Southwest licking local school district administrator and teacher



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ACCELERATION


A student may be accelerated or advanced to the next grade level in one or more subjects. Studies have shown that single subject acceleration, particularly in math, may lead to up to an additional 3/5 year of academic growth. Its mixed impact on socialization and self-esteem warrant consideration when choosing this service (Rogers, 2002, 123). The more significant step of grade acceleration may be appropriate for very advanced students. Tom Southern and Eric Jones’ studies shows that in the right situation, grade acceleration, or “grade skipping,” can allow for dramatic academic gains and even social maturing (Rogers, 2002, 168). Documentation through standardized testing and class performance should show that the student has mastered the concepts in a specific content area or grade level. When a student is accelerated, social and emotional factors should be considered as well. Acceleration consideration may come at the request of a student, parent, and/or teacher. The decision to accelerate will be made with input from the classroom teacher, guidance counselor, parent, school psychologist, student, and administrator. The district acceleration policy must be followed ensuring that this process is made available to all students who demonstrate a need for this option. This may also include Early Entrance. Refer to the Acceleration section of this manual for more information about this placement option.


ADVANCED MIDDLE SCHOOL SCIENCE PROGRAM

The advanced middle grade science program allows students already proficient in science to develop their interest and abilities in the area by advancing through the curriculum at an accelerated pace. Students are eligible for the class upon the placement criteria listed on the following pages. This class is available for identified gifted students.


ADVANCED PLACEMENT PROGRAM

The Advanced Placement (AP) Program is a cooperative educational endeavor between secondary schools, colleges, and universities. It exposes high school students to college-level material through involvement in an AP course. AP courses often take more time and go into greater depth than usual high school courses. It also gives students the opportunity to show that they have mastered the material by taking an AP exam. Colleges and universities may then grant credit, placement, or both, to students passing the exam with a certain score. AP prepares students for the future by giving them tools that will serve them well throughout their careers. This class is available and encouraged for identified gifted and/or high achieving students.


ADVANCED MIDDLE SCHOOL MATH PROGRAM

Students are considered for placement in advanced math based on math or superior cognitive gifted identification. Students may be placed in advanced math in grade 6 or 7 or Algebra 1 in grade 8. This class advances through materials at an accelerated pace. This class is available for identified gifted students as space allows using the criteria in this book.



CAREER SHADOWING

Throughout their schooling children should investigate and evaluate possible careers. The study should extend beyond the school and incorporate items such as names of known experts in that field, salary projections, learning available on the job, stress levels, time commitment expected, prestige, and job satisfaction. The Licking County Educational Service Center offers a program that allows students to investigate first hand possible career choices. Twelve gifted and/or high achieving 7th grade students from Watkins Middle School indicate a field of interest from a given list and apply for acceptance into the program. Groups of students visit a business site, converse with a professional in the field, and learn about the demands of the career first hand.


CHALLENGE

Challenge is a self-contained gifted language arts class for students in grades six, seven, and eight addressing the needs of students identified as having high ability and with gifted scores in reading per state criteria. Students work at an advanced pace, studying topics in more depth and complexity. In addition, critical thinking, creativity, and social and emotional needs of gifted students are addressed through coursework. Participation in the elementary Voyage program does not automatically lead to placement in the middle school Challenge program.



CLUSTER GROUPING

Cluster grouping is a means by which normally four to eight identified gifted students are selectively placed in a regular classroom together to provide them with differentiated instruction in the areas of their identification. Students who are cluster grouped should be placed with a teacher who has had training and is knowledgeable about working with gifted students. The teacher will provide meaningful curriculum at a level that is more appropriate for these students. The county coordinator of gifted services and the district teachers of gifted also serve as resources to help fellow teachers understand and work with gifted students.




DISTANCE LEARNING

Students may participate in distance learning courses, as they become available. The hope is that students will be able to take advantage of such offerings without leaving the school grounds. This option is available for identified gifted and/or high achieving students.


HIGH SCHOOL HONORS CLASSES

Students at the high school have an opportunity to enroll in honors classes in a variety of subjects that are more challenging than the regular classes. These classes are available and encouraged for identified gifted and/or high achieving students.
MENTORSHIP OPPORTUNITIES

An opportunity sponsored by the Licking County Educational Service Center, the Mentorship Program offers high achieving juniors and seniors first hand career experiences before entering college full time. Students selected for the program indicate a field of interest, and county gifted coordinators contact mentors to work with them. The students must spend at least twenty hours during a semester with their mentors, who introduce the field and share their expertise. This option is available and encouraged for identified gifted and/or high achieving students.


