A summer program aims to close the excellence gap among gifted children of underserved populations.
During a three week summer school program at Brookside Elementary School in Norwalk, young students are participating in SPARK, or Supporting and Promoting Advanced Readiness in Kids. SPARK is an initiative that is statewide, and is located in four districts, including Norwalk. It originates from the University of Connecticut, and is intended to help students who are bright and in underserved populations to follow more academically talented tracks. If they get a head start during the summer, they may have more likelihood to continue to follow advanced programs, and benefit from services for gifted students.
This project is not just combating the achievement gap; it is combating the “excellence gap” otherwise known as a gap among students who have the potential for the highest abilities.
Teachers select students in kindergarten through second grade during the year who seem to have potential for higher achievement, but are not quite on the same level as their peers. They invite those students to join the SPARK summer program.
In order to identify children who think out of the box, teachers have to do the same. “They might still look like they’re struggling academically, but you can see that spark,” said Jennifer Sweeters, Mackenzie’s Brookside SPARK instructor. “It really helps change people’s minds about what teaching is,” she said.