Academic Environment

Creating a Learning Environment

All students are unique; all students can reach their full potential if properly encouraged to do so. This maxim characterizes one of the key elements of St. Margaret of Scotland’s learning environment. The faculty and staff, through the learning environment, respect and are challenged to meet and support the different learning needs and learning styles of each student.


Each student is challenged to develop self-discipline and a sense of personal responsibility in his or her own learning. 

  • The individualized approach of the Montessori and Theme-based preschool programs  foster independent learning.
  • In kindergarten, first and second grade students are guided towards becoming self-reliant, independent learners.  Early attention is paid to each student growing as a responsible learner through learning experiences and activities that provide students with basic knowledge, skills, values, attitudes and behaviors needed to be successful at the next level of learning. 
  • The solid foundation for essential organizational skills and effective study habits occur in the middle grades of third, fourth and fifth. 
  • The upper grade level students in sixth, seventh, and eighth use the skills learned at lower levels as they take ownership in determining and assessing their own learning needs.  Students in the upper grades must take the initiative
  • to seek advice and assistance from teachers and fellow students,
  • to be critical, analytical thinkers,
  • to be creative in the learning process. 


The learning experiences at all levels call for a strong integration of spiritual and academic values.  All the experiences chosen by SMOS educators to which the child is exposed contribute to their formation as a whole person and therefore are seen as critical to the learning process.  Because St. Margaret of Scotland Parish School is a learning community, it is crucial that each individual share in the responsibility to maintain an environment in which all students can learn.  The students maintain an environment which:

  • safeguards each individual, allowing all students a comfortable situation in which to learn.
  • puts learning first, allowing students to take learning seriously.
  • encourages learning as students cheer one another on to academic growth.


Fundamental facets of how a student at St. Margaret of Scotland Parish School is encouraged to learn are:

  • academic risk taking,
  • creativity,
  • independence and cooperation,
  • self-reflection and interaction,
  • collaboration and consensus seeking.


The teacher is the facilitator of learning and as such relies heavily on the parent of each child to reinforce the skills, concepts and values taught on a daily basis.  The more a student experiences firsthand that there is a partnership between the school and the home the more success and consistency there will be in that student’s learning.  There can only be one set of expectations for academic achievement and behavior and that must be jointly shared by the student, the parent and the teacher.


Providing for the Learning Needs of the Student

Differentiated Instruction

In the course of each unit of instruction teachers design lessons that challenge students at a variety of learning levels and with a variety of learning styles. Best Practice instruction and assessment employed by each teacher respects the fact that students have different ways of learning.


Presence of Instructional Support

There are circumstances in which student learning needs, numbers of students in a class or the challenge of specific subject matter call for support in instruction. In these situations support is provided in the form of the Resource Consultant, volunteers, and / or supplemental instructional resources.  The Resource Consultant works with parents of students with diagnosed disabilities to keep all records current.


Students with Special Needs

The faculty and staff, in cooperation with a student’s parents/guardians, do their best to fully address the needs of special students.  The ultimate goal is always to guide the student to successful mastery of the regular curriculum in the regular setting. When it is not possible for a special needs student to succeed within the learning environment of St. Margaret of Scotland Parish School, it is only fair to the student, the student’s parents, our faculty, or the other students to consider other academic options.


Title I Program

The Title I program, sponsored by federal government funding, provides a teacher to work with students who consistently achieve below grade level in reading or math.  The Title I agency provides the teacher who, with St. Margaret of Scotland teacher input, selects the students for the remedial program.


Participation in Extended Learning Opportunities

Students are encouraged to extend their learning whenever and as often as possible.  These opportunities may be provided by the school or may come from outside sources. 


Extra-Curricular Activities

In order to participate in extra-curricular activities sponsored directly by school, such as Bellarmine Speech League, Student Ambassadors, Youth Choir, a student must have a passing average in all subjects.  Appropriate effort and consistent behavior patterns on the part of the student must conform to the stated expectations for a student at St. Margaret of Scotland School.



Class Size and Organizational Structure

Class Sizes

St. Margaret of Scotland Parish School’s Pastor and Principal will refer to the established Staffing Plan to determine class size and teaching personnel.  A written copy of the Staffing Plan may be obtained from the school office.                      

                                                                                    (School Board Policy, August 2007)


Reduction in Force

St. Margaret of Scotland Parish School recognizes that conditions could make it necessary to reduce the number of teaching positions due to declining enrollment, finance constraints or termination of a program.  The Pastor and school administration, advised by the school board and finance committee, may terminate the employment of such teachers as circumstances require.  Such termination of employment shall conform to Archdiocesan policies and procedures.                                                                    (School Board Policy, August 2007)


Organizational Structure

While a set of overarching goals of the school and an academic program have been developed for all students from preschool through 8th grade, the school is further structured according to three levels.  Within these three levels we can better address the developmental needs of all students and provide consistency in monitoring the ongoing progress of students. We have structured the school accordingly:

  • Early Childhood (Preschool, Kindergarten, Grade 1)

The early childhood level includes a Montessori program and a Theme-based preschool program, which are composed of students of multi-ages (3 yrs., 4 yrs., & 5yrs. of age), a Kindergarten program and a First grade.  Developing healthy social skills, as well as, a strong motivation for learning is consistently promoted. 

  • Middle Level (Grade 2 – Grade 5)

The middle level includes grades 2-5.  At this level there is a strong emphasis on learning how to be independent, responsible and organized within the learning environment.  At the same time students are encouraged to work collaboratively with others in their learning and are challenged to greater participation in and ownership of their own learning, both in school and beyond the school day.

  • Junior High Level (Grade 6 – Grade 8)

The Jr. High includes all students in grades 6 through 8.  The departmental schedule is introduced. Students are expected to take ever-increased responsibility for their own learning.  Socialization skills and cooperation are strengthened through group projects and learning activities beyond the formal classroom setting.


Signs of Success

  • St. Margaret of Scotland Parish School is named as a 2010 Blue Ribbon, national school of excellence. 
  • Eighth graders are consistently accepted into the Catholic high schools of their choice.
  • High standardized test scores – 80th percentile and above.
  • Graduating students who go on to be successful in high schools and colleges of choice.
  • Alumni who continue with post-graduate level studies.