POST SECONDARY EDUCATION OPTION

Students may take college courses at a college campus while still in high school by participating in the post secondary education option. Students normally need a certain ACT or SAT scores plus a high grade point average to be eligible to participate. The specific criteria for inclusion differ among the colleges and not all colleges offer this option. Students must attend a district counseling meeting to participate.



VOYAGE (ELEMENTARY GIFTED PROGRAM)

Voyage is a pullout class, which students in grades three, four, and five attend one day a week. Students expand the academic content standards across all subjects in more depth, breadth, and at a faster pace. In addition, the coursework seeks to develop critical and creative thinking skills as well as the social and emotional skills specific to gifted children. According to research, this type of focus in the enrichment class will lead to greater academic improvement and result in gains in critical and creative thinking (Rogers, 2002, 221-223). Participation in the elementary gifted program does not guarantee placement in the middle school gifted class.

References

Delisle, J., & Lewis, B. (2003). The Survival Guide for Teachers of Gifted Kids. Minneapolis, MN: Free Spirit Publishing.



Rogers, K. (2002). Reforming Gifted Education. Scottsdale, AZ; Great Potential Press.

ADDITIONAL OPPORTUNITIES


DIFFERENTIATION & ENRICHMENT

The gifted specialist will consult and co-teach with teachers to meet the needs of gifted students in the regular classroom. Differentiation is the changing of curriculum and/or instruction to best suit the needs of students. There is an abundance of research available that points to the positive affects of small changes in classroom instruction, such as eliminating excess and unnecessary review, providing alternative activities in place of review lessons, modifying requirements and details of class assignments, and flexible small grouping within class (Rogers, 2002, 118). Kent State Professor, Jim Delisle, notes that, when consistently applied in classrooms, this type of service allows for instruction of gifted students to align with state and national curriculum standards, reduction in the stigma associated with a “gifted” label, and less expectation of the students to complete “extra work” missed during a pull-out time (Delisle & Lewis, 2003, 74). Students can be pre-tested for prior knowledge and from there be offered appropriate curriculum. Teachers are encouraged to offer their students some form of differentiation, especially teachers of clustered classrooms. Information, sample lessons, or resources can be obtained from the gifted teachers in the district or the coordinator of gifted services at the Licking County Educational Service Center. Refer to the reference list at the end of this manual for differentiation resources.


AFTERSCHOOL PROGRAMS

Most schools offer one or more afterschool clubs that serve as a form of enrichment. Students may self-select afterschool involvement based on their personal talents and interests.


SPECIAL PROGRAMS

Throughout the year, different local and county competitions and events occur at various grade levels. Some examples include the Elementary and Middle School Spelling Bees, Junior High and High School Quiz Bowls, Battle of the Books, and Power of the Pen. Students may opt to participate based on interests and teacher requirements.


SUMMER SCHOOL ENRICHMENT

Each summer, a special enrichment program is offered as part of the district’s summer school. Students may choose to participate based on interest and availability.


DIFFERENTIATION STRATEGIES


Grouping


In recent years, heterogeneous grouping has been promoted as the ideal teaching situation for all students. In theory, higher students can aid the lower students pulling everyone to higher levels. Recent research has shown this to be true for average learners and low learners. It has also shown that high students tend to have lower achievement levels due to less challenge. Therefore, it is recommended that gifted students be grouped separately for learning tasks. When doing cooperative activities that involve academic tasks, group gifted students together and the other students heterogeneously. This will also make it easier to modify the assignment appropriately for the gifted group. Then, when doing group activities that are for social interaction or class building, mix all of the students together again. Gifted students can certainly benefit from interacting with their classmates in these types of activities.
Questioning

One of the easiest ways to challenge students is through questioning. Questions should begin with basic recall and move up through the levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy. Highly-abled students should focus heavily on those questions that require analytical, creative, and evaluative thinking. Higher-level questions are often open-ended. They can be used for class or group discussion or for writing prompts. They may be an assessment tool or an anticipatory activity prior to a new lesson.


Most Difficult First

This strategy is ideal for assignments that are practice such as math problems or grammar drills. It is easy to implement with little preparation. First, identify the most difficult items of an assignment, 5-10 depending on the number of items on the page. Students may choose to complete the entire sheet or just the most difficult ones. If a child chooses the most difficult, he must get at least a 90% or higher to be exempt from the other problems. That score then becomes his grade in your grade book. The first person to get a 100% on the most difficult items is the checker for the rest. If the student does not get a 90% or higher, he/she must complete the rest of the sheet as usual. This way, students who have already mastered a skill may move on to more complex items or independent study as directed by the teacher.


