Some students need a little something extra to ensure they’re successful at school. Even gifted students need enrichment and accelerated programs to challenge and enable them to make continuous progress.
That’s why the Fonda-Fultonville Central School District in Fonda, NY, instituted the Young Scholars program this year in its mission to empower and challenge every student. Twenty students participate in the STEM-based program. The students were screened based on performance on the exams, and how they scored on state assessments, as well as teacher recommendations.
“I like the science experiments. We get to learn things we don’t learn in our regular classes,” Sheridan Taylor said.
“In my other classes I don’t feel challenged. But in this class, there are things that I don’t already know,” Tyler Couture said.
Programming for gifted and talented students is not mandated in New York, so funding for those programs is not available. However, Fonda-Fultonville Superintendent of Schools Thomas Ciaccio said it was important to establish this board of education-approved initiative as a new way to challenge the district’s brightest students.
Young Scholars is administered by the Washington-Saratoga-Warren-Hamilton-Essex (WSWHE) BOCES, and aims to meet the needs of high ability students in grades 4-6 who have reasoning skills in the top 1 or 2 percent of students in their age group nationwide, as measured by the School College Ability Test (SCAT).
New York education law defines gifted pupils as “those pupils who show evidence of high performance capability and exceptional potential in areas such as general intellectual ability, special academic aptitude and outstanding ability in visual and performing arts. Such definition shall include those pupils who require educational programs or services beyond those normally provided by the regular school program in order to realize their full potential.”
How do I know if my child is gifted?
The New York State Advocacy for Gifted and Talented Education (AGATE) says there are several ways you can get your child tested to determine levels of giftedness.
- If your child is entering kindergarten or you have just moved into a new school district in New York, the local public schools may be able to provide testing services through a specialist or school psychologist.
- If this is not an option, you can seek an outside independent counseling service in your area. AGATE recommends one that has psychologists who specialize in gifted issues.
- You can contact your local Board of Cooperative Educational Services (BOCES) to find out if they have a specialist on staff who may be able to offer suggestions or recommendations.
The National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC) says the characteristics of gifted children are diverse, and they do not exhibit the same characteristics all of the time. However, the NAGC says there are common characteristics that many gifted individuals share:
- Unusual alertness, even in infancy
- Rapid learner; puts thoughts together quickly
- Excellent memory
- Unusually large vocabulary and complex sentence structure for age
- Advanced comprehension of word nuances, metaphors and abstract ideas
- Enjoys solving problems, especially with numbers and puzzles
- Often self-taught reading and writing skills as preschooler
- Deep, intense feelings and reactions
- Highly sensitive
Availability of programming
The NAGC says because the federal government does not provide guidance or have requirements for gifted services, students encounter a range of services from state to state and even district to district.
The problem for those students, then, is how they are challenged when districts don’t provide such programming.
Mike Frollo, a 30-year school psychologist with Hamilton-Fulton-Montgomery BOCES, said there still may be opportunities at your school district even if there isn’t a specific program in place.
“Gifted and talented programs aren’t mandated, so the funding doesn’t exist,” he said. “That’s why you will see at a lot of schools, teachers and parents have picked up the ball.”
Frollo said volunteer-based programs have emerged such as Odyssey of the Mind, LEGO robotics and after-school enrichment programs.
“Since the funding isn’t there, it often has to be a creative outlet,” Frollo said. “The nice thing about those opportunities is that parents can take the lead and approach the district about these extracurricular activities. Most of the time, superintendents welcome it with open arms.”
Frollo said his best advice to parents of gifted students is to ensure communication with their child’s teachers.
“If a student shows artistic ability, the art teacher will see it, and likewise with the other subjects,” he said. “In their jobs and their lives, these realms are special to the teacher, so they will know which museums to visit and who can serve as a resource.”
Online resources for parents
- NYS Advocacy for Gifted and Talented Education and National Association for Gifted Children: Definitions, myths and frequently asked questions.
- Davidson Institute for Talent Development: Information about free services and scholarships.
- Acceleration Institute: Grade-based acceleration policies in NYS.
By: Heather Nellis
Copyright ©2016 by Parent Today and Capital Region BOCES; Used with permission