Yes! For at least four very important reasons:
- It's the law. Just as the Commonwealth assists other "special needs" groups, Virginia law has provided for "those students in Kindergarten through Grade 12 whose abilities and potential for accomplishment are so outstanding that they require special programs to meet their educational needs." In Bath County, this group represents approximately 7% of the school population.
- It's necessary. The concept that the brightest children will do fine on their own is misguided. In fact, if their needs go unmet, it is not unusual for gifted children to lose interest in school, become poor achievers and suffer low self-esteem. Some may even drop out of school altogether and/or seek the challenge and stimulation they crave in negative or unlawful behaviors.
- It's smart. The nurturing and development of our most gifted and talented minds is not unlike the protection of our national forests, wildlife and waterways. All are invaluable resources on which our nation's future depends.
- It benefits everyone. A learning environment and teaching techniques which challenge and stimulate gifted students have a similar effect on "average" students. Equally important, just as "average" athletes are often inspired to achieve their personal best by training side by side with exceptionally talented teammates, so "average" students can get caught up in the excitement of learning when sharing tasks and ideas with appropriately challenged gifted classmates.
"Gifted" students are no different from "average" students in one very important respect: each is a unique individual. That's why there is no single set of criteria for their identification. Instead, each child is evaluated according to a number of different factors. But generally, these children have potential, demonstrated abilities, or high performance capabilities, which may include leadership, in one or more of the following:
- Intellectual Aptitude. Students with advanced aptitude or conceptualization whose development is accelerated beyond their age peers as demonstrated by advanced skills, concepts, and creative expression in general intellectual ability or in specific intellectual abilities.
- Specific Academic Aptitude. Students with specific aptitudes in selected academic areas: mathematics; the sciences; and/or the humanities as demonstrated by advanced skills, concepts, and creative expression in those areas.
- Technical and Practical Arts Aptitude. Students with specific aptitudes in selected technical or practical arts as demonstrated by advance skills and creative expression in those areas to the extent they need and can benefit from specifically planned educational services differentiated from those provided by the general program experience.
- Visual or Performing Arts Aptitude. Students with specific aptitudes in selected visual or performing arts as demonstrated by advanced skills and creative expression who excel consistently in the development of a product or performance in any of the visual and performing arts to the extent that they need and can benefit from specifically planned educational services differentiated from those generally provided by the general program experience.
Often a parent will be the first to notice a child's unusual abilities. Or sometimes group achievement test results, a simple evaluation of a recent project or cumulative classwork will reveal a child who is excelling. At this point, with parental permission, further evaluation may occur.
Next, a screening/placement committee which includes the child's classroom teacher, specially trained teachers of the gifted, a guidance counselor, an administrator and others whose input might be important will meet to determine student eligibility.
Since developmental and environmental factors can influence a very young child's performance, exceptional students in K-3 may be selected for participation in the Primary Enrichment Program, but will not be formally considered for the Gifted Program until grade 4. At that time, the child's progress will be evaluated and a decision will be made as to whether placement in the program is appropriate.
It is important to note that ability alone is not enough for inclusion in the program. A student must also exhibit the desire and determination to pursue areas of interest and/or develop special abilities. Each student 's progress is monitored continuously.
Once a gifted student is identified, a school enrichment coordinator meets with teachers and parents to plan an individualized program. Depending on the child's age and ability, some of the many possible options considered might include: grade or subject acceleration; "in-place-of" projects or assignments performed within the class curriculum and/or independently; "pull-out" or after school small group enrichment activities; supervised participation in regional/ national contests and challenges; field trips; cultural events; mentorships (i.e. working one-on-one with an adult in an area of special interest); participation in summer programs for the gifted; and/or (for high school students) participation in a variety of advanced placement courses through satellite technology. In each case, objectives are planned and written evaluations are made each nine-week period. Such regular monitoring, as well as frequent contact with teachers, parents and students, make it possible to adjust individual programs and coordinate activities according to changing needs.
The most important goal of the Bath County Programs for the Gifted is to provide whatever is necessary for this special population to develop to its fullest potential. Therefore, in addition to providing academic challenge and/or cultural enrichment opportunities, the program strives to help students become independent and self-directed in their learning, and to develop the creative problem-solving and higher-level thinking skills they will need to make the most of their gifts and talents.
Experts in their field.
Virginia law mandates that state school systems shall provide programs for gifted/talented students which meet certain criteria. However, the structuring and implementation of these programs is a local responsibility. Bath County's Gifted Advisory Committee is comprised of members carefully selected to represent every group involved in the program, including teachers and parents of gifted students from each school, a community member from each school attendance area, and a high school student. Visitors are welcome at the open meetings which are held four times a year and which include guest speakers and program reports.
Additionally, it is important to note that committee members and teachers of the gifted are participants in seminars and training sessions designed to improve skills in identifying and challenging gifted and talented students.
The success of the Program for the Gifted depends on the support and participation of many.
- If you are a parent of a child whom you think may be gifted, be sure to discuss your observations with your child's teacher.
- If you are a parent of a child already participating in either the Enrichment or Gifted Program, be actively involved in helping to determine and support your child's individual plan. Also, find out how you can enhance the program's efforts at home with your child and/or by volunteering your time at school.
- If you are a community member with a special interest or talent who would be interested in being a resource person or "mentor", or if you would like to serve on the advisory committee, contact the Director of Gifted Programs at 839-5307.