Modified Assignments

This strategy requires some advanced planning but can be as elaborate or simple as you choose and as needed by the student. Modified projects can be assigned to specific students or as an extension for the entire class. Begin with the regular expected outcome or assignment. Then simply add or replace the existing verb with a higher level verb. From that point, modify any additional instructions to match the new outcome task. For example, the class assignment may be to write an essay explaining the impact of the Challenger explosion on the US Space program. The modified assignment may be to explain how the impact may have been different had the explosion occurred on a shuttle from another country. This second assignment requires speculation, greater analysis, and synthesis.


Tiered Lessons

Tiered assignments are similar to modified assignments. The regular classroom assignment can serve as the bottom or middle level depending on the needs of your class. The assignment is then modified to a higher level to be the next tier up for advanced students. The regular assignment can also be modified down a level to meet the needs of special education students. You can have as many or as few tiers as you need. If you wish, you make another level of the assignment even higher for exceptional students. The assignments are then distributed to individuals or groups as you see fit. The core objective for all levels is the same. The differences lie in tiered difficulty for one or more of the following lesson elements: objectives, materials, direct instruction, learning activities, products, or assessment.


Pretesting and Excusing

As teachers, we are the guardians of fairness and equality. We help our children how to at fairly with others. When we couple that responsibility with the pressure of accountability for student achievement, we tend to be a bit leery of excusing students from practice assignments tied to skills they have previously mastered. After all, is it really fair to not make them do the exact same work as the other students? Don’t we have to have the same grades for everyone? The answers, in order, are yes and no.


If you choose to pretest and opt a student out of a review assignment, the gradebook won’t suffer. You can put their grade on the replacement assignment in the book or, if the child is missing multiple assignments to work on a single large project, simply put that project grade in the spot of each of the missed assignments. Remember, we are responsible for documenting that a student is at the standards. There is no rule saying we have to do that more than once.
Replacement Activities

One of the things kids complain about enrichment is that it means extra work. The traditional approach has been to provide extra tasks for students when they finish their work early. Sadly, some students will just do the minimum requirements in order to avoid this additional work. Instead, we propose replacing some assignments with challenge tasks. For example, if a student has mastered the math skill just taught, have them complete an enrichment page instead of math boxes. There is no need to repeat work that you already know they can do. If students are reading above level, replace the skill practice sheet with an enrichment task or replace the story with a novel unit.


Choices

Providing students with choices about their learning activities helps them experience ownership and increases motivation based on interest. One method is to create Tic-Tac-Toe menus with various product options. Create a 3x3 or 4x4 grid. In each box, enter a unit-related activity for students to complete. These activities should reflect a range of learning styles and multiple intelligences, and they should ideally require higher level thinking skills and/or creativity. One box is left for student choice with teacher permission. Students are required to complete a row or column or diagonal of activities. If activities are placed correctly on the grid, every child will be able to experience something of comfort and still be stretched by an activity different from their strengths.


Stations, basically the same as centers, are another way to in corporate choice in classrooms. They are separate tasks outside of the desk assignments and can be completed by one child or by small groups. For gifted children, you may approach this in a variety of ways. Some stations may be assigned as part of a learning contract or as time fillers after completing Most Difficult First tasks. Or, activities may be done on an interest only basis. Either way, the tasks should be higher level, allow for open-ended response, and be of value to the student. They may be short activities or long term explorations. An easy way to manage these is to put the materials in a plastic tub with a lid. The tub can then be taken to the child’s desk for easy access and less classroom chaos.
Diagnostic-Prescriptive Contracts

This strategy, an elaboration of pretesting and replacement activities, is time consuming initially but reaps the greatest rewards. Begin by having students complete an assessment at the beginning of a new unit. Textbooks often have these pre-made. Students who score 90& or higher on the pretest can participate in the contract. If a child scores at least 90% but less than 100%, the student will attend the lessons for skills he missed and will take the end assessment. A 100% on the pre-test earns 100% for the end assessment and assignments in the unit since mastery has been shown. The contract contains activities for deeper exploration of a topic or advanced levels of the skill. The contract students work quietly on their alternative activities during class time. Able students can move on without repeating what they already know, often improving achievement and motivation.


Independent Study

Independent Study is similar to Learning Contracts in that a student who is advanced is working on independent projects during regular class time. A contract may be used to manage tasks. This works well for content-rich units rather than skill units. The student receives a study guide with key points or objectives for the lessons and the timeline for assessment. The student takes assessments with the remainder of the class, but uses the guide to master material at his own pace. During class, the student completes research and develops a product about a complex issue related to the unit. For example, a unit on the Civil War may lead to a focus on one battle for independent study. Of course, the level of complexity and nature of the product might change with age. In first grade, it might be a poster about a particular season, in 3rd grade it might be a Venn diagram comparing two animal protective traits, and in 5th grade it might be a persuasive paper on an environmental issue. The student becomes the resident expert and shares his or her learning with the class. It takes some teacher preparation, but ultimately the work is the student’s and allows for interest and ability-based learning. The student then is the resident expert and shares his learning with the class.


