High ability programming

2013-05-12T00:00:00Z High ability programmingDebra J. Dudek Director of Title and Special Student Programs Portage Township Schools nwitimes.com

High ability students in Portage Township Schools are students of all cultural and economic backgrounds who demonstrate or show the potential for exemplary achievement beyond students of their same age or experience. 

Portage Township Elementary Schools are using a cluster grouping model to provide appropriate instruction for their high ability students in kindergarten through fifth grade. The following is provided to help explain this process.

Portage Township Schools identifies these students through a multifaceted assessment protocol.

For high ability placement at the elementary school level, students are formally assessed at the district level before kindergarten, during second grade and again during fifth grade.

All kindergarten students are assessed prior to school beginning using a variety of developmentally appropriate assessments to determine those students who demonstrate advanced content knowledge.

Students in second and fifth grades are formally identified based on their performance on the Inview Assessment Star Reading, Star Math, ISTEP+ scores (where applicable), SAGES 2 along with teacher and parent input. Identification typically takes place in the spring with services beginning the following school year. Building level assessments are used between the formal district assessment to add or reassess students for high ability placement.

All Portage students are provided differentiated instruction in their classroom. Differentiated instruction is a teaching theory based on the premise that instructional approaches should vary and be adapted in relation to individual and diverse students in classrooms. The model of differentiated instruction requires teachers to be flexible in their approach to teaching and adjust the curriculum and presentation of information to learners rather than expecting students to modify themselves for the curriculum.

Additionally, all eight Portage Elementary Schools offer cluster-grouping classroom placement for their high ability students. This model places a group of four-nine identified high ability students at a particular grade level in the same class so the students can be provided a coordinated level of instruction. The other students in that class are of mixed ability.

If more than eight or nine high ability students are identified, two or more cluster grouping classrooms per grade level are formed.

Why did Portage move to the cluster-grouping model from the self-contained model to service our high ability elementary students? The change was to service more high ability students but the far reaching effects have been profound.

1) More students can be served. The previous self-contained magnet school type model provided instruction for two classes of third-, fourth- and fifth-graders, a total of 144 students. The new model serves all who qualify. This year the number of high ability elementary students receiving services is 371.

2) Teachers still maintain a mixed ability grouping of students while there is a deliberate reduction in the range of achievement levels that each teacher must teach.

3) Students are clustered with their intellectual peers.

4) Removing highest achieving students from other classrooms, allows new leaders and achievers to emerge. By placing the highest achievers in a single room and above average students in the other classrooms, all students had the opportunity to grow.

5) More efficient use of special education and Title I personnel is achieved by creating clusters of these students in one or two rooms instead of spreading them across three or four rooms.

6) High expectations for all students are maintained across all classrooms. As more students achieve at high levels, all of these students are challenged to their fullest potential.

The Portage School System continues to strive to design programs that will meet the needs of all of our students. Our students are bright young people with amazing potential. Cluster grouping for our high ability elementary students allows program flexibility that provides an opportunity for all gifted and talented students to reach and grow and learn with their intellectual peers.

This column solely represents the writer's opinion.

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About Portage

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6070 W. Central Ave. Portage, IN 46368
(219) 762-5425

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