Frequently Asked Questions

1. Who are our gifted learners?

Gifted learners are students who are performing (or have the ability to perform) at one and a half to two years above their grade level in one or more subjects.  Gifted learners are intensely interested in particular areas of knowledge and sometimes resist the importance of basic skills within those disciplines or resist entire subject areas outside their area(s) of giftedness.  Many students prefer a step-by-step mode of instruction.  Gifted students, in contrast, often find such methods of instruction “too slow” or “boring” because they quickly recognize patterns and can master concepts and procedures rapidly.  To meet the instructional needs of these gifted learners there are several ways to differentiate the curriculum including curriculum compacting (teaching core concepts in a shorter amount of time), acceleration (allowing students to move through the standard curriculum at a faster pace), and enrichment (broadening depth of knowledge through wider exposure to concepts, areas of scientific study, historical time periods, more complex literature, etc.).

2. How are gifted learners identified in Lexington City Schools?

Gifted learners are identified through a combination of factors including achievement test scores, cognitive ability tests, teacher and parent recommendations, observations of the gifted education coordinator, portfolios of student work, level of intellectual ability, and passion for learning.  Ability test scores for gifted students typically fall in the top five percent of national norms. Lexington City Schools administers two of these tests to all of its students: the Cognitive Abilities Screening Test (CogAT), a non-verbal test administered in March of second grade and the full battery of the Cognitive Abilities Test (nine sub-tests) administered in November of third grade, Achievement test scores of gifted children are typically in the top five percent on tests with national norms - these are reviewed for students entering Lexington City Schools from another school district that administers these tests.  A single test score will not qualify a student for gifted services without other supporting evidence; a single sub-par test score also will not disqualify a student from gifted services if there is a preponderance of evidence supporting gifted education services for the student.

3. What are the gifted education services are offered at Harrington Waddell Elementary School?

In the primary grades (K-2) students with advanced ability in math and/or language arts are provided with appropriately challenging curriculum through differentiated lessons and projects offered in the regular classrooms. This curriculum is additionally supplemented with small pull-out groups designed for more individualized attention and/or co-teaching of the gifted education coordinator and the classroom teacher. In grades 3-5 the gifted coordinator and classroom teachers collaborate to develop a program that best serves the needs of identified gifted learners in a particular grade level.

READING: In grades K-5 there are three ability-based reading groups in each classroom so that the most advanced readers in each class receive appropriately challenging reading instruction.  In first through third grades, some advanced learners are pulled out once a week to receive advanced instruction that specifically develops the vocabulary of literary analysis (click here for Glossary of Literary Terms). In their reading groups with their classroom teachers, fourth and fifth grades students are involved in novel studies of books by some of the best writers for children and early adolescents including Avi, Roald Dahl, Scott O'Dell, Lois Lowry, Gary Paulsen, and Katherine Paterson.  See "Grade Level Updates" tab for more information. 

MATH: To supplement classroom math instruction in in kindergarten and second grade, once-a-week pull-out groups are used.  Because of the recursive nature of first grade curriculum (heavy review of kindergarten math concepts in the first couple of months of the school year), first grade students are regrouped by ability for their math instruction five days a week.  The gifted coordinator co-teaches math once a week with the classroom teacher assigned to the advanced group.  In third grade advanced students are pulled out once a week for an hour of advanced curriculum and they also have independent work to use in the regular classroom.  In fourth and fifth grade, pretest and test performance become important as students being pulled for advanced instruction change every unit.  A combination of pull-out and co-teaching is used at both grade levels.

4. What are the gifted education services offered at Lylburn Downing Middle School?

Differentiation of curriculum and instruction to serve the educational needs of students identified as eligible for gifted education services varies at each grade level.  The gifted education coordinator uses a combination of pull-out instruction and co-teaching in 6th grade math.  The gifted coordinator also leads mini-units in reading classes for several sessions each year.  The coordinator serves as a curriculum consultant in grades 7-8, when accelerated coursework is offered in several subjects.  Math, foreign language, and world history can all be taken for high school credit.  See "Grade Level Updates" tab for more information.

5. Why are there more pull-out groups in K-3 than in grades 4-5?

Skill gaps are often wider at younger ages because of the recursive nature of K-2 curriculum. Once the transition from "learning to read" to "reading to learn" is made, some early readers are no longer accelerating their reading level at the same rate as in earlier grades.  Also, for those students whose reading ability continues to develop at a high rate in 4th and 5th grade are placed in ability-level reading groups within the classroom to study appropriately challenging novels.  This provides a much more continuous and coherent reading enrichment program than can be provided through a once-a-week pull-out group for literature discussions.

Fourth and fifth
math curricula provide greater challenge to more students, so “high ability” students will vary based on unit of study (long division, probability, geometry, etc.) – regrouping is often a better instructional model than a set pull-out group. 

The demands of social studies and science SOL content also increase significantly in fourth and fifth grade, generally providing more than sufficient academic rigor in these subject areas.

6. Why are there no pull-out groups in middle school?

Given the time constraints of a 7-period day every classroom teacher is covering a significant amount of content daily and students would have a very difficult time keeping up in most classes if they lost one period of instruction per week.  Lylburn Downing Middle School's teachers raise the challenge level for all students, and enrich the curriculum well beyond what the state Standards of Learning require.  LDMS students work hard to succeed and this becomes the pervasive attitude of the school, raising the achievement of all students rather than setting up a "smart kids" / "regular kids" divide that hurts all students academically and socially. 
Many gifted middle school students tend to want to hide their academic gifts when they arrive in middle school because they are much more attuned to fitting in socially and will tend to do so even more if they feel like they are being labeled in some way as "geeks" or "nerds" when they are pulled out from the classroom. 

The gifted education coordinator is most directly involved in sixth grade, when students are still placed in (heterogeneous or "mixed-ability" groups in all subjects).  Once a week (Wednesdays) he co-teaches math in all 4 sixth grade classes and provides "mini-unit" instruction in each of the 6th grade reading classes, visiting one class for several sessions and then moving to another group.  These mini-units have included interdisciplinary studies of art and literature, journalism, and "literature circles" (students are assigned roles - "summarizer," "discussion director," "passage master," "word reporter," and direct their own discussions of assigned literature).

7. What if my child is new to Lexington?

The policy of Lexington City Schools is to accept any gifted identification by a previous school district, so long as proper documentation is provided.  If a child has not been evaluated for gifted education services in the previous school district (or private school) the Cognitive Abilities Test, a nationally normed aptitude test, is available in multiple versions, appropriate to evaluate students at any grade level.  The parent should contact the school principal or the gifted education coordinator to request that his or her child be evaluated.  The test will be administered, work samples will be gathered, and teacher observations will be considered to determine whether or not your child is eligible for gifted education services in Lexington City Schools.