Winebrenner, S. (2001). Teaching gifted kids in the regular classroom. Minneapolis, MN: Free Spirit Publishing.
WRITTEN EDUCATION PLAN (WEP)
Instruction of gifted students placed in a district service option shall be based on the individual's needs and be guided by a written education plan. According to state law, students who are counted as served by the school district must have a written education plan. A WEP will only be written for students participating in a placement option listed in this manual and only if that option coincides with the student’s area of identification. This plan outlines the type of service given to the child and may list activities and instruction that address the needs of the student. The district shall provide parents with periodic reports regarding the effectiveness of the placement provided in accordance with the gifted child's educational plan.

SAMPLE WRITTEN EDUCATION PLAN
SOUTHWEST LICKING LOCAL SCHOOLS

WRITTEN EDUCATION PLAN

2007-2008 SCHOOL YEAR
Name _________________________________________________ Grade _________ Date of Birth __________________
Area(s) of Identification:  Superior Cognitive  Creativity
 Mathematics  Reading/Language Arts  Science  Social Studies
 Fine Arts  Music  Dance  Drama

Placement: _________________________________________________________________________________________________





Goals & Objectives

Modifications & Methods

Assessment










GIFTED CLASS PLACEMENT CRITERIA





Voyage

1 Day/Wk Pullout

Grades 3-5


Challenge

Advanced Language Arts



Grades 6-8

Middle School Honors Math

Middle School Honors Science

High School Honors and AP Courses

Round 1

Superior Cognitive identification based on ability test score AND identification in 4 subject areas

Superior Cognitive identification based on ability test score AND identification in reading with reading test scores ≥ 95th %ile

Superior Cognitive identification based on ability test score AND identification in mathematics

Superior Cognitive identification based on ability test score AND identification in science

Prior Superior Cognitive identification OR identification in subject area related to course content

Round 2

Superior Cognitive identification based on ability test score AND identification in reading and math

Superior Cognitive identification with CSI score ≥ 116 AND identification in reading

Math identification AND CSI score ≥ 116

Science identification AND CSI score ≥ 116



Round 3

Superior Cognitive identification based on ability test score

Superior Cognitive identification based on ability test score AND prior identification in reading

Superior Cognitive identification based on ability test score AND mathematics score ≥ 91st %ile

Superior Cognitive identification based on ability test score



Round 4

Total achievement, reading, and math test scores ≥ 95th %ile AND CSI score ≥ 120

Total achievement and reading test scores ≥ 95th %ile

Superior Cognitive identification based on ability test score AND prior identification in mathematics

Superior Cognitive identification based on ability test score AND prior identification in science



Round 5





Total achievement and math test scores ≥ 95th %ile

Total achievement and science test scores ≥ 95th %ile



Round 6





Prior Superior Cognitive identification

Prior Superior Cognitive identification



Round 7





Prior mathematics identification

Prior science identification





**Placement is based on most recent test scores unless otherwise noted.

**Placement begins with Round 1 criteria and continues through each round until the class is full.

**If the number of eligible students in a given round exceeds the number of available slots in the class, students will be placed by CSI scores in descending order.

**If the class is not full after following this placement procedure, the slots will remain open to accommodate newly identified and transfer students in accordance with Ohio rules governing equal access to service.



**Students who meet these criteria based on annual group testing will be placed in appropriate service(s) in the fall of the next school year.

**Students who were placed in this program prior to the modification of these criteria will remain eligible for the program in which they were placed unless withdrawn as a result of parent request or IAT decision.

GIFTED PLACEMENT COMMITTEE



Purpose

Assign students to district gifted placement options in accordance with the placement criteria listed in this manual.



Responsibilities

  1. Develop class lists for Voyage, Challenge, Advanced Middle School Mathematics, and Advanced Middle School Science.

  2. New placements are made annually based on most recent test scores available.

  3. Form gifted cluster groups for elementary cluster classes.

  4. Make recommendations for high school participation in Honors, Advanced Placement, Post Secondary Educational Options, and Mentorship programs.

  5. Submit recommendations to building administrators for final approval and implementation.



Members

County Gifted Coordinator

Elementary Gifted Intervention Specialist

Middle School Gifted Intervention Specialist



CLUSTER CLASS PLACEMENT GUIDELINES



  1. Each cluster consists of 4-8 superior cognitive gifted students. If a group is greater than 10 students, the cluster will be split between two classes. If clusters are formed by other areas of identification, every attempt will be made to cluster students with common identifications.

  2. The remainder of the class roster will consist of students with low-average to high ability and achievement.

  3. Other classes without gifted clusters will include students ranging from low performing to high achieving students and may include other special needs students.

