Gifted Taskforce

2017-2018 Avon Grove School District Gifted Program Audit

To request a PDF copy of the 2017-2018 Audit please email Jeremy Curtis at jcurtis1@avongrove.org

Introduction

This evaluation of the Avon Grove School District’s Gifted Education Program is part of an ongoing framework for program review within the Pupil Services Department.  The evaluation process is a critical part of program review and renewal. Review of the program takes place through the active participation and leadership of a select group of parents, teachers, administrators, and consultants who form the Taskforce and Stakeholder teams.  These groups are representative of the constituents who have a vested interest in gifted education across the district and who developed guiding questions to frame the work of the evaluation process. During this process, data was gathered through surveys, informal/formal discussions, observations of classrooms, interviews with teachers and administration, consultation with local and regional districts, and from focus group meetings with stakeholders.  This report represents the culmination of a yearlong inquiry with five months of intensive analysis of the data and information collected by the Taskforce.

 

Methodology

The Avon Grove School District Gifted Taskforce and Stakeholders identified guiding questions and probes determined to be integral to the evaluation process. It is through these questions that the evaluation was conducted. Members of the Gifted Education Taskforce and Stakeholder team were selected in fall of 2017. The members of the Stakeholder team went through a daylong process to identify guiding questions and probes.  The Taskforce then began the audit process, which involved interviews and surveys of key individuals in the school community, examination of key district curriculum related documents, review of classroom instructional practices and district procedures, and the research regarding best practice. It should be noted that implementation of recommendations will be considered in the context of other systemic needs across the district. Both the Taskforce and Stakeholder teams have prioritized the recommendations.

 

Glossary of Terms

Stakeholder team- Twelve parent / community members were chosen to be representatives on this team (over fifty parents/ community members applied).  Staff team members include principals, directors, school psychologists, a School Board representative, and teachers.

Taskforce team- Mr. Jim LoGiudice, Ms. Cheryl Everett, Mr. Jeremy Curtis, Ms. Jeannie Swift, Mr. Dave Renz, Ms. Kathy Shine, Mr. Eric Robinson.

AGSD- Avon Grove School District

AT- Academically Talented.  Term presently used in district to describe program / classes for gifted learners. 

GWR- Gifted Written Report.  The title of the evaluation report used to formally determine gifted eligibility aligned with PA Chapter 16 regulations.

GIEP- Gifted Individualized Education Plan.  The written plan of support and services for students who have been identified through the formal GWR process as being gifted and in need of specially designed instruction.

UbD- Understanding by Design. Curriculum model presently being used in AGSD.

GST- Gifted Support Teacher. The term for a certified teacher who has been assigned responsibility for gifted student service options and GIEP management.   

Chapter 16- Pennsylvania legislative code regarding gifted education

PDE- Pennsylvania Department of Education.

AP- Advanced Placement classes. College Board certified higher-level courses that could lead to college credit. 

STEAM- Science, technology, engineer, arts, math.

PBL- Problem based learning.

PSEA- Pennsylvania State Education Association. Teacher professional organization.

PAGE- Pennsylvania Association for Gifted Education.  Grassroots/ advocacy group dedicated to advancing education for the gifted in PA.

PDE-SAS- Pennsylvania Department of Education Standards Aligned System.  Online resource for curriculum, instruction and assessment in PA. 

1:1 initiative- A technology initiative in AGSD to have every student have his or her own loaner Chromebook. 

Open educational resources- Educational resources, in the public domain, for use in classroom instruction. 

 

Data Sources for the Program Evaluation

Documents

Sources include written board policies, PDE Chapter 16 regulations, GWR review, GIEP review, secondary course of study, curriculum maps, assessment data, student performance indicators, PDE gifted guidelines, screening and evaluation protocols from local and regional districts, PDE SAS website (gifted community data), student demographic data, and other documents related to the focus of the program evaluation.

