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Changes to RCPS gifted program on hold
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RCPS looks at gifted program options (March 26, 2011)

Gifted programs may move in-house (January 26, 2011)


Number of RCPS elementary gifted students
(as of January 2011)

Barksdale, 57
CJ Hicks, 20
Flat Shoals, 24
Hightower Trail, 48
Honey Creek, 69
JH House, 13
Lorraine, 119
Peeks Chapel, 32
Pine Street, 35
Shoal Creek, 75
Sims, 21

Changes to Program Challenge, Rockdale County Public School’s elementary gifted program, will be put on hold for the upcoming school year, according to RCPS Chief Academic Officer Rich Autry.

“Based on further review and input, it is recommended that the school based gifted model be tabled for further study to allow for continued capacity building internally and externally,” said Autry at the Board of Education work session on Thursday evening.

“(Stakeholders) need to know more about it, how it’s going to work,” he said. Any changes that were made would likely be phased in, he explained, since at this point, the program didn’t have the capacity to roll out changes to meet all the goals at once. 

Autry said he still held the goals of increasing the amount of gifted instructional time, especially for fourth and fifth graders, improving the process of identifying gifted students, holding the gifted curriculum accountable to measurable results, and improving the gifted program’s connection to the home schools.

At the January school board work session, Autry had initially proposed moving from Program Challenge, which is housed at Peeks Chapel Elementary and has nearly 500 gifted students bused one day a week, to an in-house gifted program in each of the elementary schools with at least one gifted-certified teacher per school.

After parent and staff outcry, Autry met with parents and teachers in March to answer questions and hear suggestions. PC staff had submitted detailed suggestions to achieve goals to improve the gifted program without disbanding Program Challenge that Autry described as “intriguing.”

Autry described the conversations with parents and staff as civil and respectful despite disagreements.

“Some commonalities came across were, we’re not sure that you’re going the right way to get there, but we agree with what you’re trying to do with the goals you’ve laid out,” he said.

“However, here’s what I told you we wouldn’t compromise on – shared areas for improvement.”

Autry also described possibly setting up individualized lesson plan-style reports to track the progress of students.

“I asked the gifted teachers, ‘How do you know your child is getting what you need?’ There was an awkward silence. They like it. It sounds good. They have fun. But we want to make sure we have specified outcomes for learning in their area of giftedness. Developing those types of ILP, that’s something the gifted teachers and I both agree is necessary.”

Program Challenge staff also suggested ways of increasing the time that the gifted teachers spend back at their home schools, said Autry.

Autry also said some elementary schools were looking at increasing their gifted services by utilizing their gifted-certified teachers in creative ways. Some schools with large numbers of gifted students are reportedly looking at pilot gifted programs or classes in addition to and separate from Program Challenge.

“You hear a lot about remediation and intervention. We continue to have to talk about equally as much about those on the high end, the top 2 percent, because those are the students we can’t afford to let fall through the cracks either,” Autry said.