School officials to unveil plan for gifted programs

Material to be taught during regular classes

January 08, 2003|By Jennifer McMenamin | Jennifer McMenamin,SUN STAFF

Carroll County school officials are looking to expand and improve the skeletal program of advanced instruction offered to the district's brightest elementary and middle school pupils.

The trick will be doing it without additional money.

Instead, administrators have proposed creating accelerated courses in English, math, social studies and science for each middle school's advanced pupils, rather than plucking those children from their regular classes for a half-hour to an hour each week, as is the county's current practice.

School administrators will describe the plan at the school board's monthly meeting at 5 p.m. today at the district's administrative offices on North Court Street in Westminster.

"Our problem is that by state law we have to offer extended-enrichment programs, but our state funding is being reduced, and we haven't had local dollars put into it," said Steven Johnson, the school system's director of curriculum and instruction.

As a result, the school district is left with about $100,000 a year in state grants to serve the 940 elementary pupils and 400 middle-schoolers whose standardized test scores, teacher recommendations and schoolwork make them eligible for gifted programs in math and language.

"The answer I had was if you have more pull-out programs, that means you need more teachers, which, of course, requires more money," Johnson said. "But if we offer those students accelerated courses as part of their regular school day, we already have teachers in place to do that."

Parents have complained in recent years that extended-enrichment programs had been scaled back so much that the enhanced lessons have been rendered nearly useless. Pulling children out of class leaves them with their extended-enrichment assignments in addition to coursework from their regular classes that they must make up.

Instructors who teach those weekly gifted classes would team with English, math, social studies and science teachers this summer to write the curriculum for the new accelerated middle school courses.

The new classes will move more quickly through standard lessons while spending more time on the background and more thorough study of subjects that have flavored the current language arts and math extended-enrichment programs. For example, gifted math instruction in elementary school includes lessons about different number systems of various civilizations.

"It really does spark a study of more extensive background," Johnson said. "It's not tested content, and it's not something that you'll ever see on a state standardized test, but it does get kids delving into more background and more context of the subjects they've been studying."

School officials expect to implement the changes in middle school classes in the fall. The elementary-level extended-enrichment program would be revamped next year and implemented during the 2004-2005 school year.

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