
The Gow School keeps parents informed of their children’s life on campus through video messages, phone calls, and social media. Meghan asserts, “We believe in a no surprise policy at Gow, and keeping the parents in the loop helps with that.”
Talking about student-to-teacher ratios, Meghan added, “We have a low 4:1 student to faculty ratio with an average class size of 5.” Students are grouped based on their ability in classes such as RL and math to ensure that students are on the same level as their classmates and do not fall behind in class.
Highly Qualified Teachers
Meghan mentions, “Our RL teachers are highly trained, and all Gow Teachers receive instruction in the basics of the RL program so that they can support language development across the curriculum.” As experts in language remediation, faculty, and administrators regularly present at conferences, including the International Dyslexia Association (IDA), Learning Disabilities Association of America (LDA), and The Association of Boarding Schools (TABS).
Gow’s Reconstructive Language program meets the IDA’s Knowledge and Practice Standards for Teachers of Reading. “Our teacher preparation program, accredited by The International Multisensory Structured Language Education Council (IMSLEC), requires a supervised teaching practicum,” underlined Meghan.
The highly trained and dedicated faculty implement an innovative remediation program that blends structured schedules, small classes, individualized attention, and technology-rich environments with motivated students. It’s no surprise that longitudinal test results and other data, as well as alumni anecdotes, demonstrate RL’s transformative power.
Intact Infrastructure Facilities
“We sit on 125 acres in South Wales, NY, about 45 minutes South of Niagara Falls. We have 33 buildings with about 400,000 square feet of roofed space. Gow created a facility to enhance our already strong programs in science, technology, and research (STAR),” describes Meghan. The building houses classrooms, an engineering lab, a seminar space, a Computer Numeric Control (CNC) vertical milling machine, a 10-ton press that can bend titanium armor, and a pro lathe. The CNC machine enables robotics students to create more complex robots for the BotsIQ competition.
The advantages of technology are also perceptible in other facets of Gow’s life. Students have access to a wide variety of technology-rich courses, such as graphic design, broadcast journalism, and videography, as well as flipped classrooms, where several teachers use this innovative teaching method, as well as Microsoft Teams. In every classroom, technology is used based on the curriculum and students’ interests and needs. Meghan added, “We have a 50,000 square foot athletic facility with 2 multipurpose courts, three squash courts, 3 outdoor tennis courts, 2 outdoor sports courts, and 3 multipurpose fields.”
Nurturing the Skillsets at Gow
The beauty of the arts at Gow is that they allow students to use different skill sets. Integral to our program, art is not pushed aside to fit language remediation or extra help. Meghan says, “Some of our students deepen existing artistic strengths. Others discover hidden talents. All can develop skills and express their creative voices. In fact, it’s not unusual for our graduates—as many as a third some years—to choose art majors, arts colleges, and artistic careers.”
Gow offers painting, drawing, 3D art (sculpture), pottery, art history, computer graphics, and photography. “Art history, which typically has lots of reading and writing, integrates more classroom discussion—another example of how we teach with an understanding of students’ learning styles,” underlined Meghan. Courses are available at the basic, intermediate, and advanced levels depending on the art.
Many upper-level students create college entrance portfolios and have studio space. Gow does not provide formal music training, but students can take private and group instrumental and voice lessons. They can join two club groups: the Music Ensemble and the Gow Vocalists. Students can also participate in several small studio recitals and two public recitals yearly. Students’ artistic talents and skills are nurtured at Gow, from the visual-spatial to the musical. Meghan added, “We know that playing a role on stage can play an important role in a student’s life, and we encourage all our students to immerse themselves in the creative process.”
Beating COVID with technology
COVID hit schools hard in March of 2020. Meghan recalls, “When we got word from New York State that all our students needed to go home, it came right before Spring Break. We sent students home a week earlier than we thought we would, with every intention of bringing them back after the pre-scheduled spring break. However, that did not happen, and we finished off the rest of the School year virtual.”
When the students went home, the technology department went into problem-solving mode, communicating with students and sending work through Microsoft Teams. Since all of their students had computers at home and were familiar with the device, their 1:1 laptop program has been extremely beneficial at this time. They adhered to the Gow schedule as much as possible, holding daily assemblies as a school as a whole.
Meghan shares, “After finishing the school year virtually, and with guidance from the state, we were able to welcome campers for our five-week summer program in June. Utilizing the cohort model and creating a bubble, we successfully ran our program with zero confirmed cases on campus. In July, we were also able to hold an in-person commencement for the Class of 2020. Not all members could attend because of travel restrictions, but they could join us virtually.”
In the fall of 2020, 130 students returned to in-person learning. A bubble was created to keep them safe, requiring students to remain on campus and not be visited by outsiders. With greater guidance and resources available, the bubble was gradually opened. “Throughout the entire pandemic, we continued to follow the motto “safe, reasonable, and independent” and followed guidelines from the CDC and New York State. From an enrollment standpoint, we saw a decrease of 20 percent, mainly from a decrease in our international population because of the unknowns of COVID and requirements. We are starting to see an uptick in our international population again as we enter this admissions cycle,” added Meghan.
Accolades & Accreditation
The Gow School is accredited by the New York State Association of Independent Schools (NYSAIS). Gow’s Reconstructive Language program is accredited by The International Multisensory Structured Language Education Council (IMSLEC) and meets the International Dyslexia Association (IDA)’s Knowledge and Practice Standards for Teachers of Reading. The Gow School is a member of the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS), The Association of Boarding Schools (TABS), The College Board, The Independent Curriculum Group, and the Learning Disabilities Association of America (LDA).
Molding the School with New Expertise
Looking ahead to the future of Gow, Mr. Rogers, the Headmaster, will retire in July 2023 after nearly twenty years at the school. Mr. John Munroe will be the 7th Head of School at Gow.
For More Info: https://www.gow.org/