Program eyed for gifted students

REGION 16 — In an effort to ensure all students are given an opportunity to reach their full potential, Region 16 is moving toward the implementation of a talented and gifted program at Long River Middle School.

Region 16, which oversees schools in Beacon Falls and Prospect, offers enrichment programs for students and preventions for students who need them, but the district is lacking when it comes to programs specifically for students who are “academically talented.”

“We should have opportunities for all our kids,” Region 16 Superintendent of Schools Michael Yamin said. “I don’t know if we do enough for kids that are higher learners.”

A committee comprised of educators and parents spent the past several months researching talented and gifted programs and putting together a proposal for a program at Long River, which serves grades six through eight. That proposal was presented to the Board of Education last week.

The committee recommends in its proposal that the board hire a part-time teacher, which would be the equivalent of a 0.6 position, to work with eligible students. The teacher’s duties would also include working with other teachers to ensure the needs of gifted students are met in the classroom and developing additional afterschool enrichment programs.

Under the proposal, students would have to meet a strict criteria to be considered for the program. A student’s eligibility would be determined by his or her cumulative score of several assessments, including IQ scores, math and reading unit tests, and teacher rating. Students would be identified as gifted in fifth grade as well as at the middle school.

School officials emphasized that the program isn’t for everyone and students will have to meet the standards to be eligible for the program.

Director of Curriculum and Instruction Barbara Peck, who headed up the committee, estimated that about 20 students in each middle school grade would meet the criteria.

The proposal states that eligible students would attend the program daily during what Long River calls its PRIDE/WIN period. The program will focus on areas in science, math, technology and humanities, according to the proposal.

Peck said the students will also have the opportunity for independent studying and to participate in state and national competitions.

If the program is implemented a curriculum will be developed over the summer, Yamin said.

The school board was receptive to the proposal and it will be part of upcoming budget deliberations for the 2016-17 school year.

Yamin estimated that the 0.6 position would cost about $40,000, which is an estimate based on a starting teacher’s salary and includes the cost of health benefits.

The committee is also seeking $1,500 to develop the curriculum over the summer and $5,000 for resources from the program, according to the proposal.

If approved, the program would be the only one of its type in the district. There are no specific talented and gifted programs in the elementary schools or Woodland Regional High School.

The high school offers many Advanced Placement (AP) courses, which Yamin said officials feel offer academically challenging opportunities for higher learners. He said the implementation of a talented and gifted program at Long River could help set students on a path to taking more AP courses. He added that he’s open to exploring a talented and gifted program at Woodland.

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