The Bexley City School District is moving into an exciting new phase with changes coming about in gifted education.
District scores show that about 37 percent of Bexley students are identified as gifted in some area, according to state measures. Yet, only about half of those have been receiving direct gifted services and those who have been served through differentiation in the regular classroom may not even know about their gifted identification.
A yearlong review of our gifted services program and revised state laws have resulted in some changes that will take effect in the upcoming school year.
Most significantly, our staff members have figured out ways to use district resources more efficiently and therefore serve more students.
This fall, our fourth- and fifth-grade language arts pullout classes -- also known as GATE -- will be combined so that teachers can capture time to serve students in areas besides language arts. The pullout class sizes are very small, allowing our students to receive quality attention. In addition, the combination classes will stretch and challenge students in both grade levels.
Our review has led us to update and centralize data record keeping for gifted services. We have also revised some of the processes used to identify gifted students. We are improving our communications with parents and staff members.
Our gifted education specialists will further expand services by offering consultations and resources and possibly team- or co-teaching with regular classroom faculty members. These new approaches will supplement direct services like the existing pullout classroom for language arts.
A committee of educators brought together by Laura Lipsett, our executive director of school programs, has committed to a "pilot year" for gifted programs, where teachers will have the freedom to explore and create innovative solutions, depending on the needs of each school building. The 2014-15 school year will see the committee developing a three-year plan that considers new concepts such as compacting math instruction and creating assessments to inform flexible grouping in various subject areas.
Also starting this year, Bexley must identify students gifted in the areas of creativity and performing arts. We will review and revise the gifted services Written Education Plan and make sure all students who are reported as served have an approved plan guiding their instruction.
When school is up and running in the fall, the gifted services committee plans to host an informational night -- they are calling it "Gifted Services 101" -- for all interested parent/guardians. Educators will talk about when and where gifted identification happens, what "services" entails and how these are communicated. They will talk plainly about what changes in gifted education look like for individual students.
Watch for information about this program, tentatively set for the week of Sept. 8. We all look forward to new ways of meeting the varied needs of Bexley students.
Michael Johnson is the superintendent for the Bexley City Schools.