  4. The teachers of classes with gifted clusters will have training and/or experience in gifted education.

  5. Instruction should vary in pace, depth, and complexity according to student needs.

  6. The building gifted intervention specialist is available as a resource to cluster teachers.

  7. The use of this service must be consistently applied across buildings serving the same grade levels. This ensures equal access to services in accordance with Ohio Administrative Code.


Cluster Grouping of Gifted Students:

How to Provide Full-Time Services on a Part-Time Budget

by Susan Winebrenner and Barbara Devlin from the National Association of Gifted Children at



http://www.nagc.org/NSBA/clustergrouping.PDF retrieved on May 10, 2005
What does it mean to place gifted students in cluster groups?
A group of five to eight identified gifted students, usually those in the top 5% of ability in the grade level population, are clustered in the classroom of one teacher who has training in how to teach exceptionally capable students. The other students in that class are of mixed ability. If there are more than eight to ten gifted students, two or more clusters should be formed.
Isn't cluster grouping the same as tracking?
No. In a tracking system, all students are grouped by ability for much of the school day, and students tend to remain in the same track throughout their school experience. Gifted students benefit from learning together, and need to be placed with similar students in their area of strength (Hoover, Sayler, & Feldhusen, 1993; Kulik & Kulik, 1990; Rogers, 1993). Cluster grouping of students allows them to learn together, while avoiding permanent grouping arrangements for students of other ability levels.
Why should gifted students be placed in a cluster group instead of being assigned evenly to all classes?
When teachers try to meet the diverse learning needs of all students, it becomes extremely difficult to provide adequately for everyone. Often, the highest ability students are expected to "make it on their own." When a teacher has several gifted students, taking the time to make appropriate provisions for them seems more realistic. Furthermore, gifted students can better understand and accept their learning differences if there are others just like them in the class.

Finally, scheduling out-of-class activities is easier when the resource teacher has only one cluster teacher's schedule to work with.


What are the learning needs of gifted students?
Since these students have previously mastered many of the concepts they are expected to "learn" in a given class, a huge part of their school time may be wasted. They need exactly what all other students need: consistent opportunity to learn new material and to develop the behaviors that allow them to cope with the challenge and struggle of new learning. It is very difficult for such students to have those needs met in heterogeneous classes.
Isn't gifted education elitist?
Gifted students need consistent opportunities to learn at their challenge level—just as all students do. It is inequitable to prevent gifted students from being challenged by trying to apply one level of difficulty for all students in mixed-ability classes. When teachers can provide opportunities for all students, including those who are gifted, to be challenged by rigorous curriculum, there is nothing elitist about the situation.
Don't we need gifted students in all classes so they can help others learn through cooperative learning, peer tutoring, and other collaborative models?
When gifted students are placed in mixed-ability groups for cooperative learning, they frequently become tutors. Other students in these groups may rely on the gifted to do most of the work and may actually learn less than when the gifted students are not in their groups. When gifted students work in their own cooperative learning groups from time to time on appropriately challenging tasks, they are more likely to develop positive attitudes about cooperative learning. At the same time, other students learn to become more active learners because they are not able to rely so heavily on the gifted students. When the learning task focuses on content some students already know, those students should be learning how to cooperate in their own groups on extension tasks that are difficult enough to require cooperation. When the cooperative task is open-ended and requires critical or divergent thinking, it is acceptable to include the gifted students in heterogeneous learning groups.
If gifted students are not placed in some classes, won't those classes lack positive role models for academic and social leadership?
Research on role modeling (Schunk, 1987) indicates that to be effective, role models cannot be drastically discrepant in ability from those who would be motivated by them. Teachers overwhelmingly report that new leadership "rises to the top" in the non-cluster classes. There are many students, other than the identified gifted students, who welcome opportunities to become the new leaders in groups that no longer include the top 5% of a grade level group. This issue becomes a problem only when more than 5% to 10% of students are clustered. As classes are formed, be sure the classes without clusters of gifted students include several highly capable students.
How does the cluster grouping concept fit in with the inclusion models that integrate students with exceptional educational needs into regular classes?
The Inclusion model, in which students with exceptional learning needs are integrated into regular classrooms, is compatible with the concept of cluster grouping of gifted students, since both groups have exceptional educational needs. The practice of cluster grouping allows educators to come much closer to providing better education services for groups of students with similar exceptional learning needs. In noncluster classrooms, teachers report that they are able to pay more attention to the special learning needs of those for whom learning may be more difficult. Some schools choose to avoid placing students with significant learning difficulties in the same class that has the cluster group of gifted students. A particular class may have a cluster of gifted students and a cluster of special education students as long as more than one adult is sharing the teaching responsibilities.
Won't the presence of the clustered gifted students inhibit the performance on the other students in that class, having a negative effect on their achievement?
When the cluster group is kept to a manageable size, many cluster teachers report that there is general improvement in achievement for the entire class. This suggest the exciting possibility that when teachers learn how to provide what gifted students need, they also learn to provide modified versions of the same opportunities to the entire class, thus raising the level of learning for all students, including those who are gifted. The positive effects of the cluster grouping practice may be shared with all students over several years by rotating the cluster teacher assignment among teachers who have had gifted education training and by rotating the other students so all students eventually have a chance to be in the same class with a cluster group.
How should students be identified for the cluster group?
If there will be one cluster, its highly capable students should be those who have demonstrated that they will need curriculum that exceeds grade level parameters. Traditional measures, such as standardized tests, may also be used, but not as the sole criteria. If there will be more than one cluster, those highly capable in specific subjects might be grouped together in separate clusters. Profoundly gifted students should always be grouped together, since there will rarely be more than two such students in any grade level. Identification should be conducted each spring with the help of someone trained in gifted education.
What specific skills are needed by cluster teachers?
Since gifted students are as far removed from the "norm" as students with significant learning difficulties, it is necessary for teachers to have special training in how to teach children of exceptionally high ability. Cluster teachers should know how to:
recognize and nurture behaviors usually demonstrated by gifted students,

