Gifted program revamped at Summit schools |

Gifted program revamped at Summit schools

summit daily news
Summit County, CO Colorado

SUMMIT COUNTY ” With two children in the gifted education program at Summit School District, Dana Cottrell decided to spend time learning what that means.

When a task force formed, she joined the group of parents, teachers and administrators who looked at the program in terms of student identification, programming and on-going monitoring. They explored research throughout the school year, and in the end, came up with new model for gifted education.

The major change to the program is that it will become a “push in” instead of a “pull out” model, explained Lou Marchesano, the district’s director of instruction. In other words, instead of taking the students out of class a couple times a week to work on more challenging extensions, the children identified in gifted areas will receive differentiated instruction in the classroom to make sure they are being challenged at the appropriate level at all times, he said.

“ACE (Academically Challenging Extensions) did a good job of meeting the need, but with new guidelines from the state, it caused us to re-look at the program,” Marchesano said. And at a school board meeting, he told the members: “We do believe this better reflects the research and will better reflect the needs of the students.”

So, starting next school year, gifted resource teachers will become classroom coaches helping teachers plan for the gifted students. Also, the students identified as gifted in an area will be grouped together. This way the similar ability students can work on deeper extensions together, Marchesano said. And the model will be used at all levels from elementary through high school.

At the middle and high schools, it is a bit different because there are honors, Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate classes available. But now, they are hoping to provide differentiated instruction even within those classes, Marchesano said.

Additionally, the task force came up with a way to standardize the identification process that will include a body of evidence from a variety of places such as test scores, student, teacher, parent referrals and more. In the past, children were being over-identified in some areas, Marchesano explained.

Research shows about 5 percent of children across all demographics are represented in gifted programs, he said. At Summit schools, about 10 percent of children were identified and it is not a representation of the demographics.

Next year will serve as a transition year as the program is implemented, Marchesano said.

Cottrell also commented on the transition period, saying that because it would be hard to have everything in place at once, and resource days, where children came together across the district, will be suspended for one year.

“I don’t think anyone thinks we’re done with our job. We think it’s a work in progress,” said Cottrell who loved the ACE program, because that’s the time when “they come to life.”

“For me, as a parent I loved the small group time, but they (the children) aren’t gifted for two sections a week,” said Cottrell, describing the research as eye-opening.

In fact, after reading the research she casually brought up the idea of accelerating a grade to her son, Ben. And she was surprised by his response.

“He was so sure it was right for him,” she said.

He was a fourth grader at Summit Cove Elementary School throughout most of the year and next year he will be starting at Summit Middle School.

“Every child is unique and every child is special,” Cottrell said, adding that being gifted just means the children require a different way of learning. The goal is for all students “to be engaged and challenged.”

According to the Colorado Department of Education, the term “gifted and talented” refers to those between the ages of 5 and 21 whose abilities, talents and the potential for accomplishment are so exceptional or developmentally advanced they require special provisions to meet their educational need. Gifted students include those with disabilities and come from all backgrounds.

The five areas of giftedness include: General or specific intellectual ability, specific academic aptitude (i.e. language arts, math, science, social studies), creative or productive thinking, leadership abilities, or visual arts, performing arts, musical or psychomotor abilities.

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