Kinlie Brennise, 7, left, East Elementary School second-grader, works with fourth-grader Tiara Hampton, 10, during a cooperative learning project Friday morning at the elementary school. Brennise and Hampton are a part of a writing program started this year that pairs second- and fourth-graders of similar abilities.

Photo by Bridget Manley

Kinlie Brennise, 7, left, East Elementary School second-grader, works with fourth-grader Tiara Hampton, 10, during a cooperative learning project Friday morning at the elementary school. Brennise and Hampton are a part of a writing program started this year that pairs second- and fourth-graders of similar abilities.

Teachers: More resources needed for gifted, talented students

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Reinforcing school lessons at home

Parents can take multiple steps to help students get a better grasp on what they're learning in class.

Reading with children at home, for instance, is a way to help students who are having trouble reading at school.

"You can't read too much as a struggling reader," said Linda Mosher, East Elementary School fourth-grade teacher.

Gifted and talented students also need some help at home.

Mosher suggested parents ask what their children are learning at school on a regular basis.

"Research shows that if a student can teach something, they're really, really knowledgeable in that subject," she said.

Giving a lecture is only half of Linda Mosher's work in her East Elementary School fourth-grade classroom.

After she's given a lesson, she said, she gives students time in class to practice the skills she's taught them. She takes this time to aid students who have trouble completing their work.

"It's built in," she said. "This is my help time."

But, Mosher doesn't have only struggling students to think about. She also has to make accommodations for students who are learning at a faster rate than their peers.

The Moffat County School District receives funding for advanced and struggling learners. The former, however, have a smaller population and less dollars earmarked for programs to help them.

State and federal funding for special education programs add up to several hundred thousand dollars, Assistant Superintendent Christine Villard said.

In comparison, the state provides about $21,000 annually to support the district's gifted and talented program.

The discrepancy is due largely to the number of students in each category. Students with special needs make up about 11 percent of the district's population, Villard said, while gifted and talented students make up only 2 to 3 percent.

Students can be identified as gifted and talented learners in two ways. They can be referred to the gifted and talented program or they can be identified in a test.

The district didn't receive any state money for gifted and talented programs until about three years ago.

"It's a good step," Villard said.

Regardless of whether students are advanced or struggling, teachers are required to adjust their lessons to all students in a practice called individualized instruction.

Mosher remembers when the term became an educational buzzword between five and eight years ago.

"We realized that you can't just teach to the middle anymore," she said.

Teachers accomplish this end in different ways.

After giving her verbal lessons, Mosher helps students who are struggling with the lesson. These students are seated in the same vicinity, she said.

Meanwhile, students who complete their work ahead of time have a folder of "extra, fun work" to do while the rest of the class catches up, she added.

Third-grade teachers at Ridgeview Elementary School have taken a different approach.

Jennifer Stagner's third grade class typically contains 27 students.

But, on a recent morning, her class contained only 13 children.

The reason: Third-grade teachers have separated students with similar abilities in to separate classes. Struggling readers can read at a slower pace, while advanced students can do more research on the topics they're learning about in class.

"With the gifted and talented (students), it's not more work - it's letting them go deeper into their subjects," Stagner said.

Moffat County High School doesn't have a gifted and talented program. Instead, it offers advanced classes in various subjects, including American government and science.

The high school also offers dual-enrollment courses through Colorado Northwestern Community College.

"We really do depend on those classes to challenge (advanced) kids," Principal Thom Schnellinger said.

Some educators think it wouldn't hurt to find more resources to help advanced students.

Mosher thanks accommodations made for exceptionally advanced students are generally sufficient.

Most of the time.

"It's usually enough because those kinds of students help themselves and push themselves anyway," she said.

Nevertheless, she added, she'd like to see the district offer more support in math for East Elementary School's gifted and talented students, she said.

Linda McIntosh, Craig Middle School special education teacher, also thinks states should allocate more resources to gifted and talented programs.

In her 10-year career as a teacher, she said she's seen gifted and talented go underfunded in every school she's taught in.

In her view, the fault doesn't lie with the school district.

"They do the best that they can," she said.

And, that's not to say gifted and talented students at CMS aren't learning.

"They are still progressing," McIntosh said. "It's just that they may not be as challenged" as they could be."

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