create conditions in which all students will be stretched to learn.

allow students to demonstrate and get credit for previous mastery of concepts,

provide opportunities for faster pacing of new material,

incorporate students' passionate interests into their independent studies,

facilitate sophisticated research investigations,

provide flexible grouping opportunities for the entire class.
Should the cluster grouping model replace out-of-class enrichment programs for gifted students?
No. Cluster grouping provides an effective complement to any gifted education program.

Gifted students need time to be together when they can just "be themselves." The resource teacher might also provide assistance to all classroom teachers in their attempts to differentiate the curriculum for students who need it. As a matter of fact, this resource person is being called a "Schoolwide Enrichment Specialist" in many schools instead of a "Gifted Program Coordinator" in recognition of the fact that so many students can benefit from "enriching" learning opportunities.


Is clustering feasible only in elementary schools?
No. Cluster grouping may be used at all grade levels and in all subject areas. Gifted students may be clustered in one section of any heterogeneous class, especially when there are not enough students to form an advanced section for a particular subject. Cluster grouping is also a welcome option in rural settings, or wherever small numbers of gifted students make appropriate accommodations difficult. Keep in mind, however, if your school has enough gifted students for separate sections in which curriculum is accelerated, such sections should be maintained. Many middle schools have quietly returned to the practice of offering such sections. Placement in cluster groups is gained by demonstrating that one needs a differentiated curriculum—not by proving one is "gifted."
How are records kept of the progress made by students in cluster groups?
Differentiated Educational Plans (DEP) should\ be maintained for gifted students and filed with their ongoing records. In some schools, teachers develop a DEP for the cluster group, rather than for individual students. These plans briefly describe the modifications that are planned for the group and should be shared with parents regularly.
What are the advantages of cluster grouping?
Gifted students feel more comfortable when there are other students just like them in the class. They are more likely to choose more challenging tasks when other students will also be eligible. Teachers no longer have to deal with the strain of trying to meet the needs of just one precocious student in a class. The school is able to provide a full-time, cost-effective program for gifted students, since their learning needs are being met every day.
What are the disadvantages of cluster grouping?
There may be pressure from parents to have their children placed in a cluster classroom, even if they are not in the actual cluster group. Gifted students may move into the district during the school year and not be able to be placed in the cluster classroom. These situations may be handled by:

providing training for all staff in compacting and differentiation so parents can expect those opportunities in all classes,

requiring parents to provide written documentation of their child's needs for curriculum differentiation instead of requesting the placement by phone,

rotating the cluster teacher assignment every two years among teachers who have had appropriate training so parents understand that many teachers are capable of teaching gifted students,

rotating other students into cluster classrooms over several years.

Another disadvantage might arise if the cluster teachers are not expected to consistently compact and differentiate the curriculum. Their supervisor must expect them to maintain the integrity of the program, and must provide the needed support by facilitating regular meetings of cluster teachers, and providing time for the enrichment specialist to assist the cluster teachers.


