Above average sixth graders will benefit from a middle school curriculum for gifted students being introduced next year.
Starting in August, the Tuscaloosa County School System will offer more academically rigorous classes to high-achieving sixth-graders as part of its new Academic Scholars Program.
Superintendent Elizabeth Swinford said the purpose of the program — which was unanimously approved by the board — is to provide a framework of learning for middle school students that encourages them to become creative, critical and reflective thinkers.
She said the implementation of the program is part of the system’s mission to educate and empower all students to become college- and career-ready graduates.
“The reason why we saw the need for it was from various sources,” Swinford said. “No. 1, after being out in the community with our community forums, several things came up. People wanted more options for kids, including options for kids who are gifted, but not exclusively gifted. In other words, above-average kids.
“We thought, ‘You know what, you’re right.’ We have a lot of things for at-risk students, but not a lot for gifted students. We also have this push for career technical education, but a segment of students were left out. So we created this for students who are gifted and above average. This is also for students who work hard and do well.”
Tuscaloosa County Board of Education member Joe Boteler said this is the kind of program that the board hoped would be put in place when they hired Swinford last April.
“Once again, we’re trying to push those gifted students,” Boteler said. “By push, I mean challenge them. We want to make sure that they are taking courses that require them to think and to learn. That’s the basis behind this. A lot of this will be a hands-on process that is designed to make them think and reason.
“This is definitely a good thing. In my mind, one of the main reasons we hired Dr. Swinford was to provide the leadership where our students are excelling. We’re not going to accept mediocrity, we’re looking for excellence.”
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