The State of New Jersey Administrative Code defines Exceptionally Able (gifted and talented) students as “those who possess or demonstrate exceptionally high levels of ability in the areas defined by the New Jersey Student Learning Standards when compared to their chronological peers.” The Essex Fells Board of Education and staff are committed to small class size and developing the gifts and talents of each student. We recognize the utmost importance of identifying and nurturing all of the varied human intelligences. Essex Fells School identifies gifted students through the Intervention and Referral Services process. With small class sizes and the ability to differentiate instruction, we primarily meet the needs of our gifted and talented students as well as twice exceptional students within their fully inclusive classrooms. To do so, the Board requires that appropriate instructional opportunities be offered to identify and meet the needs of students who are capable of outstanding performance. Those students that necessitate instruction beyond classroom benchmarks are referred to the I&RS Team for individualized program development to meet their needs in one or more content areas.
The Board philosophy, which is consistent with the position of The New Jersey Association for Gifted Children (NJAGC), favors meeting the needs of potentially gifted students primarily in the regular classroom with the focus on differentiating curricula and instruction. Teaching strategies to do so include:
1.. Flexible Grouping – Students work in a variety of group arrangements based on similar or mixed readiness levels, learning profiles or interests. Students may also work independently.
2. Tiered Assignments – Multiple versions of an assignment that build on students’ prior knowledge and abilities.
3. Ability-Based Reading,Math and Discussion Groups
4. Learning Centers – Collection of materials and activities adjusted to various readiness levels, interests, and learning profiles of students.
5. Independent Study and Research Projects – Allow students to investigate areas of interest, with the teacher adjusting for different degrees of independence and complexity for each student.
6. Technology – Infused assignments provide opportunities for students to create their own multi-media presentations; conduct research on the Internet; participate in distance learning activities with students in other schools; and engage in simulations that reflect real life situations.
7. Focus on Problem-Solving in All Classes – Offer rich opportunities for students to engage in higher-level and creative thinking to solve problems in a context-rich and naturalistic setting.
8. Curriculum Compacting – Pre-test students on upcoming units to avoid teaching students what they already know. Students who demonstrate mastery may either accelerate or pursue enrichment activities while a unit is being taught.
9. Cooperative Learning – Divides responsibility for a learning activity by assigning different roles that build on student strengths.
10. Adjusting Questions – Targeting questions to the readiness level, interest or learning profile of a student.
The Board also recognized that there are a few highly capable students for whom curriculum modification and differentiated instruction are insufficient to fulfill academic potential. For these children, acceleration must be considered whereby a child may skip a grade or attend an alternate grade/class for a certain subject area. The factors considered in the decision to accelerate are:
· Intellectual and academic profile
· Student disposition relative to the decision
· Social readiness
· Parent support
When a highly capable and motivated student is accelerated, the principal will work with the classroom teacher and Intervention and Referral Services Committee to carefully monitor placement.
Currently, we are members of the Essex County Steering Committee for Gifted and Talented Education and plan to participate in various activities sponsored by this organization over the course of the school year.
The Essex Fells School District has an ongoing working relationship with Johns' Hopkins Center for Talented Youth for independent and enrichment opportunities for students identified as needing a level of instruction beyond the grade level benchmarks.
The Essex Fells Board of Education supports quality educational experiences for all students across the spectrum of ability, background and achievement. For students who demonstrate the potential for an exceptional level of ability, the Board supports differentiating curriculum and instruction to provide appropriate and challenging educational experiences. Such differentiation combines the strategies of enrichment and acceleration and provides flexibility and diversity.