Conclusion
There is an alarming trend in many places to eliminate gifted education programs in the mistaken belief that all students are best served in heterogeneous learning environments. Educators have been bombarded with research that makes it appear that there is no benefit to ability grouping for any students. The work of Allan (1991); Feldhusen (1989); Fiedler, Lange, & Winebrenner (1993); Kulik and Kulik (1990); Rogers (1993) and others clearly documents the benefits of keeping gifted students together in their areas of greatest strength for at least part of the school day. It appears that average and below average students have much to gain from heterogeneous grouping, but we must not sacrifice gifted students' needs in our attempt to find the best grouping practices for all students. If we do not allow cluster groups to be formed, gifted students may find their achievement and learning motivation waning in a relatively short period of time. Parents of gifted students may choose to enroll their children in alternative programs, such as home schooling or charter schools. The practice of cluster grouping represents a mindful way to make sure gifted students continue to receive a quality education at the same time as schools work to improve learning opportunities for all students.
References
Allan, S. (1991). Ability grouping research review: What do they say about grouping and the gifted? Educational Leadership, 48(6), 60-65.

Feldhusen, J. (1989). Synthesis of research on gifted youth. Educational Leadership, 46(6), 6-11.

Fiedler, E., Lange, R., & Winebrenner, S., (1993). In search of reality: Unraveling the myths about tracking, ability grouping, and the gifted. Roeper Review, 16(1), 4-7.

Hoover, S., Sayler, M., & Feldhusen, J. (1993). Cluster grouping of gifted students at the elementary level. Roeper Review, 16(1), 13-15.

Kulik, J.A., & Kulik, C-L.C. (1990). Ability grouping and gifted students. In N. Colangelo & G. Davis (Eds.), Handbook of Gifted Education (pp. 178-196).

Boston: Allyn and Bacon. Rogers, K. (1993). Grouping the gifted and talented. Roeper Review, 16(1), 8-12.

Schunk, D.H. (1987). Peer models and children's behavioral change. Review of Educational Research, 57, 149-174.

Susan Winebrenner, M.S. is the author of Teaching Gifted Kids in the Regular Classroom.

She is a full time consultant in staff development (888/327-3477) and author of several books and articles.

Barbara Devlin, Ph.D. is Superintendent of Schools in Richfield, MN.
Reprinted from the ERIC Digest, August, 1996

SAMPLE LETTER INVITING STUDENTS TO VOYAGE

Date
Dear Parents,


The gifted placement committee met on April 23, 2007 to review the scores from the Terra Nova and the InView Ability Test taken in November and any retesting results. If retesting occurred, the results are listed below.


InView Ability Test

«R_Cog»

CSI

Terra Nova Achievement Test

«R_Read»

Reading




«R_Sci»

Science

Terra Nova Achievement Test

«R_Math»

Math

«R_SS»

Social Studies

The placement committee considers the students’ most recent scores to determine those students who would most benefit by participating in the elementary gifted class. Children identified in several areas are placed in the class first. After careful deliberation, the committee has recommended your child be placed in the elementary gifted class (Voyage) for this coming year.


One day a week the Voyage students meet together at Kirkersville for the day. For students not attending Kirkersville, a shuttle bus will take them to Kirkersville and then back to their home school again. Students are not responsible for work missed in their home schools with the exception of tests or long term projects, which will need to be made up. The elementary gifted class offers students a chance to meet with others who think and learn as they do. The material and activities are designed to provide a challenge to their thinking or encourage thinking in a new way while extending the academic content standards.
In August, students and parents will have an opportunity to meet their new teacher and learn about some of the units they will be studying about in the coming year.
If you have any questions, please contact me at 349-6094.
Sincerely yours,

Coordinator of Gifted Services


SOUTHWEST LICKING LOCAL SCHOOLS

REFUSAL OF GIFTED SERVICES
Student _________________________________________________ Date ____________
School: _______________________ School Year _________ Grade of Service _____
Placement Offered:  Voyage  Cluster Class
Periodically, students and parents may choose not to take advantage of the gifted services offered by the district. Written refusal of offered services must be filed with the school. If you would like to refuse the offered services, please complete the form below and return it to the school as soon as possible after the placement is offered.
Reason for Refusal of Services: ___________________________________________________
_____________________________________________________________________________
_____________________________________________________________________________
_____________________________________________________________________________

Parent Statement of Understanding


“I understand that refusal of gifted services cannot be reversed this school year. Further, reinstatement of my child in the program in future years may only be considered as space is available.”

________________________________________________ ________________________

Parent Signature Date

________________________________________________ ________________________

Administrator Signature Date

SAMPLE LETTER INTRODUCING STUDENTS TO VOYAGE

Date
Dear Parents and Guardians,


The Southwest Licking School District offers placements designed to meet the unique educational needs of gifted students. One of these placements is the Voyage program, a one day a week pull-out resource room for grades 3-5. The goal of the Voyage class is to help gifted students develop their intellectual and creative abilities through challenging instructional activities in the areas of critical thinking, creative thinking, problem solving, research skills, and all content areas. Moreover, the Voyage program offers an opportunity for gifted students to interact in a risk free learning environment.
Based on your child’s test scores and the selection criteria, your child has been selected to participate in the Voyage program. He or she will be bussed to Kirkersville Elementary on their meeting day. Below are the guidelines for participation in the Voyage program. Please review them with your child.


