Each middle school has a teacher dedicated to supporting gifted students and their families throughout the year. Each coach has extensive training and expertise on the unique needs of high ability and gifted students.
Gifted learners in grades 6-8 are placed together into cluster classrooms for their core classes of language arts, social studies, science & math, with teachers who have been specifically trained to meet the needs of a gifted young adolescent.
Cluster classrooms place a small cluster of students that have been identified for advanced academic services in the same classroom with a teacher who has received additional training in teaching high ability learners.
- Cluster classrooms have the same number of students as other classrooms
- Students that have been identified for advanced academic services can continue to attend their boundary school and be grouped in a cluster classroom
- Cluster classrooms include students with a broad range of abilities
- Cluster classrooms allow high ability students to learn with peers of all abilities while also being able to group together for more challenging lessons
Research shows that clustering students of high ability increases the opportunity for instruction to be delivered at an appropriate pace and level of challenge. When grouped with students of like abilities, advanced learners make more educational gains than when they are separated into different classes.
Talent Development and Advanced Academic Services in SoWashCo Schools are curriculum based. The curriculum for students in the cluster classroom is based on our district's core curriculum which is differentiated to meet the needs of all learners. Advanced learners may progress at an accelerated rate or at an in-depth level. A primary objective of the cluster classroom is to place greater emphasis on high level cognitive abilities and go more in-depth with the curriculum. All students benefit when teachers focus on expanding, and extending classroom learning opportunities.
Talent Development and Advanced Academics services are provided at all SoWashCo elementary and middle schools through the Levels of Service approach (Treffinger, 1998).
These levels are based on the individual programming model developed by Dr. Donald Treffinger of the Center for Creative Learning, Inc. in Sarasota, Florida.
Levels of Service Programming is:
- Flexible: Programming includes many different people, places, and kinds of activities. It does not follow one formula, single curriculum, or set program of activities or services.
- Inclusive: Programming that is appropriate, challenging, and developmental can be available to anyone. Programming includes a broad range of talents and does not serve just one fixed group of students.
- Responsive: Programming responds to the positive needs of students. It guides planning and decision making and leads to modifications of instruction. The mission of programming is to design and deliver instruction through which we can bring out the best in every student.
- Proactive: Programming challenges the teacher, school, district, parents, and community to take constructive actions for talent development. Taking initiative for talent development becomes everyone's business.
- Unifying: Programming provides a structure and terminology for communicating effectively about talent development within and among home, school, and community.
Teachers do not assume that students who have a great deal of potential in one area have a high level of potential in all areas. Sometimes, students with high potential for math may not have high reading ability and vice versa. High ability in one area does not equate with high ability in other areas. LoS provides a framework for planning, delivering, and managing a wide range of responses to the needs of students. (Selby & Young, 2001)
Edwin C Selby, & Grover C Young. (2003, October). The Levels of Service approach to talent development: Parallels with existing programs. Gifted Child Today, 26(4), 44-50,65.