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Academics & Arts

Learning Strategies

The Learning Strategies team supports all students (Early Childhood-Grade 12) on their journey to become expert learners. The team is composed of learning strategists, school counselors, in-house psychologists, and administrators who believe in the power of yet and practice for the sake of betterment rather than perfection.
The team determines how to best support Laurel girls in their areas of need and challenge them in their areas of strength.

In partnership with Laurel’s Center for Research on Girls, the Learning Strategies team collaborates regularly with grade-level and content-specific teachers and leaders to discuss data from benchmarking tests, classroom observations, parent and teacher questionnaires, and/or other academic screening measures. Based on this data, the team provides short-term support via small-group instruction, push-in/pull-out support, individual strategy development, counseling and more. This support occurs for a minimum of six to eight weeks during which time more data is collected to continue to develop our understanding of each student as a learner. If the additional data collected suggests that the child is in need of longer-term support, the team consults with community professionals to organize outside testing (e.g., psycho-educational or psychiatric evaluations), and if testing suggests a need is present, reasonable accommodations are provided.
For current Laurel families, the most up-to-date information about accommodations, including how to obtain an accommodation plan for your daughter, can be found in the Kindergarten-Grade 12 Handbook on MyLaurel.
For families considering Laurel for their daughter, all questions about accommodations or Laurel’s Learning Strategies philosophy may be directed to Grace Willer, Director of Learning Strategies, at gWiller@laurelschool.org.


The Crile Library HUB for Learning and Research provides a dedicated space for all learners to leverage areas of strength and gain skills in areas of need, empowering Laurel girls to take ownership of their learning.

The HUB is a centralized learning space at Lyman Campus that taps school-wide expertise to scaffold the skills students need for learning (e.g., time management, executive functioning, domain-specific enrichment and intervention). Workshops, small-group sessions, individual strategy development, and pop-up presentations are all backed by empirical research, including studies conducted through Laurel’s Center for Research on Girls, to ensure we are pushing our Laurel girls to take academic risks and free themselves from the fear of failing.

What does HUB support look like?
Small-group instruction in domain-specific areas • Individual learning strategy development • Executive functioning skill development • Learning science workshops for students, faculty, and families • Research preparation and design

Laurel School and the Learning Strategies team make their commitment to enhanced learning visible through the programming offered in the Crile Library HUB for Learning and Research.

Specialized Support

List of 4 items.

  • Mental Health Support

    Laurel School is home to an Upper School counselor, an in-house psychologist, and various consulting psychologists who monitor students’ mental wellbeing and provide referrals to community-based therapists if needed. They provide instruction and guidance for our Health and Wellness curricular programming  as well as emergency intervention with an individual or group of students as needs arise.

    Laurel’s mental health support team will partner with outside therapists/evaluators but does not complete evaluations for medical diagnostic purposes in-house. The team can provide a referral in cases where an evaluation (psychological, educational, and/or psychiatric) is recommended.
    • Ilissa Pearlman, Ph.D., In-House Psychologist (Grades K-8)
    • NaNetta Hullum, M.A. , School Counselor (Grades 9-12)
    • Tori Cordiano, Ph.D., Consulting Psychologist and LCRG Director of Research, (EC to Grade 8)
    • Kelly Bhatnagar, PhD, FAED , Consulting Psychologist (Grades 9-12)
  • Learning Differences

    In accordance with best practice as set forth by the National Association of Independent Schools, Laurel School supports students with learning differences in the following ways:
    • By allowing a qualified individual with a disability to participate in its program;
    • By refraining from imposing nonessential eligibility criteria that screen out individuals with disabilities from participation;
    • By making reasonable modifications to policies, procedures, and practices as necessary in order for the student to have equal access to school programs, unless such modifications would fundamentally alter the nature of the school programs;
    • By ensuring effective communication with students with disabilities and their families, to the extent such provision fundamentally does not alter services offered and/or does not result in an undue burden.
    Laurel faculty and staff support students who (1) already have a diagnosis that affects learning and (2) are currently exhibiting academic difficulties. The Learning Strategies team collaborates with administrators, teachers, and parents to make sure needs and concerns are addressed in a timely manner. Students with documented learning-related diagnoses may receive appropriate accommodations and learning support. In rare instances, it may become apparent that Laurel School cannot provide the level of support required for  a student to successfully meet school program expectations. In such cases, administrators and the Learning Strategies team endeavor to work with families to help in the student’s transition to a more appropriate learning environment.
  • Outside Evaluation FAQs

    How often does the psycho-education evaluation need to be updated to keep accommodations on file?
    Psycho-educational testing must be completed at minimum every three years, although depending on an individual student’s needs, the School may require more frequent testing, at its discretion. This requirement is to ensure that we are providing students with the best possible educational support. For this reason, students’ Learning Enhancement Plans (LEPs) are updated on an annual basis. If the psychological testing has not been updated in the past three years, the School does not have appropriate information to evaluate the student’s continuing need for an accommodation. 

    Does Laurel do any evaluations in house? Or, do I have to seek outside evaluations?
    Laurel does not complete any psycho-educational evaluations in house. All psycho-educational evaluations are conducted by an outside provider. We are happy to provide a list of providers that you may contact to request testing.

    How do I get my child an outside evaluation?
    Laurel is happy to provide a list of recommended providers based on need, geography, cost, and personal preferences (e.g., BIPOC evaluators). Please reach out to either Dr. Grace Willer (gWiller@LaurelSchool.org) or Dr. Ilissa Pearlman (iPearlman@LaurelSchool.org) for a complete list.

