Student Services

SFDS is committed to educating the “whole child,” which requires diligent and ongoing support of a child’s physical, social, emotional, and intellectual health.  Our teachers respect the individual needs of each student and rely on a number of valuable resources to ensure our children learn in an educational environment that supports all different types of learners. 

There are a number of resources at SFDS to support not just our students, but our teachers and parents as well:

  • Homework Café
  • Learning Resource Program (LRP)
  • Student Counseling
  • Student Advisory

Homework Café

Monday - Thursday, 3:30 - 5:00 p.m.

Homework Café is available for students who are referred by teachers or advisors. Referrals are made, with the cooperation of parents, for students who would benefit from academic support, support in managing assignments and projects, and additional structure for academic progress. Small groups of students work in classrooms under the supervision of an instructor. Homework instructors communicate with classroom teachers regarding homework assignments and any particular needs of individual students. Homework Café is available at no cost to parents. If you feel your student would benefit from Homework Café, please contact your student’s classroom teacher or advisor.

Learning Resource Program (LRP)

Our learning resource department is very much integrated into the life of our academic program. A total staff of nine faculty consisting of five (5) learning specialists, four (4) teacher associates, and three consultants provide differentiated and coordinated services to students, teachers, and parents.Teams of learning specialists and associate teachers are assigned to specific grade levels to work closely with the classroom head teachers. Small group instruction is provided for students who need additional support in grades one through four and individual support is provided to help upper school students with learning differences develop effective strategies. The learning specialist acts as a liaison between the School, outside testers, tutors or specialists, and parents.

Eight dimensions of LRP services:

  1. Supplemental instruction for students with learning differences during the school day, implemented as both push-in and pull-out groups.
  2. Supplemental scaffolding of curriculum that is coordinated with the SFDS classroom instructional program.
  3. Specific teaching strategies and learning accommodations designed for students to optimize their learning in school. Both Learning Specialists and classroom teachers will implement the strategies and learning accommodations.
  4. Educational screening and assessment of academic difficulties.
  5. Seminars for groups of students explicitly teaching a) study and organizational skills, b) self-awareness about the student’s personal learning profile and effective strategies (How my brain works?), and 3) psychological resilience that develops the capacity for sustained effort.
  6. Communication with parents about the teaching and learning accommodations provided to their children.
  7. Increased opportunities for teachers to implement differentiated instruction for all students.
  8. Continuing opportunities for SFDS teachers to broaden their repertoire of teaching strategies and lesson design, thereby enabling all students to reach high levels of accomplishment.

Testing and Evaluations

Informal and formal assessment are administered by classroom teachers and, when appropriate, by the learning resource department. Standardized tests provide information on individual student achievement and help us to discover overall trends and patterns that we can use in evaluating the effectiveness of our curriculum. Screenings provide individual benchmarks for children’s growth and progress.

The following screenings and tests are administered yearly:

  • Kindergarten screening measures readiness for beginning reading, writing, and spelling instruction.
  • Kindergarten speech and language screening is an assessment conducted by a consultant to the School for all kindergartners (and new first and second graders) in the areas of speech and expressive and receptive language.
  • First grade screening measures progress in beginning reading and written language skills.
  • Educational Records Bureau Standardized Tests (ERBs) are mandated for all third through eighth graders by the California Association of Independent Schools. Results provide helpful information to the School and to parents concerning student progress—individually, as a class, and in comparison with students in other public and independent schools across the country.
  • SSAT, the Secondary School Admission Test, taken in the spring of seventh grade and again in the fall of eighth grade, is part of the high school admissions process.

Student Counseling

Intent on nurturing and supporting the emotional health of each child, SFDS employs two counselors to support our upper and lower school students. Both counselors are experienced in working with children grades K-8, and they understand the breadth of developmental, cognitive, social-emotional, and behavioral needs. A collaborative approach involving students, teachers, and parents is the cornerstone of the counselors’ work. The work with classroom teacher, the learning resource department, and division heads to evaluate and address the needs of individual students or groups of students.  The counselors attend grade level parent coffees to share information on social and emotional development and have offered parent education events around topics such as substance use, transition to high school and friendship issues. The counselors are qualified and experienced in addressing issues around crisis intervention, protective services, and critical medical and family situations.

Student Advisory

“Bonding” is a word frequently used by students to describe the advisory experience at SFDS, which indicates the climate of respect, trust, and support which the advisory setting provides. Students meet in advisories four times a week, for twenty minutes each day. In sixth through eighth grade, groups of seven to twelve students meet with an advisor, who is a member of the teaching team for that grade. Advisory is a safe time and place for students to formulate academic and personal goals, discuss issues, and form relationships with their peers. Through these interactions, the advisor is able to form an overall picture of each advisee’s academic strengths and weaknesses, extracurricular activities, hobbies, and personal qualities. By virtue of having these insights and daily interactions, the advisor acts as a liaison between the student, the rest of the School, and the family. SFDS has implemented a Development Designs framework in order to provide students with the tools for self-control, which ultimately will serve their core needs: autonomy, relationship, competence, and fun.  

Buddy Program

The Buddy Program links students in different grade levels and provides each student with a younger or older "buddy." Buddy classes meet throughout the year during the weekly afternoon assembly period. On any given buddy day, you may see a kindergartner working with an eighth grader on an art project or reading a book together. Other buddy day activities include math games, team building games, service projects, and banners for graduation.  The buddy system is one way to strengthen ties across grade levels to build a stronger school community and a lasting connection for our children.  Our students often remember their buddy fondly, whether younger or older. In fifth grade, students write a letter to their former kindergarten-eighth grade buddies to wish them luck in their first year of college.