Gilbert holds off on enhanced gifted program, cites late start on project - East Valley Tribune: Gilbert

Gilbert holds off on enhanced gifted program, cites late start on project

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Posted: Thursday, May 17, 2012 2:26 pm

Gifted students in Gilbert Unified School District will not have a self-contained classroom next fall, because it’s too late in the year to make that happen, administrators said this week.

But the district will explore how it can better serve its hundreds of gifted students when it puts together a “vision” committee later this year.

Gilbert now uses a “cluster” model for younger grades. That means that if a school, for example, has three second-grade classrooms, all gifted students would be together in one classroom. Although that one classroom will include typical students as well, the model keeps gifted students grouped together by grade level. Gifted students in fourth through sixth grade are pulled out of their mainstream classrom during math or language arts to receive “accelerated” instruction from a teacher.

But some gifted parents have requested a program that is self-containing — meaning one that places all gifted students in each grade level together throughout the entire school day.

Because of the interest from the community, the district conducted a survey to find out how many parents of current first- or second-graders would commit to moving their children from to one site in August for a self-contained class.

Of those that responded, there were 12 incoming second graders and 23 incoming third graders identified. The district was working on a financial formula of having at least 28 students in a classroom.

“We had enough parents to indicate yes, probably, they would move them, but they were still wanting to know what the program is going to look like,” said assistant superintendent Barb VeNard.

But the district still is formulating that plan. And while there were teachers who volunteered to work this summer on a gifted curriculum, no one stepped up to take the lead.

“We want to ensure we develop a high quality program and we’re concerned we might not have the resources to do it in the timely fashion we need to to get this off the ground in August,” VeNard told the Tribune on Thursday.

So the next step will be to put together a committee of parents, educators and administrators to determine a vision for how gifted programs should work for kindergarten through 12th grade, she said.

In her report to the governing board on Tuesday, VeNard presented a possible five-year financial scenario of putting together an enhanced gifted program in the district. It included:

• $60,000 for one teacher per grade level to fund salary and benefits, (starting with third grade and adding a grade each year)

• $13,500 for curriculum and assessment development and supplemental resources for the first few years as the program develops

• $7,000 for textbooks and resources once students are added

• $13,800 for technology to provide one laptop computer per four students plus a document camera, projector and laptop for each classroom (one at a time as the program grows)

VeNard said the parent-driven group, Gilbert Supporters of the Gifted, has also volunteered to take part in the vision planning. The district will include this work as part of its strategic plan to enhance education for all 39,000-students, she said.

East Valley school districts have approached gifted education in various ways. Chandler Unified School District has had self-contained classrooms since the 1970s. Mesa Unified School District pulls out older elementary students from their regular classrooms and then transports groups of them to one central location once a week for “enrichment” education.

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