The Unionville-Chadds Ford School District supports gifted education in elementary, middle, and high school. This program enables gifted students to develop their exceptional intellectual abilities and prepare them to live in a future with expanding opportunities. The program is based on cognitive and academic criteria, and follows the mandates described in Chapter 16 of Pennsylvania state school code. Through experiences with peers and professionals and a stimulating curriculum, gifted students will extend their knowledge and understanding, appreciate new perspectives, clarify their interests and goals, and develop a positive self-concept. The program provides an atmosphere in which gifted students are encouraged to initiate and develop their own systematic approach to learning- thereby enabling them to gain a real sense of responsibility, intellectual freedom, and love of learning.
Parents and teachers can request that a student be evaluated at any time to determine his/her eligibility for gifted services by contacting their school counselor. The school counselor can provide information regarding gifted education. The Pennsylvania Department of Education Chapter 16 regulations define “mentally gifted” as:
“Outstanding intellectual and creative ability the development of which requires specially designed programs or support services, or both, not ordinarily provided in the regular education program.”
A student that is identified as gifted must demonstrate the need for specially designed instruction above and beyond the general education curriculum. Once identified as having a need, the Gifted Multi-disciplinary Team will meet to develop a plan to enrich or accelerate the student's instructional program outlined in a Gifted Individualized Education Program (GIEP).
The Gifted Support program at the elementary school level is designed to meet the academic strengths of students identified as gifted learners. The elementary gifted model seeks to develop both the cognitive and affective domains of gifted students. Activities are embedded with performance skills that are tied to the above grade level Pennsylvania state standards. Performance skills include: information processing, problem solving, critical thinking, communication and responsibility. Students work both individually and in small groups to access and apply information. Depending on grade level and individual needs, most identified students meet with the gifted education teacher for 30-90 minutes per 6-day cycle. At this time, gifted peers work cooperatively on engaging, hands-on activities that address the higher level thinking skills of applying, analyzing, evaluating, and creating.
In an effort to promote a growth mindset, gifted learners are regularly challenged to venture beyond their comfort zone to make new discoveries. In order to encourage risk-taking, divergent thinking, and in-depth exploration without fear of failure, performance in the gifted support classroom is evaluated, but ungraded. Progress on gifted goals is reported twice a year, after the first and third trimesters.
Math and English Language Arts (ELA) programs at the elementary level are differentiated to meet the needs of students who are approaching grade level, on grade level, or beyond grade level. When assessments indicate readiness for challenge beyond the Common Core Curriculum, differentiated instruction occurs within the classroom setting. Based on criteria that may include classroom performance, district assessments, and teacher recommendation, some gifted students may meet with the gifted support teacher for additional curricular enrichment sessions.
Opportunities to discuss the social-emotional component of giftedness and demonstrate leadership qualities are frequently addressed in the gifted classroom setting. Students in the upper grades with specific academic interests are encouraged to participate in various extracurricular opportunities, including the Chester County Reading Olympics, the Scripps Spelling Bee, the National Geographic Bee, and the UCFSD Math 24 Challenge.
The Gifted Support(AT) program at the Middle School is one that offers enrichment and challenge focusing on providing new learning experiences for gifted students in accordance with District, State, and National Standards
Gifted education at the Middle School level is a supportive intervention enrichment program designed to develop complex thinking practices such as creative thinking, critical thinking, and problem solving skills. Establishing thematic integrated units of study and providing activities, which focus on hands-on learning, is integral to our curriculum. This amalgamation is implemented yearly according to grade level. A variety of teaching strategies are employed to accommodate the diverse learning styles of the students.
Students identified as mentally gifted are offered the opportunity to participate in enrichment and challenge activities by attending Gifted Support/AT (Academically Talented) classes. The AT rooms are located within the regular school building and students are grouped with other children in their grade levels who have also been identified as gifted. Sixth and seventh grade students are enrolled in a compacted literacy class, which takes place four out of the six day cycle, and attend enrichment classes in the AT resource room the other two days of the cycle. Eighth grade students have the opportunity to attend AT classes in place of a special area class during all four marking periods. Participation depends upon students’ individual strengths and interests in accordance with the quarterly offerings.
Throughout the year, students may choose to participate in Gifted Seminars led by teachers, parents and community members who share their knowledge and expertise in areas of students’ individual strengths and interests. Sessions are in depth seminars that most times offer a hands-on style of learning. All AT students (6,7,8) have the opportunity to participate in a variety of competitions and contests.
Active class participation is encouraged through individual and partner work as well as cooperative grouping. Grouping is designed according to the activity, and students are encouraged to change groups on a regular basis. Through appropriate peer interaction, students strengthen interpersonal skills while building self-awareness and self-acceptance in a safe and comfortable environment.
Students are assessed through teacher, peer, and self -evaluation. Emphasis is placed on the self-evaluation piece, as self-reflection is a valued effective assessment and developmental tool. Students are required to draw conclusions and make judgments about their performance and development in the AT classroom. Learning logs, observations, rubrics, and spoken and written responses are some of the methods implemented for evaluation purposes. Sixth and seventh grade AT students receive a pass/fail grade on their quarterly report cards and eighth grade students receive letter/number grades on their quarterly report cards. Progress on GIEP goals is reported quarterly.
The Gifted Support (AT) program at the high school is comprised of two distinct components: gifted education services and resource support. Gifted education is provided through the use of a GIEP, which documents the student’s exceptional needs beyond that which we provide in our general education curriculum and creates a plan through specially designed instruction to insure that the student has opportunities to develop his/her intellectual potential. Students who find themselves thoroughly challenged by their honor and AP level courses will not have a GIEP but may access the AT room for support services. If a student’s needs change, the GIEP team reconvenes and reassesses what services are necessary to insure the student is appropriately challenged.
Within the AT program, all identified 9th grade students are able to take a Higher Order Thinking Skills (HOTS) seminar for credit either as a stand-alone course or in conjunction with a modified Computers Applications course. 9th grade students create 4 year plans and participate in enrichment opportunities designed to stimulate and develop higher order thinking skills. 10th grade students refine their 4-year plans and continue to enhance their evaluative and synthesis proficiencies. 11th and 12th grade students focus on the college search process and begin developing their post-secondary plans.
All identified students may utilize the AT room for college search and application guidance, curricular support, as well as for enrichment opportunities. Students are encouraged to proactively schedule conferences, touching base regarding their academic progress to ensure that they continue working productively to meet their gifted education and personal objectives. Students’ progress is routinely monitored to assess the appropriateness of their academic placements and to suggest growth opportunities, which will allow students to work to develop to their fullest potential. Enrichment and acceleration opportunities for those students with a GIEP are individually tailored and include a combination of specially designed instruction techniques constructed to provide the student increased challenge beyond course requirements. Additionally, students learn to recognize their emotional responses that may act as barriers to their learning and discuss strategies to help them manage any affective needs.