Norwalk schools changes how gifted education is delivered

Cary Ashby • Jun 10, 2014 at 8:32 PM

Norwalk City Schools won't be dropping its gifted education -- contrary to rumors and complaints by district parents -- but is changing the way the program will be implemented.

"We're supporting the program," said board president John Lendrum, although he added it may not be delivered the way parents are used to seeing it. "The program is not being eliminated."

The gifted program is required for the district to have, based on state law and board policies.

"We're delivering it in a different method. ... We have every intention of doing that," Lendrum said. "The board has been working on this issue."

Sue Goodsite, assistant superintendent and director of curriculum and grants, explained the situation to the Reflector via an email statement.

"Students will continue to be identified and serviced. The Ohio Department of Education states: Gifted instruction may be provided in large groups, small groups, and/or individually in a variety of settings. Settings include a cluster grouping where the curriculum is above (the) grade level," she said.

"Delivery may happen via an intervention specialist, in a resource room or in a self-contained classroom. The differentiated instruction in the general education setting may be provided by a teacher holding an endorsement in gifted education or a teacher who receives professional development regarding teaching gifted students. The curriculum is differentiated by providing access to advanced content and extension of the regular curriculum. Learning may be modified to challenge the student. Assignments and projects may be modified with alternatives based on a students' needs and abilities," Goodsite said.

Goodsite was asked what it means for gifted education to be delivered differently.

"This means students will not be pulled from the classroom, but serviced in the classroom with a differentiated curriculum that will provide additional assignments and projects with alternatives based on a student's individual needs. Students will continue to have W.E.P.s (written education plans) and assessments of their progress provided to parents," she said.

A mother, who declined to be named, emailed the Reflector on Friday expressing her "outrage" at what she called "the school board's last-minute, post-levy decision to drop a gifted program that has been serving Norwalk's most promising students for years."

"I have been a very active volunteer and I try to do everything I can to support my children's schools. Overall, we've been happy with the school system and have been grateful to be raising our children here. I was extremely disappointed, however, when I was informed of the school board's last-minute, post-levy decision to end gifted education," the woman said in a different email to addressed to Lendrum, the board president.

The mother, who has two children in the school district, seemed to have received confirmation about the gifted/ABLE program ending in an email Friday from Jeanette Beabout, a teacher for gifted elementary students.

"You are correct that the gifted/ABLE program will end this year," wrote Beabout, who encouraged the mother to speak to school board members about the future of the program.

"I have been transferred to League street school as a science/social studies teacher and I will be (your child's) classroom teacher. I worked with the other two teachers, Mrs. Selka and Ms. Hasselbach, for years, serving the gifted students in their classes. I tell you this to let you know that we all have experience specifically working with high-achieving students and (your child) will receive a differentiated and challenging curriculum next year," Beabout wrote to the mother.

The mother ended her email to Lendrum expressing her belief of how important the gifted program is.

"I am hoping that when you and the rest of the school board understand how important gifted education can be for some students, you will reconsider the decision to end it. If it is permissible, I would like to bring research-based information regarding the educational needs of highly gifted children to share with you during the board meeting. Gifted education is not a disposable 'extra.' For some students, it is an absolute necessity," she said.

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