New Albany News

Study: 'Gifted' students need more classroom instruction


Vanderbilt University on May 2 presented to parents and community members the results of its recently completed study of the New Albany-Plain Local School District's programming for "gifted" students.

Vanderbilt officials said 40 percent of students were identified as gifted in at least one subject, and they offered such recommendations as a more-rigorous curriculum for all students and more individualized instruction for gifted students.

"You need to do things in the general classroom because 40 percent are gifted," said Tamra Stambaugh, an assistant research professor in special education and executive director of programs for talented youth at Vanderbilt.

The district paid $40,000 for the study. District officials worked with the Educational Service Center of Central Ohio to find the Vanderbilt program and contract for services, said district spokesman Patrick Gallaway.

Stambaugh said Vanderbilt professors and one graduate student met with district officials last spring to outline the study.

Professors spent the next six months collecting data and met with focus groups to assess their perceptions of existing programs and their opinions on improving gifted education. The focus groups included 35 parents, 59 teachers, 47 students and 17 administrators.

The Vanderbilt team also observed gifted instruction in 59 classrooms in all four school buildings.

Stambaugh said the focus groups revealed the district does not have enough personnel teaching gifted education, teachers need more training in gifted education, and gifted students lack the daily challenges needed to further their education.

Based on the study, Stambaugh said, the district needs to provide more instruction for gifted students in the classroom, instead of pulling gifted students out of class and grouping them together or simply advancing them into the next grade.

Stambaugh said New Albany-Plain Local needs to use a combination of best practices in gifted education, saying there is no "one-size-fits-all solution."

Gifted Coordinator Pat Farrenkopf said the district can do three things immediately: better communicate gifted education to the community; provide professional development for teachers; and form an advisory council to help determine the next steps.

Superintendent April Domine said advisory council members will be requested through the district's website and weekly emails sent to parents. Parents who serve on the council will review the Vanderbilt recommendations and determine how to implement them.

Farrenkopf said it could take three to five years to fully incorporate all of the suggestions.

"Some of the teachers already are asking what we would suggest, and we need to have that conversation with parents, too," Farrenkopf said.

Farrenkopf said the district will educate parents on ways to challenge their gifted children at home.

Domine said one of the reasons she became an educator is because she has a family member who is gifted but has learning difficulties.

"That unique blend of need and talent did create a passion in me," Domine said. "It's such a complex issue, knowing every child and trying to help them reach their potential.

"That's why I was so attracted to the vision of this district, which is focused on maximizing the development of every child, finding what they're passionate about and what their talents are, and helping them to become all they can be."