    Do you share information about my student’s diagnoses with their teachers or other School staff?
    Diagnoses are not shared with any School personnel without prior approval from the parents/guardians of the student. Diagnoses are included on LEPs only when parents’ signed consent is documented on the LEP.
  • Accommodation FAQs

    What are Learning Enhancement Plans (LEPs)?
    LEPs are internal documents that describe the accommodations and recommended classroom strategies that a student is currently receiving at the School. All students do not have LEPs. Only students who have requested a reasonable accommodation, have provided the School with relevant documentation (e.g., up-to-date psychological evaluations), and who have participated in the interactive process with the Learning Strategies Team may be placed on an LEPs. LEPs are updated on an annual basis, taking into account feedback from the parents, students, and relevant school personnel. If parents approve it (i.e., signed consent), diagnoses are included on LEPs to ensure our personnel are providing the most targeted support possible. 

    If I provide a doctor’s note from my child, is that sufficient to obtain accommodations?
    Doctor’s notes do not provide sufficient data.. In order to ensure School personnel are providing targeted support, we need to have testing (e.g., psycho-educational or psychiatric evaluations) on file and be able to demonstrate that the diagnoses impedes the student’s performance in school and that a reasonable accommodation will help the student to participate fully in the School’s programs. For instance, if a child has a diagnosis of ADHD, documentation must be on file that this diagnosis affects the student’s ability to attend to classroom content. This documentation may include rating scales completed by teachers, observations from trained personnel, or other school-specific data.

    Are accommodations only for learning? Or, can my child have accommodations related to social-emotional functioning?
    Accommodations are not just for learning. Some students have social-emotional or medical needs that may also require accommodations. For instance, if a child has diabetes, they may need stop-the-clock breaks if their blood sugar dips or they may need access to food/drinks. Sufficient documentation will need to be provided in order to receive these accommodations.

    • For learning accommodations, psycho-educational testing completed within the past three years, specifying the diagnosis as well as the functional needs/accommodations are required.
    • For medical accommodations, a physician letter with the diagnosis and accommodations is required.
    • For psychiatric accommodations (e.g., accommodations for anxiety), a clinical or diagnostic evaluation conducted within the last year clearly stating the diagnosis and needs/accommodations is required.
    What if my child needs her accommodations updated during the middle of the school year?
    Not a problem. If a change to the accommodations is suggested via appropriate documentation (e.g., change in medical services, update to psychological testing), we can change the plan mid-year.

    Upon submitting the requested documentation, is my child guaranteed to receive the specific accommodation requested?
    It depends. The School will grant requests for reasonable accommodations for students with a disability as long as the accommodation does not fundamentally alter the School’s educational programs or Mission or cause an undue burden. If the School is not able to provide the requested accommodation, the School may offer a different type of accommodation to the student that the School other than the one requested.

    Can my child get accommodations for standardized tests? How?
    Not all students who would like to have testing accommodations are eligible to have accommodations. To ensure that those students with disabilities who need testing accommodations are provided with the necessary support, the School will evaluate testing accommodations requests in accordance with its Accommodations Policy.
    • Educational Records Bureau tests
      For the CTP (from ERB), which is administered in-house, no formal request must be made. Laurel School will provide accommodations based on the student’s LEP. If a student wishes to take the ISEE (also administered by ERB), then a formal request must be made.
    • College Board tests (PSAT, SAT, and AP exams)
      • Prior to the student’s first College Board test (typically 8th or 9th Grade), a Learning Strategies team member will send a consent form to be signed by a parent or guardian before the school can submit a request for accommodations. Students do not have to be registered for a College Board test before an accommodations request is submitted.
      • Please note that the School’s decision to grant testing accommodations does not determine whether accommodations will be granted by the College Board.
    • ACT
      • Students who choose to take the ACT must submit a request for external testing accommodations to the Learning Strategies Team immediately following registration for the ACT. Upon receipt of a request, the School will coordinate with the student to apply for testing accommodations for the ACT.
      • It may take several months to process a request for testing accommodations for the ACT. Therefore, the School highly recommends that students requiring testing accommodations contact the Learning Strategies team as soon as possible after registering to take the ACT.
      • Please note that the School’s decision to grant testing accommodations does not determine whether accommodations will be granted by the ACT.
    • Additional questions about accommodations and standardized testing may be directed to Testing Coordinator, Trish Harpring (pHarpring@LaurelSchool.org).

Learning Strategies Team

List of 9 members.

  • Photo of Grace Willer

    Grace Willer 

    Director of Learning Strategies
  • Photo of Ilissa Pearlman

    Ilissa Pearlman 

    In-House Psychologist
  • Photo of Patricia Harpring

    Patricia Harpring 

    Learning Specialist, First Grade Teacher, Testing Coordinator
  • Photo of James Aguilar

    James Aguilar 

    Math Specialist
  • Photo of Karen Yusko

    Karen Yusko 

    Teacher, Laurel@Butler
  • Photo of Elana Glasner

    Elana Glasner 

    Mathematics Teacher, Middle School; Learning Strategies Coordinator
  • Photo of Jessica Rooney

    Jessica Rooney 

    Mathematics Teacher, Upper School
  • Photo of Kelly Sherwin

    Kelly Sherwin 

    History Teacher, Upper School
  • Photo of NaNetta Hullum

    NaNetta Hullum 

    School Counselor
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