Contract for Grade Assignment #2greenspun.com : LUSENET : M.Ed./International Falls : One Thread
Establishing a Gifted and Talented Program
by Lisa West, Karen Swenson, Dawn Schindeldecker
Independent School District # 361, in International Falls, Minnesota, currently does not have any type of gifted program in place for elementary students. The district, also, does not have a district policy for identifying gifted students. In order to initiate a gifted program it will be necessary to address the following issues:
*Inservice school staff to assess a need for a gifted program
*Form a committee for research
*Determine definition of gifted and talented
*Establish identification criteria
*Determine program model(s)
*Seek board approval and hire a specialist
Inservicing the school staff is the initial step because many teachers and administrators may not be familiar with the various characteristics of gifted and talented youth. The staff should have a clear understanding of what the needs of the gifted and talented are and why these needs should be addressed. Staff support is critical to the success of any new program. One way to inservice teachers is to call a staff meeting, with administrative approval, which would focus on this topic. Another way to inservice staff would be to use one of the district's staff development days to present this topic. The presentation would include handing out a booklet which would concisely describe the traits and characteristics of gifted learners and the differences between bright children and gifted learners. This would initially help teachers think about children in their classrooms that may exhibit traits of giftedness. It would also be a forum for the discussion of giftedness and whether or not the staff would be supportive of a gifted and talented program. At the conclusion of the presentation it would be important to schedule a follow-up meeting in order to allow teachers time to establish a preliminary list of students who may benefit from a gifted program. The purpose of the follow-up meeting would be to assess the need for a gifted program, assess staff support, and to establish a committee for research.
Form a committee
Once the need for a gifted program has been established the next step is to form the research committee. This committee should include teachers, administrators, parents, and community members. It would be beneficial to have a member with experience in the gifted and talented area. Recruiting community members and parents could be done through the district parent involvement committee, phone calls from teachers, or a public notice in the newspaper. According to Jackie Snyder, retired gifted and talented specialist, from LeSueur, Minnesota, the gifted and talented committee must establish a need, create a definition of gifted and talented, and provide a rough estimate of how many students would be involved in a gifted and talented program. In order to accomplish these objectives the committee would first have to form subcommittees, explore funding resources and sites to visit, generate a list of questions for phone surveys, and set timelines for task completions. Establishing the definition of giftedness and setting the criteria for a gifted and talented program would be essential before screening begins.
Define gifted and talented
The federal government defines gifted students as those "who give evidence of high performance capability in areas such as intellectual, creative, artistic, or leadership capacity, or in specific academic fields, and who require services or activities not ordinarily provided by the school in order to fully develop such capabilities" (Pfeifer, 1999, p. 1). The definition adopted by the Minnesota State Board of Education in 1976 states: "Gifted and talented children are those who by virtue of outstanding abilities are capable of high performance. These are children whose potentialities can be realized through differentiated educational programs and/or services beyond those normally provided by the regular school. Children capable of high performance include those with demonstrated achievement or potential ability in any of the following areas, singly or in combination: general intellectual ability, specific academic aptitude, creative or productive thinking, leadership ability, visual and performing arts"(Pfeifer, 1999, p. 1). In developing a definition of gifted and talented for School District #361, the committee must establish its own working definition of giftedness based on the needs and goals of the district. It must also provide for a program design based on strong philosophical and research support (Pfeifer, 1999).
Establish identification criteria
In establishing criteria which would serve as the framework for School District #361's gifted and talented program, a "pyramid" model could be used. This model divides identification into several phases. The base of the pyramid involves screening the entire student population. The Iowa Test of Basic Skills, Cognitive Abilities Test, and the Slossan I.Q. test are all possible screening instruments. As the identification process continues the population will become smaller. A variety of instruments can be used as the pyramid narrows. This could include student portfolios, individual test scores, student products and teacher recommendations (Berger, 1991). The top of the pyramid would consist of students who have met the criteria for participating in the gifted and talented program.
Determine program model(s)
Ultimately the goal of the committee is to determine the best program to meet the needs of gifted students in this district. The three main categories that generally make up gifted programs include regular classroom programs, pull-out programs, and developmental educational programs. In utilizing the regular classroom approach, teachers use the gifted and talented coordinator as a resource to encourage open-ended activities and metacognition within the self-contained classroom. Gifted and talented students have opportunities to control their learning and to have contact with adult experts. The work is curriculum-based and the students' developmental needs are recognized (Clasen, 1991).
