Gifted Education Program Goals
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.).
Virginia Standards of Learning and Gifted Education
It is important to remember that the foundation of our curriculum in Lexington City Schools is the Virginia Standards of Learning. How we achieve mastery of these skills is flexible, but mastery of SOL skills is essential before acceleration or enrichment is possible. While “pass advanced” scores on the SOL tests are highly desirable for our students, such scores are not measures of giftedness because they measure what a child has learned through instruction on grade level skills.
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. Achievement test scores of gifted children are typically in the top five percent on tests with national norms such as the Stanford Achievement Tests administered in the fall of fourth grade and sixth grade. Ability test scores such as the Cognitive Abilities Test (CogAT), administered in the fall of third grade, typically fall in the top five percent of national norms. 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.
Early Identification and Enrichment K-2
Early identification is rare because some early indicators of possible giftedness are frequently misleading. A student’s ability to read in kindergarten gives indications that a parent has taken time to do reading instruction at home but it does not reflect how a student thinks and processes information. Many early readers plateau at second or third grade when other students catch up to their level of reading skills. Good grades are also insufficient evidence of giftedness since they are evaluating mastery of skills instructed at grade level. Knowing the answers in class is great, but this often shows memory skills more than higher level processing skills. It is often the questions that a student asks, more than the answers he or she provides to a teacher’s questions that provide stronger evidence of a child’s giftedness. One of the reasons that the term “giftedness” was chosen is that these abilities are “gifts” and cannot be taught, but they certainly can be encouraged. Beginning in the fall of 2012, in accordance with the new state regulations for gifted education, students may be identified as "gifted" as early as kindergarten. To aid in the identification process a pool of students who show high academic potential will continue to be served through a math mentor or by the creation of an advanced reading group. The highest performers from those enrichment groups may be nominated to take a screening test to evaluate their reasoning skills in verbal, quantitative, and non-verbal areas.
The Typical Identification Procedure
Enrichment activities will be embedded in the K-2 curriculum and teachers are encouraged to keep notes on those students who respond well to such higher-level tasks. Some of these tasks will be done as a full class and others will be done in small groups. The gifted coordinator will facilitate some of these learning activities and make routine observations of students in the primary grades to keep an eye out for students in need of academic enrichment. All students will be considered for gifted education services in third grade regardless of whether or not they were identified for math or language arts enrichment in previous grades. In the spring of second grade all students take the "screening test" of the Cognitive Abilities Test (CogAT). This test will be given over three days and will evaluate their reasoning skills in verbal, quantitative, and non-verbal areas. In third grade all students will take the full battery of nine subtests of the CogAT.
The state requires identification of students with “Specific Academic Aptitude” (SAA). In Lexington those aptitudes will be math (GM), language arts (GLA) or both.
Students who participated in K-2 enrichment programs will be evaluated for continuing gifted education services, and if found eligible, will be given one of these labels in third grade, typically in late January. Participation in K-2 enrichment is not a requirement for gifted identification as a third grader. A portfolio of information including teacher observations, gifted education coordinator observations, student products, test results, and a parent survey will be considered by the eligibility committee. If the information in a student’s portfolio is inconsistent, additional evidence of specific academic aptitude needs to be gathered in the student’s portfolio. If this occurs parents receive a letter stating that the decision has been deferred until such information is gathered.
Eligibility Meetings and Appeals Procedures
Eligibility meetings for gifted services will be held by the gifted education coordinator with an eligibility committee including classroom teachers, guidance counselor, and the principal. A letter regarding the committee’s decision will be sent by U.S. mail. Parents who disagree with the decision of the committee may submit a written request for an appeals committee hearing to the building principal and/or the gifted education coordinator within 21 days of the original decision. Appeal procedures will be included in any mailing to the parent.