Stakeholder Input

Surveys:

●        139 parent surveys were completed.  Surveys had twenty-one key questions including open-ended response options.  They were sent to all AGSD parents and were available through the district website. Responses were collected over a two-month period with bi-weekly email reminders. 

●        183 staff surveys were completed.  Surveys had seventeen key questions including an open-ended feedback section.  In order to increase participation, they were sent to all AGSD staff members who were given time during staff meetings to complete the survey.  

●        Twenty-one parent surveys in Spanish were completed. Hard copies were distributed to about 250 Spanish-speaking families.  Spanish speaking staff were available for questions about the survey.

Interviews:

●        Over three quarters of the 130 students currently enrolled in the gifted program.

●        Seven AP and honors teachers at the secondary level

●        All School Counselors and School Psychologists

●        All Principals and some Assistant Principals

●        The Directors of Teaching and Learning

●        Gifted Support Teachers

●        Parents - two Focus Group Sessions with twenty-five participants (Spanish speaking staff were available)

Classroom Observations and Staff Questionnaires:

●        Ten gifted student classroom observations

○        3rd-12th grades

●        Gifted Support Teachers questionnaire

●        School Psychologists questionnaire

●        Instructional Coaches questionnaire

 

Guiding Questions, Probes, and Summary Outcomes

1.       Screening and Identification

Guiding Question and Probes

●        To what extent are screening, assessment, identification, and placement procedures for the gifted appropriate and aligned to current research and best practice?
 

○        Are we using the most effective tools for our district population (minority students, ESL students, male vs. female, etc) for screening and assessing?

○        Are staff and parents aware of the district’s gifted screening and identification procedures?

○        To what extent are screening and/or identification consistently implemented throughout K-12?

○        Are multiple intelligences/ multiple criteria being used?  Is this consistent across K-12?

Strengths

●        Bilingual support and evaluators are readily available and used as needed.

●        School psychologists are professional and consistent in the manner in which they assess and identify gifted learners and follow established procedures, yet are flexible and receptive to screening and identification protocol changes.

○        A pilot practice has been implemented at the intermediate school level to extend a multiple criteria approach for screening students thought to be gifted.  This practice involves both the school psychologist and the GST who observe student learner aptitudes and behaviors.

●        AGSD recognizes the need to re-evaluate the current screening and identification procedures to better reflect best practices and to be more inclusive of underrepresented populations.

●        AGSD has valid and reliable sources of data available for screening and identification purposes. 

●        Building level data teams are established and AGSD recognizes the need to use these teams to inform instruction and provide for flexible programming.

Needs

●        Assessment tools and procedures need to be examined to ensure use of best practices and the use of multiple criteria to be better aligned with Chapter 16 requirements for identification of students thought to be gifted. (1A)

●        Screening, identification and placement procedures need to be reviewed to be more representative of district demographics. (1A)

●        Chapter 16 requirements regarding required procedures for re- evaluation of students upon change of placement need to be implemented. (1C)

●        Screening, identification and placement practices need to be consistently applied across all district buildings and at all grade levels K-12. (1A)

●        Increased parent and staff awareness of procedures for screening, identification and placement of gifted students are needed. (1D, 4A, 4C)

●        Sections of GWRs are not individualized and need to contain information as to the types of specially designed services and instruction required for each identified gifted student. (1B, 3E)

Recommendations

·         (1) 1A Revise the current multi-stage screening and identification protocol to include best practices and to be consistently implemented district-wide.  This protocol should include a structure that differentiates for different grade levels of students, such as K to 2, 3 to 6, middle school and high school.  (#2 overall)

○        Develop a universal screening procedure (as part of multi-tier protocol) implemented to ensure compliance with PA Child find (§ 14.121. Child find) mandates. 

○        Develop screening practices that are attentive to students who are at risk for under-identification.