Pull-out programs are defined as the practice of withdrawing certain elementary school students from their self-contained classroom, usually for special instruction, field trips, assemblies or school projects. The rest of the class stays with the regular teacher (English, 1984). This time provides gifted students the opportunity to work with other gifted students on challenging activities. Through interaction with other gifted and talented youth they discover others who are like themselves and learn that it is legitimate to have strong intellectual interests and enthusiasm for reading and studying. The sense of being abnormal is alleviated and a positive self-image can emerge (Clasen, 1991).
Developmental education programs are individualized programs for the ten percent of gifted students that are extraordinarily gifted. An individualized education plan is determined by the gifted and talented instructor and the student. This program includes documenting specific goals and the steps leading up to goal attainment that the student will work on in the student's particular talent area (Clasen, 1991).
Seek board approval and hire a specialist
Based on preliminary findings, which would include assessment of staff and community support, an established need, budgetary considerations and program design research, the committee would make its recommendation for the best program designed to meet the needs of the students of School District #361. Ultimately, the professional hired to coordinate the program and teach the gifted and talented students would have the flexibility to determine the specifics of the program such as curriculum and instruction methods. Traditionally, teachers associated with gifted programs assumed the role of teacher or coordinator of gifted services. This person spent a majority of time working within the program models as described earlier (Renzulli, 1996). According to Joseph Renzulli, (1996) the emerging role for the teacher of the gifted is the enrichment specialist, and this expanded role includes direct services to students and resource and leadership responsibilities. Direct services or activities include individual and small group teaching and mentoring, direct coaching of students' self-selected independent investigations, counseling and referral of students to other service agencies, monitoring individual student progress, providing teachers with materials to use with a specific group or individual, coordinating mentorships, arranging for students to attend appropriate summer programs, and organizing enrichment programs such as Junior Great Books, Future Problem Solving, Odyssey of the Mind, or Artifact Box. The new resource and leadership responsibilities for enrichment specialists include peer coaching, coordination of staff development activities, demonstration teaching, working with enrichment teams, public relations, program evaluation and monitoring, reviewing and recommending curriculum materials, serving as a liaison between the state department and the local district regarding legal issues, serving as a liaison between the school system and parents, using communications such as newsletters, briefings and updates.
The process of implementing a gifted and talented program must be carefully planned and orchestrated. Collaboration with school personnel and community is essential for developing the best program to meet the needs of students. A program should include services based on students' needs and abilities which are comprehensive, structured, sequential, grounded in a sound research base, and evaluated on an on-going basis for the purpose of continuous program improvement (Pfiefer, 1999).
Berger, Sandra L. (August, 1991). Developing Programs for Students of High Ability. [Online]. p. 1-5. Eric EC Digest #E502. Available: http://www.kidsource.com/kidsource/content/develop_programs.html
Clasen, Robert E. (1991). Educating Able Learners. Agency for Instructional Technology, pp. 1-20.
English, F. (1984, May). Pull-outs: How Much Do They Erode Whole-Cass Teaching? Principal, pp. 32-36.
Northrup, Mary B. (1998). If Dr. Seuss Had a Gifted Child... Available:http://www.ocsc.com/hogies/gftseuss.htm
Pfeifer, Mary. (1999). Gifted and Talented Definitions. [Online]. p.1. The Minnesota Gifted and Talented Development Center. Available: http://www.educ.state.mn.us/gifted/Definitions.htm
Pfeifer, Mary. (1999). Proposed Criteria for Quality Gifted and Talented Services in Minnesota. [Online]. p.1. The Minnesota Gifted and Talented Developmental Center. Available: http://www.educ.state.mn.us/gifted/qualitycriteria.htm
Renzulli, Joseph S. (March, 1996). Gifted Education: A Look Around and a Look Ahead. Roeper Review, pp. 173-178.
Snyder, Jackie (Interview). Retired gifted and talented specialist, LeSueur, Minnesota. September 1999.
-- Anonymous, December 30, 1999