Applying for the APA’s “Top 20” Badge’s Program: Recognition For How Our Students Learn

The Odyssey School is a unique, co-educational independent day school in Stevenson, Maryland that meets the specialized needs of high functioning dyslexic children as well as children with other related language learning differences who are five years through 8th grade age.  The School utilizes evidence-based methodologies to prepare our students for success at challenging mainstream secondary schools. The program provides a 3:1 student to teacher ratio and focuses on specialized instruction, character education, and opportunities for students to explore and develop their passions, interests, self-awareness and self-advocacy skills.

In the fall of 2016, Odyssey began the application process for American Psychological Association’s “Top 20” Badge on Thinking and Learning. The “Top 20” Badges Program awards virtual badges to PreK-12 schools that utilize evidence-based strategies delineated in the Top 20 Principles from Psychology for PreK-12 Teaching and Learning to boost achievement and student well-being. Schools can demonstrate evidence of school-wide use of principles for one or more categories including: thinking and learning, motivation, social and emotional development, classroom management and assessing student progress.

Odyssey’s badge application process required a careful review and analysis of the school’s work related to the eight principles of this badge.  The very best part of the experience took place as we hosted small faculty discussion groups to gather input from every teacher and academic leader on how and why we do what we do to build higher-level critical thinking skills at Odyssey.  The responses to each of the discussion questions we asked of our team members reinforced the commonality of approaches, activities and beliefs that drive many aspects of our program.  In addition, these discussions fostered a forward thinking focus on how we could better what we do, and how we could continue to ensure that the eight principles remained central to our work with our students.

The paperwork phase of the application required a thoughtful gathering of documents to support our responses and to generate well-targeted narratives.  We aimed to explain the specifics of what we do to impact students’ beliefs about their intelligence, to show how prior knowledge impacts learning, to describe how our ungraded classrooms give flexibility to learning, and to explain how we incorporate deliberate support, practice, feedback, creativity, and work habits to drive student success.

We are so very proud to have been awarded the Badge for Learning and Thinking. We proudly display the award on our website, and it serves to remind us of the importance of our commitment to teach higher- level critical thinking to our students. The Badge has further reinforced that we are a school that clearly recognizes that our students think differently and learn differently than more traditional learners. Our team feels honored to have received this award!



Interested in applying to the “Top 20” Badges Program? Applications are due November 15. Obtaining a badge can help your school collect evidence for the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). Additionally, a badge can be put on your state audit, annual review, students’ report cards and used for website marketing to attract parents and educators. For additional information, please visit the Badge’s Website.

About the Author

With a career spanning 33 years as a Speech-Language Pathologist, Marty began serving Odyssey in 1996 as a clinician providing services to individual students. She accepted a full time position as the Academic Dean at Odyssey in 2001 and has subsequently served as Head of the Lower School, as Interim Head of School in 2004-05 and as Head of school since July 2008. Her vast experience, her dedication to success for each student and her genuine caring for students and their parents are signatures of her devotion to all Odyssey stands for. She graduated Summa Cum Laude from Loyola College ( now Loyola University Maryland) with a BA in Speech Language Pathology which was followed by an MS in Speech Language Pathology, also from Loyola College ( Loyola University Maryland).

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