○        Increase the use of multiple criteria, including non-verbal measures, during screening and assessments to assure increased consideration and placement of students for gifted services, which are more reflective of District demographics.        

●        (2) 1B Improve GWRs to include more specific, individualized, and academic strength areas to comprehensively aid in developing GIEP goals. 

○        GWRs currently fit the program model of enrichment and reflect little evidence of impact on general education services.        

●        (4) 1C Establish procedures for consistent and formal re-evaluation of students that involves the school psychologists. 

○        Especially at transitional grades; 2nd to 3rd, 6th to 7th, 8th to 9th. 

●        (3) 1D Increase communication to all stakeholders through additional communication resources.

○        Gifted program brochure

○        Frequently Asked Questions guide

○        An overview of AGSD Gifted Education processes

○        Internal procedural and staff guidelines

 

2.       Program Design and Delivery

Guiding Question and Probes

●        To what extent does the design and delivery of the district’s programming for the gifted meet the identified and assessed needs of each student?

○        To what extent does the staff, staffing patterns and resources meet the needs of the gifted learners?

○        To what extent are services for the gifted implemented in a consistent and articulated manner across buildings and grade levels?

○        To what extent are teachers supported in developing instructional strategies/ materials for teaching the gifted in a general education environment?

○        To what extent do the current student-to-teacher ratio, and dedicated resources, meet the needs of the gifted learner?

○        What resources and/or technologies are available and used to fully support our gifted learners?

Strengths

●        There are a variety of enrichment opportunities and practices in the gifted pullout program across the district.

●        Improvements have been made to develop a more Chapter 16 compliant GIEP process.

●        There is leadership (curriculum directors, administrators and coaches) within the district to support curriculum, instruction, and staff development aimed at challenging gifted and advanced level students.

●        Some acceleration options exist for all students.

○        Grade skipping

○        Single subject math

●        Use of the UbD curriculum approach is evident throughout the district.

●        GSTs are committed to meeting the needs of gifted learners.  In the current gifted program a variety of instructional strategies and programs are used to meet student needs.

○        Students and parents cite the pull out programs and experiences as being positive.

○        Parents cite strengths in the dedication of the gifted support teachers

○        Unique opportunities for academic engagement exist.

○        Program supports the social and emotional needs of gifted learners.

●        AGSD has committed to a 1:1 initiative for technology resources and continues to improve the services and options available for all students.

○        AGSD is in process of developing open educational resources to support the needs of all learners.

●        AGSD maintains accurate records for gifted students.

●        GSTs at some buildings facilitate collaborative discussions with colleagues about gifted students in regular education classrooms.

●        Extensive AP courses, dual enrollment options and technical high school offerings are available for all students.

●        AGSD is in the process of developing a cohesive system for data collection and interpretation that will impact instructional decisions to best meet the needs of all students.

Needs

●        At the secondary level, there is a need to review how to increase student placement for special services/classes based on GIEP goals not on administrative/schedule convenience. (2A, 2E)

●        Program name and terminology needs to be consistent across the district. (2J)

○        Remove AT from department vernacular.

●        GIEPs need to be reflective of individualized learning strengths, specially designed instruction, and include clear transitional goals/activities. (2C, 2F, 3B)

○        GIEP development lacks current data and effective interpretation of existing data to promote individualized goal development and specially designed instruction.

○        GIEP goals and associated specially designed instruction should reflect an individualized approach that addresses academic strengths based on data, not solely on student expressed personal interest.

●        Understanding and awareness is needed among regular education teachers about their role in supporting the development of the gifted learner and the implementation of the student’s GIEP. (2H)

●        Clear expectations and support for higher levels of differentiated instruction need to occur for gifted students in regular education classrooms. (2D, 2I)  

○        Both parents and students alike, when surveyed and interviewed, indicated that the pacing and depth of learning in some classrooms, even in advanced level courses, were not rigorous enough to meet their needs. 

