FAQ about Gifted Programs in LCPS
1. What is the major rationale for "gifted" programs?
All students need to be challenged to their utmost potential. For students who are rapid paced learners, who have high intellectual aptitude, or who are very talented in a specific field, these programs help ensure that they are challenged academically and intellectually.
2. Are gifted programs of any benefit to the school system as a whole and why?
Research conducted in this area strongly suggests that good school systems support strong gifted programs. First, when a school system seeks to create an atmosphere where each student is expected to work hard to achieve, it ensures that highly intellectual students are not expected to fend for themselves. Instead, it seeks to get all students to stretch to their fullest potential.
Secondly, such programs help proclaim that it is all right to be adept academically and intellectually. There is a tremendous amount of social and peer pressure for students to play down their intelligence. While fellow classmates often admire students with talents in other areas, intellectual students often feel pressured to hide their talents.
Thirdly, while not necessarily formally identified, all Loudoun County students take part in some aspect of the gifted program at some point during their school career.
Finally, all students benefit from the ideas and "intellectual spark" provided by gifted students who are encouraged to share with others. Good gifted programs try to instill in their students the importance of living graciously with one's talents and using those intellectual skills to help others succeed.
3. Why is the term "gifted and talented" used?
This is the term used by the Commonwealth of Virginia. The term "gifted education" is widely understood. In fact, the endorsement for teachers to be certified for programs such as SEARCH, FUTURA, and SPECTRUM is titled "Gifted Education."
4. Yes, but don't all students have "gifts" or "talents"?
Yes, all students do have areas of strength. Students with strong intellectual aptitudes have strengths in the areas often associated with the ability to rapidly learn and apply academic knowledge. That should not negate the fact that other students may exhibit talents in areas such as art, music, physical education, leadership, spatial relations, or communication.
5. One often hears, "We don't do enough for the 'average' student." Please Respond.
The term "average student" is somewhat misleading since all students have various areas of strength and interests. However, most school settings are geared to the large cross-section of grade level students. For instance, fourth grade texts and materials are geared to a fourth grade reading level. Standards are established and curriculum developed to reach the majority of fourth graders. Students are assessed by standardized tests which revolve around the "norm." Thus, to say we do not do enough for the "average child" is not totally accurate. Teachers work hard to differentiate instruction to meet the academic needs of students in all classrooms.
1. What are Honors Programs?
Course content is rapidly paced with additional depth. Lessons are often designed to be complex, abstract, and open-ended.
2. Are all students given access to Honors courses as well?
Yes. We do not want to deny access to a student who feels committed to try honors level courses.
3. Are the grades in Honors courses weighted?
No, the grades are not weighted in Honors courses. As stated previously, these courses are designed to challenge highly adept and rapid-paced learners.
"We must view young people not as empty bottles to be filled, but as candles to be lit." Robert H. Shaffer
1. Why should my child schedule SPECTRUM in Middle School?
The research on this point is very clear. Students who have high intellectual aptitude benefit greatly from having opportunities to be with other students of like ability. However, the majority of their academic instruction occurs in the regular program and their classroom teachers work hard to differentiate instruction in order to meet the academic needs of all students. The classroom teachers and the teacher of gifted education are not in competition with one another. Rather, as professionals, they both work toward the goal of helping the student fulfill his/her full potential. Each is supportive and understanding of the other, because both touch the lives of the students.
2. Why do some gifted students perform poorly in the regular classroom?
There are probably many reasons for this. Just because a student has the aptitude does not mean the student will fully use his/her ability. Good gifted programs teach students that they have the major responsibility in deriving the most from the educational opportunities that are afforded to them.
"We are judged not by what we "can" do, but rather by what we actually do." Donna Phillips
1. Are children formally identified for the SEARCH program?
Although identifying intellectually gifted children during the early development stages is difficult, a few gifted students are formally identified during the K-3 years. These students need program changes to meet their needs. Identification is usually delayed until the end of 3rd grade when more information is available. Children are identified at each grade level as they demonstrate giftedness through their classroom work and their performance on standardized ability tests. Identification is an ongoing process.
2. What can I do to help my child during these SEARCH years?
- Provide a stimulating home environment, rich in imagining and fun, where creative and mental development is encouraged.
- Treat your child with respect and dignity; self-concepts are developed early.
- Encourage your child to take intellectual risks; show your child how you are willing to try new ideas and activities.
- Trust your own instincts where your child is concerned; no one knows your child better than you do.
- Remember that your child has the emotional and physical needs of a child, regardless of his/her degree of giftedness.
- Help children to live graciously with their gifts and appreciate the gifts of others.
- Being gifted does not mean that one is better than someone else. Gifts mean nothing until they are opened and used.
- Foster in your child the zeal to strive to fulfill his/her potential and to support others in their drive to do likewise.