Changes ahead in gifted education in Houston elementary schools

April 3, 2013 

Exciting changes are ahead for gifted education for our elementary children. A momentous change is that our students will attend gifted education classes every school day instead of only one day a week. This will provide our most high-achieving students with 180 days of higher level instruction, far more than our current model, which provides about 32 days of enrichment instruction a school year. This also enables us to offer more children the opportunity to participate in gifted and talented education.

These benefits are a result of a curriculum change from the Resource Pull-out Model to an Advanced Content Model for our youngest students. Our system already uses this model for our gifted and talented students in grades 6 through 12, so using it in elementary school will create a smoother transition from fifth to sixth grade.

One major advantage of the change is that all of our children will remain at their home school. Currently, some students are bused to other schools for gifted services. This also means that our children will participate in physical education, art and music on a regular basis instead of missing this special class because they are in the gifted education class for the entire day. These students will also be able to participate in classroom culminating activities and special events with the rest of their friends in their regular classroom.

We are preparing this year for this new model. Offering gifted education services to more children more frequently requires teacher training, revised curriculum and accompanying resources. To be highly qualified by state standards, teachers of gifted and talented students are required to earn an additional three classes through a gifted endorsement course. This equates to 170 classroom hours for our teachers above and beyond their regular work day. About 110 Houston County teachers are earning this gifted endorsement as an add-on to their teaching certificate. Our teachers and administrators are also developing the classroom curriculum and teaching tools to have the same consistent lessons and resources at all 23 elementary schools. The end result will be that students will spend more time with highly qualified teachers who will enrich, enhance and extend the curriculum, what we are calling “E cubed.”

Big results are expected from this change, and not just for our gifted and talented students. The entire school will benefit from having so many of our teachers planning for creativity and enrichment in the classroom. In closing, we are excited to offer this more rigorous and engaging curriculum. We look forward to seeing many positive results from this change in gifted and talented education.

For more information, please visit our website’s Gifted and Talented Education (GTE) page at: www.hcbe.net/teaching-and-learning/gifted--talented.aspx. Frequently asked questions, a letter to parents and a video about our elementary gifted and talented education (GTE) are posted to this webpage along with other resources.

Robin Hines is superintendent of Houston County schools.

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