Monday, June 03, 2013

Gifted centers vs. in-school enrichment

A good gifted program does many things, but here are two key parts: First, children are challenged to the extent of their abilities. Second, they're surrounded by intellectual peers who help their learning along.

To try to achieve that, Pinellas County in Florida has been busing students at elementary schools with no gifted services to gifted centers one day a week. This allows the district to concentrate such students. The problem, though, according to this article from the Tampa Bay Times, is that busing eats up quite a bit of instructional time.

So under a new program, all elementary schools will now offer gifted programming, part or full time. The district is investing close to $1 million in these new services (though saving some cash on transportation costs).

I've been pondering these alternate set-ups, and have a few thoughts.

First, I'm happy to see any district spending more money on gifted education -- certainly not the usual course of events these days.

I also think that one day a week at a gifted center doesn't really constitute an ideal set-up. While that one day will certainly serve a social function of bringing gifted kids together (no small thing, really), doing something special one day a week isn't really about challenging kids if they're in their regular classes the rest of the time. In this sense, full-time (or even part-time if it's more than 3-4 hours/week) instruction in a home school would be better.

But on the other hand, why the interest in having home schools? In an ideal world, perhaps Pinellas County's 11 gifted centers could have become full GT schools. Kids could be bused straight there in the morning 5 days a week, rather than their home schools. That would solve the problem of missing instructional time.

The fear is always that a school will hire a gifted coordinator, but then somehow only wind up with a small number of students in the gifted class. When resources become tight, people will wonder why a teacher is teaching 10 kids instead of 27. The program will be disbanded, and the gifted coordinator sent around to offer "in class enrichment" or pull-outs to those 10 kids, plus 10 kids at 3 other schools. And we'll be back down under the 3 hours kids were getting at the gifted centers. Minus the chance to learn in an environment with their intellectual peers.

What would you see as an ideal set-up if a district was trying to create a good gifted program?


Bonnie said...

Our district in TX currently has a pull out program which is not nearly enough. It gives them enrichment 2 1/2 hours a week for k-3 & 1 whole day for 4-6. When they get to secondary, their needs are met with pre-AP & AP classes. The regular classes have recently been adding some differentiation, but no acceleration whatsoever! Gifted kids learn at such a fast pace & become bored way too quickly when faced with the same lessons day in & day out. The ideal situation per myself and many parents in our area would be gifted magnets or clustered classes that allow them to move through the material quickly. If we teach to the higher levels in the gen ed classrooms all or at least most students will rise to the challenge. If you teach to the middle, you'll only ever achieve the middle.

Donna Y Ford, PhD said...

Now imagine how more complex this would be if we added the faces/stories of gifted kids affected by this in other words. I so look forward to more discussion about race and class/income on the students most often negatively affected... this is so simplistic a treatment.

Kerri Z said...

Our district has a wonderful gifted program. I teach at a self-contained gifted academy. This is a public school. The 2013-2014 school will be our third year, and we will have 2 kinder, 2 first, 2 second, 3 third, 3 fourth, 3 fifth and 3 sixth grade classes with a STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics) focus. In addition, the district also offers a self-contained gifted class for each grade level 2-6 at three different elementary schools. We also have gifted classes at our junior highs. I teach a 2nd grade class (25 kids)of gifted kiddos. They are with me all day and I teach all subjects - just like a regular education elementary teacher. While the self-contained gifted classes were great, the academy has had the added benefit of providing families of gifted kids the support network they sometimes lack. The STEAM focus at our school has pushed all of us (teachers and students) to try things that may have previously been out of comfort zone. I believe it is good to set high expectations, and then offer the support to reach those expectations. At our school, we are able to do that.

Anonymous said...

In theory, I love the idea or ideal of every child enjoying a rigorous education together. In reality, when I was a child and, now, for my child's generation, you cannot interest everyone or convince people that they will enjoy work that really requires them to think hard. It seems like there is more of a predisposition for people to prefer working hard on their physical bodies, if they had to choose. Many children cannot pay attention or concentrate for as long as a high-IQ child, but I do not know why. My child will tell you that in public school one of the challenges for gifted kids is working in an environment where the kids are not paying attention and there is not enough time devoted to producing the best work product. In the younger years that does not bother me because we want children to have free time. My child constantly creates new projects. The parents need to reassure them that there will be time for more projects when they are adults. So, I think the gifted kids are better off as they get older being together so that they can have the conversations that they want and need to have. Why should they have to waste time finding each other when the school district can just bring them together.

Sandra Rutkowski said...

I am writing with GreatSchools to share our new article and video about Nathan, a profoundly gifted child, and his mother’s epic search for the right school – the second part of our new series Real Parents, Real Stories.

Because of your connections to the gifted community, we thought you all might be interested in reading and watching these pieces and sharing them with your families and friends.

We’d also be very interested in hearing your feedback to these pieces. We’re a small editorial team at GreatSchools, but we tackle a wide range of topics that confront parents in raising their children – from turning around a kid with math phobia to finding a school for a profoundly gifted child.

As we roll out this new series focusing on specific families and the struggles they face, we’re always eager to hear from the parents and communities immersed in these issues.

Thank you for reading and watching.
We’re looking forward to hearing your personal stories, thoughts, and feedback.


Sandra Rutkowski

IQ like Einstein: What is it really like to parent a profoundly gifted child?

Educating Nathan: Learn about one mother’s epic quest to find the right school.