One way that schools provide extra attention for gifted students is to hire specialized teachers who focus on their learning needs and challenges
In Utah, the Park City School District has experienced success from increasing the number of specialists for gifted children in five schools.
Previously, the district only had one high achieving specialists teacher. However, the Park City Education Foundation raised money for four more through last year’s Raise the Bar initiative. According to Abby McNulty, Executive Director of the PCEF, parents shared a concern that gifted students were not being sufficiently challenged in the classroom.
The Raise the Bar initiative raised more than $180,000, which enabled the district to put a high achieving specialist in each of its four elementary schools — McPolin, Trailside, Parley’s Park and Jeremy Ranch — as well as Ecker Hill Middle School.
“When you look at research, one way to increase achievement across the district is to put more rigor in the classroom,” said Superintendent Ember Conley. “The people that are trained to do that in different ways are often our gifted and talented teachers.”
The specialists teach enrichment classes for all students, focusing on science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). They then provide additional enrichment activities for the top 25 percent of students.
“Our teachers at the elementary level are really swamped with reading, writing and math,” Conley said. “So the opportunity to have that extra support in STEM has been well-received.”
Conley said the specialists are trained in how to teach to students at their specific ability levels, meaning the enrichment classes are more tailored to individual students.
“One of the strengths of using this model is when teachers are planning, they can plan with one of the specialists,” she said. “The (specialists’) education is how to differentiate (lessons) for students who are not at grade level, grade level and above grade level.”