2011 Gifted Advisory Report

Submitted at the August 2011 School Board Meeting

Dear Dr. Lyons and School Board Members:

The Gifted Advisory Committee had a slightly different mission this year than last year in that we spent a considerable amount of time evaluating the impact of the new state regulations for gifted education on our school system.  Even though we have until 2012-13 to be in full compliance, the committee members agreed with Mr. Kendall’s recommendation that we begin work on a revised plan for gifted education this year.  Throughout our meetings this year we focused on retaining the best of our current model while making required modifications in our testing and identification procedures to come into compliance with state regulations. While we have made substantial progress toward a new plan, for the 2011-12 we recommend the continuation of the existing 2005-10 five-year plan with the following recommended amendments:


1)      Second grade students will no longer take the Naglieri Nonverbal Abilities Test (NNAT).  The version of the test we have been giving is no longer being produced and adoption of the new on-line NNAT-2 is expensive and the reviews of the new test have been highly criticized by gifted education researchers.

2)      Since the new state regulations require a nationally normed standardized test in grades K-2 and we need to replace the second grade test, adopting one new test to cover all primary grades is advisable.  We recommend using the SAGES-2 test, currently in use in Rockbridge County.  Mr. Kendall reports that Sharon Patterson, Rockbridge County’s gifted education coordinator, has been pleased with the test as a screening tool for gifted education.  The SAGES-2 also aligns well with our programming in that it has three subtests: a) a math/science subtest, b) a language arts/social studies subtest, and c) a general reasoning subtest.  Since we recommend the continuation of existing enrichment programs in math and language arts we feel this test is a good fit.  Mr. Kendall would like to pilot the test this year to evaluate its effectiveness.  If it is deemed satisfactory by teachers, Mrs. Clark, and Mr. Kendall this test will be recommended for school board approval in the 2012-13 plan.

3)      The labels “Language Arts Enrichment” and “Math Enrichment” will replace previous program names such as “Primary Enrichment” for grades K-2 and “Quest” for grades 3-8.  The Language Arts Enrichment program will still use elements of the “Junior Great Books” program, but the broader label allows flexibility for more writing and research.  Although the “Math Mentors” label will be discontinued, the program will continue to seek community volunteers to assist in the Math Enrichment program. 

4)      Parents will be informed how enrichment services will be provided at each grade level, through delivery models such as: small pull-out groups (used primarily in grades K-3); regrouping across the grade level in a specific subject area (as is currently the practice in first grade math); though regrouping within a single class (as is currently done with reading groups in grades K-5); or through co-teaching with Mr. Kendall working with a classroom teacher on a regular basis (most popular service model in grades 4-6).


Mr. Kendall will continue to revise the local plan through the summer and will present it for your review in November 2011.  He will then make any requested revisions and submit the revised plan for your approval in April, so that there is time to review the effectiveness of the SAGES-2 screening test planned for March for all second graders and any kindergarten and first graders who have been referred for testing by LCS staff or parents.


With this letter we have submitted our current draft of the K-2 identification for your review.  Please share any comments or concerns with Mr. Kendall.  All Waddell teachers will have an opportunity to respond to the criteria on line (it was presented to the staff at the May 2011 faculty meeting) through Survey Monkey.  Mr. Kendall will present these responses to the Gifted Advisory Committee at its first meeting in September.


Here is a summary of 2010-2011 accomplishments for the gifted education program:


  • The Gifted Advisory Committee believes that early exposure to technology is an excellent enrichment activity for gifted students so that they can make the most of their natural curiosities as self-directed learners and researchers.  Mr. Kendall continued to work with Mr. Balkey to facilitate the expansion of the “Tech Time” program.  All second grade classes had technology sessions at a minimum of twice a month, most averaged three to four.  First grade students began weekly “tech time” sessions right from the beginning of the year this year instead of a second semester start like last year.  Mr. Kendall worked with one first grade class, three second grade classes, and one fourth grade class for weekly sessions throughout the 2010-11 school year.
  • Mr. Kendall maintained the first grade Junior Great Books program piloted by his wife, Carolyn Kendall, last year.  Parents came to school for a “celebration of writing” produced during pull-out sessions at the end of the year.
  • The Gifted Advisory Committee and Mr. Kendall would like to extend their appreciation for the volunteer efforts of Mrs. Caroline Russell, who led a weekly pull-out Junior Great Books discussion group for Mrs. Mohr’s students and a weekly language arts enrichment pull-out group of fourth grade students from Mrs. Hickman’s room.  Mrs. Russell co-planned with classroom teachers and sent weekly curriculum updates to parents via e-mail.  She did an incredible job.
  • All other pull-out programs from 2009-10 were maintained with the help of reorganizing tech time support (Mr. Balkey and Mr. Kendall no longer “double teamed” classrooms – one of them would assist the classroom teacher and W&L student volunteers were used whenever they were available).
  • Mr. Kendall’s work at Lylburn Downing Middle School continued to focus on sixth grade where clusters of gifted students are in every class without the ability grouping that begins to emerge in math in 7th grade.  Mr. Kendall co-taught with Mr. Almanza in all four of his sixth grade math classes every Wednesday.  Mr. Kendall also extended his support of the sixth grade reading program by providing staff development through model teaching.  He demonstrated the “Literature Circles" discussion technique regularly used in eighth grade English at LDMS so that this differentiation tool can be used to enrich the sixth and seventh grade English curriculum.  The pilot of this approach was successful and will be expanded next year with an earlier start in the fall.  Some ability grouping will be included in the sixth grade reading program in 2011-12.
  • Most parents continue to report that seventh and eighth grade courses are sufficiently demanding with the enrichment those teachers provide as they teach much more than the required SOLs.


The Gifted Advisory Committee elected to delay its parent surveys this year because of School Health Advisory Committee surveys that were being conducted in the spring time frame.  We feared our response rate would suffer if parents were hit with “another survey” in the same timeframe. The 10-question Gifted Advisory Committee surveys will be sent out electronically on August 10 through Survey Monkey, and results will be shared with the full committee in September and a summary report of that data will be presented to the school board in November. 


Thank you again for your continued support of a full-time gifted education coordinator who can continue to extend programs in grades K-6.  He continues to be available to 7th and 8th grade teachers as a curriculum consultant and through supporting the LDMS Science Fair.




Mary Webster, Chair