  • Students considered for Voyage exhibit a love for learning, a high level of creativity, and strong motivation. If the home classroom teacher or Voyage teacher observes a noticeable drop in the child’s level of achievement, a review will take place to determine the steps needed to ensure success.

  • Disruptive behaviors will be documented by the Voyage teacher and could result in a review of steps needed to ensure student success.

  • “The student is not required to make up class work and/or homework on the day he/she is involved in the Gifted Program…Each building principal supports this concept…The student…is responsible for long range assignments, projects, and tests in the home classroom…”

  • Parents may opt to withdraw their child at any time. A parent conference and written notice is required before a student withdraws from the program.

  • Participation in Voyage does not automatically mean placement in the middle school Challenge class. Students are placed there according to the scores on the standardized testing completed in fifth grade.

An Open House will be held in the beginning of the school year. There you will be able to meet the teacher, see the classroom, and learn more information about the goals and methods of the programs. Over the summer you will receive a welcome packet giving you more information about the program and specific information about the Open House and start dates.


If you have any questions, please let me know. I look forward to working with you and your child.
Sincerely,

Gifted Intervention Specialist

(740) 927-7281

SAMPLE VOYAGE OPEN HOUSE LETTER



Date
Dear Parents/Guardians of ______________________________________
Hello and welcome a new year for the Voyage Program!
I would like to invite you to an Open House to meet me and learn more about the gifted program at the elementary level. The Open House will be held on ____________ from _________ in the Kirkersville Elementary cafeteria. There we will be discussing the objective of program, units, conferences, general information, and answering any questions you may have.
Gifted classes will begin the week of __________. The start date for each grade is listed below:

3rd grade—Tuesday, _____________

4th grade—Wednesday, ___________

5th grade—Thursday, _____________


Each grade will meet on their day (Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday) for the rest of year.
I have also enclosed some important information, an emergency medical authorization form, and a permission to participate letter. Please return these forms as soon as possible. I must have the emergency medical authorization form before your child’s first day of class. This is for their safety.
I am looking forward to working with your child this year. If you have any questions, please bring them to the Open House or contact me.
Sincerely,

Gifted Intervention Specialist



Guidelines for Voyage Students

Permission to Participate
Please review the following guidelines with your child, then sign and return the bottom portion.


  • Students considered for Voyage exhibit a love for learning, a high level of creativity, and strong motivation. If the home classroom teacher or Voyage teacher observes a noticeable drop in the child’s level of achievement, a review will take place to determine the steps needed to ensure success.

  • Disruptive behaviors will be documented by the Voyage teacher and could result in a review of steps needed to ensure student success.

  • “The student is not required to make up class work and/or homework on the day he/she is involved in the Gifted Program…Each building principal supports this concept…The student…is responsible for long range assignments, projects, and tests in the home classroom…”

  • Parents may opt to withdraw a child from Voyage at any time. A parent conference and written notice is required before a student withdraws from the program.

  • Participation in Voyage does not automatically mean placement in the middle school Challenge class. Students are place there according to the scores on the standardized testing completed in fifth grade.

___________________________________________________________________________

Permission to Participate
____ I acknowledge the above stipulations and grant permission for my child ____________ to participate in the elementary gifted program (Voyage) for the __________school year. Permission is valid throughout my child’s elementary attendance at Southwest Licking Local Schools unless withdrawn from the program at the request of the parents and/or teachers.
_____ I do not give permission for my child _______________________ to participate in the elementary gifted program (Voyage).
By signing this, we understand the guidelines regarding participation in Voyage
Parent Signature _________________________________________

Student Signature ________________________________________


Please return to:

Gifted Intervention Specialist

Kirkersville Elementary

PO Box 401

Kirkersville, Ohio 43033

Important Information




Shuttle Bus

Students coming to Kirkersville Elementary for gifted classes will take the following buses:


Pataskala: bus # 47

Etna: bus # 46





School Supplies

For the gifted program, the students will need to bring the following supplies:



  • 1 binder with pockets (1 inch)

  • 1 pack of ruled paper (wide preferred)

The following supplies may be donated:

  • Ziploc bags

  • Pencils

  • Erasers

  • Tape

  • Markers

  • Index Cards

  • Shoe boxes or other craft supplies


Lunch
Students may pack or buy on their pull-out day. If they choose to buy, they may use their funds from Pataskala or Etna. Therefore, if you pay in advance, you do not need to bring lunch money on their pull-out day.


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