School District’s new program meets needs of gifted students

WASHINGTON COUNTY – At the start of the coming 2012-2013 school year, Washington County School District will introduce its new program for gifted elementary students.

The National Association for Gifted Children estimates that six percent of K-12 students in the United States are academically gifted, or high ability. WCSD initiated testing four years ago to determine which children qualified for placement in advanced classrooms. District staff have studied high ability processes in schools throughout Utah and, after extensive research and deliberations, determined that a similar program could succeed in Washington County.

“[Gifted students are defined as] those who demonstrate extraordinary achievement when compared to peers of the same age and schooling experience,” said Judy Eacker, High Ability Specialist for WCSD. “This new classroom will provide [them with opportunities] to show mastery of grade-level content, then go deeper into areas of their own interest and motivation using complex materials and research.”

Principal Kelly Mitchell, of Diamond Valley Elementary School, said, “When gifted students [are separated from] others like them, they are at risk of not reaching their full potential.” The new program will be located at her school.

“We want [these high ability students] to be in a classroom where they are not different or outcast, where they can feel good about who they are and what they can contribute,” Mitchell said.

“We will stay within core standards, but delve deeper for a richer understanding of grade-level materials,” Mitchell said. “Students will use the strategies they’re learning to be creative, cooperative and articulate, and complete meaningful assignments that will challenge and satisfy them.”

The program can accommodate as many as 75 students and will begin at the start of the 2012-2013 school year. For its inaugural year, attendance is limited to grades 3-5.  Due to the distance of Diamond Valley from the greater St. George area, WCSD is expecting to provide daily bus service for the students. The district does have plans to create similar programs in other parts of the county in the future.

“Our school has a high percentage of teachers who have received their Gifted Endorsement, and many others, including myself, are working towards one,” Mitchell said. “I believe that is why district leaders thought of DVES as the ideal location to house these students.”

To decide whether current high ability students would qualify for the program, district officials took into consideration their standardized test scores as well as teachers’ observations of their daily classroom performance. They were then given the Iowa Test of Basic Skills at two grades above their actual level and the Cognitive Abilities Test.

Those who showed great promise in mathematics and language arts (Mitchell said that having a strong foundation in these subjects is crucial to success in a high ability course) have been invited, along with their parents, to attend a meeting on March 7 at 7 p.m. at WCSD’s main building, 121 W Tabernacle, St. George, to further discuss the program.

Another meeting for children who are not attending Washington County district schools (home, private and charter school students) will be held at the same location on March 8 at 6.30 p.m.

Those with children who are not already on the gifted roster but are interested in pursuing the program for their children may request observation and testing of their children for suitability.

Contact point person for the program is Judy Eacker, telephone 435-673-3553 extension 5135.

email: [email protected]

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Copyright 2012 St. George News.

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