The Elmbrook School District has sought outside help to conduct a comprehensive evaluation of its Gifted and Talented Program in an effort to better develop the skills of students at all levels.
Scott Peters, assistant professor of educational foundations at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, was selected to lead the evaluation process. Peters teaches courses related to measurement and assessment, research methodology and gifted education.
His evaluation will consist of data review, focus groups for administration, staff and families, and on-site visits. Peters has spent July and August reviewing district data related to the Gifted and Talented Program. Site visits will begin Sept. 19.
In the Elmbrook School District, 8.7 percent of students have been identified as gifted, according to district documents. State statute determines how students are determined to be gifted. It also mandates that every district provide programming to meet the needs of these students. Elmbrook is taking this a step farther and is hoping to come up with additional practices and opportunities with the primary objective being development of the unique talents of each student, Director of Student Services Tanya Fredrich said.
Helping students at all levels
Fredrich said the educational community has a responsibility to identify and develop children who are gifted and talented in the areas of general intellectual ability, specific academic ability, creativity, artistic ability and leadership.
"Through Elmbrook's Gifted and Talented Program, qualitatively different experiences and opportunities are developed for such students," Fredrich said.
Coming up with new ways to help these students grow plays into Elmbrook's motto "every student, every time, all the time," said Kristin Olson, instruction resource teacher at Tonawanda Elementary. Olson is also the Gifted and Learning Program coordinator at her school.
"Our district has a mission that we want to make sure every student, every time, all the time, has their learning needs met — and that has come from our superintendent," she said.
This means helping students who sometimes struggle, those who fall in the middle and those who show great talents improve, she said.
Generating new ideas
Though a program is already in place, Olson said, she hopes the evaluation brings consistency across the district. For example, some schools offer a battle of the books, others a science fair. Not all the schools offer the same programs to nurture the talents of the gifted students. Through the evaluation process, they can draw from each other's ideas.
Olson hopes the schools can pool their resources and teachers at all grade levels can collaborate to come up with best practices to personalize learning and meet the individual needs of learners. Using technology and personal devices in different ways in the classroom, for example, could help a student who may be gifted in math, but struggle in reading, grow in both subjects.
"I believe (during the evaluation process) we will talk about and discover these opportunities that may not have been tapped enough," she said.
"Through that evaluation I hope to see some different things that we may not have tried yet for teachers to differentiate their instruction to better meet the needs (of students), because the teachers are doing a fantastic job already and anything we can do more of will be appreciated," Olson said.
The timeline shows that final policy and practice recommendations for the Gifted and Talented Program be brought in front of the School Board by May 15.
Sept. 19 and 26: on-site school reviews
Oct. 15: Evaluation report due to district.
Oct. 15 through Nov. 15: report review with administration and steering committee
Nov. 21: report presentation to stakeholders
March 12: Steering Committee prepares School Board recommendations.
May 15: final policy/practice recommendations to board
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