●        A thorough examination of existing regular education classroom and course offerings for rigor, in terms of increased depth and complexity, is necessary at all grade levels. (2B, 2C, 2I)  

●        Increased use of assessment data (pre, formative and summative) to guide differentiated instruction opportunities for all subject areas. (2F)

●        GSTs are extended beyond capacity and lack positional stability.  Additional personnel and re-allotment of present GSTs is necessary. (2A)

●        Additional collaboration time between regular education teachers, GSTs, and school psychologists is warranted in order to consistently meet the needs of gifted learners across all educational environments. (2A, 2E, 2K)

○        Increase collaborative planning time for synchronous, curriculum based, teaching between general education teachers and GSTs.

●        Additional gifted programming options that would support a sense of continuity with scaffolded academic organization across all grade levels K-12. (2C, 2E)

●        Research and implement best practices for gifted learners to foster greater learning opportunities using enrichment and acceleration in all learning environments. (2D, 2E)

●        Improve GWRs to include more specific, individualized, and academic strength areas to comprehensively aid in developing GIEP goals.  (2G, 3E)

○        GWRs currently fit the program model of enrichment and reflect little evidence of impact on general education services.

●        Develop and implement additional acceleration opportunities for all students, as guided by a newly created acceleration policy, which will better reflect Chapter 16 required instructional options. (2C) 

Recommendations

●        (1) 2A Implement full time staffing at each building to allow for the development and enactment of programming service options to meet the individualized academic/social/emotional needs of gifted students in each building and address collaboration and co-teaching indicators. (#1 overall)

●        (9) 2B Review and re-energize a coordinated centralized leadership approach to address the multiple and interrelated issues and needs encountered throughout gifted education service within AGSD.

●        (5) 2C Create and implement a K-12 acceleration policy for all subject areas and for all students.

●        (3) 2D Increase widespread implementation of best practices for gifted learners that access a depth of knowledge/ skills commensurate with the student’s giftedness and maintain district focus on increasing higher-level differentiation for advanced students in all general education classes, especially in unleveled subjects, such as science, social studies, and technology.

○        Cluster grouping

○        “In place of” rather than “more of” emphasis

○        Pre-assessment for mastery

○        Curriculum compacting

○        Independent study

○        Co-teaching opportunities

○        Substantive instruction using technology resources

○        Mentorships

○        Increase opportunities for real world or cross-curricular applications of learning for gifted students

■         Problem based learning

■         Real world inquiry

■         STEAM investigations

●        (2) 2E Develop additional gifted program enrichment options that would support a sense of continuity, with scaffolded academic organization, across all learning environments, grade levels K-12.

○        Scheduling to support programming service options and GST collaborative time to ensure continuity of programming service options.

○        Develop a schedule structure that is intentionally inclusive of program service options for gifted students.

●        (8) 2F Continue development of, and professional learning opportunities for, a valid and reliable data collection system throughout the district to support defensible GIEP creation and best practices for differentiation and individualization.

○        Provide direct professional learning for GSTs on legally defensible GIEP writing.

●        (6) 2G Provide training and support for the creation of GWRs to include more specific, individualized, and academic strength areas to comprehensively aid in developing GIEP goals. 

○        GWRs currently fit the program model of enrichment and reflect little evidence of impact on general education services.

●        (4) 2H Provide training and assistance for general education teachers on their role and responsibilities in the creation and implementation of GIEPs per Chapter 16 regulations. (#4 overall)

●        (10) 2I Continue the development and implementation of UbD curriculum maps in order to increase the level of academic rigor and challenge in core content areas and address the following questions related to UbD curriculum in support of high-level instruction.

○        Are the content and curriculum substantive, presented in a conceptual, rather than a strictly factual manner, and allow for rich extensions and connections to other learning and skills?

○        Are students asked to demonstrate their learning through intellectually demanding assessments and performances, ones that call for complex, creative thinking and problem solving – not simply fill in the bubble or blank tests?

