Gifted Education

Elementary Principals Explore Ways to Improve Gifted Education
Posted on 02/05/2019

The Douglas County School System is committed to providing the best possible services to its gifted students at all levels. Part of this commitment involves researching all options for delivering gifted services and looking at achievement and growth data for Douglas County as well as for school systems around the state that employ other methods of delivering services to its gifted students.

For many years in Douglas County, students identified as gifted in elementary school have been served through a resource class model, which involved pulling students from their regular education class one day per week and providing them with interdisciplinary activities where the content and pacing differentiated to the degree it would not be  appropriate for typical students at that grade level. Over the last five years, many  elementary principals have requested flexibility to explore other models for delivering services to gifted students.

Among the concerns with the resource model were that gifted students miss a day of instruction from each content area on the day they are pulled out for gifted instruction and that teachers are unable to move forward in the curriculum on the day that gifted students are pulled from the class which impacts the pacing for all students.

Other concerns centered on achievement data. Gifted students across the state outperform Douglas County gifted students by 4% on average, with Douglas County gifted students showing only 3.5% higher growth rate than non-gifted students. Also, the number of students being identified as gifted is not increasing at the expected rate. Georgia districts that use other state-approved models are seeing greater success on the GA Milestones End of Grade Assessments.

In the fall of 2018, Superintendent Trent North gave permission for principals to work with the department of student achievement to consider other gifted models approved by the Georgia Department of Education. Principals met in early January to discuss models and explore scheduling options to maximize instructional segments and services for gifted students. The models discussed, in addition to resource class, included advanced content, cluster grouping, and collaborative teaching. In all of the models, with the exception of resource class, students receive gifted services every day rather than only one day per week.

Because of factors including the number of gifted students at each school, the model used at each school may vary. Principals have the flexibility, in collaboration with the office of student achievement, to choose the model that  best fits their student population. Based upon their student and school needs, principals may decide whether or not they will keep the resource class  model in addition to the cluster model.

Moving to other models will require additional teachers in each building to become certified in gifted education. Principals met with their staff in January to explain the options to increase gifted services for students. Teachers were asked not to share this  information until specific details involving staffing and scheduling were worked out, at which point parents would be informed of potential changes.

As principals evaluate and decide upon the most appropriate delivery model for their school, next steps include: providing professional learning to support all gifted models, offering the gifted endorsement course for all interested and qualified teachers, assisting principals with scheduling, and strengthening teachers’ understanding of the process for identifying new gifted students. Principals will meet with parents of gifted students this school year as they gain a clearer understanding of which model will work best for their students.

“We appreciate the understanding of our parents as we work through this process,” said Pam Nail, Chief Academic Officer. “We want to ensure that any changes will benefit our gifted students. They deserve to be challenged at the highest levels every day.”

If you are interested in learning more about gifted education from the Georgia Department of Education, please click here, where you will find links for many resources.

For the Power Point presentation regarding gifted services from the Board of Education work session on February 4, 2019, please click here.


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