A recent national study on gifted education illustrates just how far public education has swung away from the brightest students in our school. As this report indicates, both presidents on both sides of the aisle have tries to eliminate funding for gifted and talented programs in the federal budget only to have the money replaced during congressional negotiations
In San Carlos, as in the much of the rest of the state, Gifted and Talented programs have been virtually eliminated as a formal “add-on” enrichment kind of program. Here at CLC, this is something that we, as educators are certainly grappling with. In the face of higher class sizes, how do we best meet the needs of our brightest children? And, more importantly, should their needs be subordinated in order to focus more resources on lower achieving kids?
At CLC, we have tried a couple of new strategies to better meet the needs of our truly gifted and talented students. One approach is to look at how online learning programs can be accessed in order to challenge and engage our learners. EPGY out of Stanford University, and the ALEKS program in Southern California are two such online programs that we are working with. In addition, we have parent volunteers who step up and engage some of our students with enrichment clubs like MathCounts.
In our middle school, Inga Davis, our math teacher, has begun to implement the math program from Phillips Exeter Academy in New Hampshire. Phillips Exeter is recognized as one of the top independent schools in the United States. The “Exeter Math Program” is an all word problem based, comprehensive math program for students taking Algebra and higher. It is one of the most successful math programs in the country and Inga is using it for our students here at CLC. And, we are seeing fantastic results and high achievement for our kids. The link to the Exeter math program is here: http://math.exeter.edu/dept/materials. All the materials are free for anyone to use.
For our learners who may be gifted writers, we are also looking at ways in which we can offer more challenging writing projects nor only in class but also as an after school enrichment opportunity.
I think we would all agree that we can do more for our kids in this area. At CLC, I do feel that we are meeting our kids’ academic needs better and more often than other schools. I think it is in the nature and structure of our program that allows us to succeed in this area. We work to deliver instruction in small group settings. We strive individualize educational programs whenever we can. We look for the most innovative and challenging programs for our kids. As a charter school, we are not restricted by state mandated curriculum.
While most schools (public and private) are struggling with meeting the needs of gifted children, this is one area where I feel CLC can say it has made some real strides over the last few years and we will continue to be committed to the success of not only our struggling learners, but also our most gifted learners.