WELLSBORO — The district here will be making changes to its gifted program following a state audit.
Director of special education Elizabeth Barnhart told the board of directors at the Sept. 3 work session that the district will work to change its “cookie cutter” approach to gifted education. Many of the documents identifying each student’s needs in addition to the general education curriculum are nearly identical. The plans also fail to identify whether the student will do more research, public presentations or more hands-on learning and in specific subject areas where that student is gifted.
“We need to get better at writing individualized plans to meet students’ needs,” said Barnhart.
The audit also identified a need for better communication with parents on students’ progress and growth through gifted instruction. Anecdotal information from teachers may be one way to share that information with parents.
Barnhart plans to use a team approach to “think outside the box” in developing ways to challenge gifted students. Not only will the school psychologist and gifted teacher be involved, but the regular classroom teacher as well.
“Part of the audit is that we are not honing in on students’ particular area of giftedness,” said Barnhart.
The data also showed that Wellsboro has a higher than average number of identified gifted students. It is the highest in the intermediate unit with 5.53% of the student population identified as gifted. According to the National Association of Gifted Children, the state average in 2013-14 was 3.87%.
There are currently 15 identified gifted students at the elementary school, 32 at the middle school and 40 at the high school.
The district may need to re-evaluate its gifted matrix, said superintendent Barnhart. Students currently identified as gifted would not be re-evaluated, only those in the future.
The district may also look at identifying some students, particularly those in the high school, as gifted, but not in need of services. At the secondary level, students can take AP and college dual enrollment classes to challenge them, she said.
Superintendent Dr. Brenda Freeman said the district’s goal is to help every child meet his or her full potential, whether identified as gifted or not.