○        Do instruction and assignments provide for students of high ability, or those who have already mastered course content understandings, to move at a faster and different pace, and allow for in-depth topic examination and projects?

○        To what extent is classroom instruction mainly or only teacher-centered, where little or minimal high-level student-directed and small group engagement is taking place?

●        (11) 2J Replace references to “AT” with “Gifted Support Services” across AGSD.

●        (7) 2K Provide and schedule times for GSTs and school psychologists, as needed, to meet and collaborate regularly.

○        To plan for and share student information at grade/building level transition points.

○        To coordinate up-to-date current student assessment and performance GIEP data.

○        To develop activities and specially designed services.

 

3.       Professional Development

Guiding Question and Probes

●        To what extent does professional development provide staff with the appropriate training and practices to meet the learning needs of the gifted?

○        Are new teachers oriented to the needs of gifted learners through induction?

○        Is there specific staff development for all staff (i.e. counselors, school psychologists, administrators, general education teachers, specials teachers, librarians, etc.) regarding the needs of gifted learners?

○        Are there opportunities for teachers/ staff to collaborate for the purpose of planning and implementing instructional strategies for the gifted?

Strengths

●        District-wide staff development initiatives have focused on implementing the research-based learning model, UbD, for both curriculum connections and improving classroom instruction.

●        Professional learning occurs through a variety of venues and formats, including online, blended and face-to-face sessions to support the unique needs of each adult.

○        The structure for differentiated, flexible professional development and virtual learning is currently in place.

○        Professional Learning Communities are established and functioning across the district.

●        Instructional Coaches and administration provide leadership and resources for developing/using differentiated curriculum and instruction across grade levels.

●        GSTs and School Psychologists participate in national and local professional development opportunities related to gifted education.

●        The district realizes the importance of data analysis to drive professional development offerings in order to support the need for differentiated instructional strategies.

Needs

●        All professional staff need ongoing professional development about AGSD’s screening and identification process. (3C, 3D)

●        Increase professional staff’s knowledge about Chapter 16 GIEP requirements and the role general education teachers play in GIEP implementation. (3C)

●        New professional staff member orientation needs to include staff development on gifted learner needs. (3F)

●        Both parents and students expressed the need to improve challenging coursework in regular education, and some advanced level courses, by offering increased opportunities for differentiated and intellectually demanding curriculum. (3A)

●        Increase staff knowledge about the learning characteristics and needs of the gifted student (academic, social, and emotional) to provide specially designed instruction that best matches the needs of the gifted learner. (3B)

○        A useful resource for providing teachers with introductory understandings about the gifted, and examples of differentiated instruction is the easy to access and use booklet: Understanding and Challenging the Gifted: An Introduction for Teachers, available on both the PSEA and PAGE websites.

●        Develop professional learning based on best practices to meet the needs of gifted learners. (3B, 3G)

○        Co-teaching

○        Cluster grouping

○        Curriculum compaction

○        Extensions based on increased complexity

○        Pre-assessment for mastery

 Recommendations

●        (4) 3A Plan for and develop a long-term professional development plan focused on improving teacher effectiveness for differentiating instruction and providing appropriately rigorous and engaging learning opportunities for gifted students.

○        This plan and focus should complement the several existing professional development initiatives, such as curriculum review and mapping, using Understanding by Design as the model for student instruction and assessment, and the professional learning communities.

○        This plan should support the alignment and rate of pacing of curriculum and instructional adaptations more closely based on assessed student performance levels and needs.

●        (1) 3B Provide cyclical and routine staff development opportunities and resources for all professional staff to increase their understanding of the needs of gifted learners and implementation of best instructional practices for these students. (#3 overall)

○        Characteristics of the gifted students

○        Unique learning styles

○        Understanding the myths and realities of these students

○        High level differentiated instruction

○        Supporting social and emotional needs of gifted students in the general education classroom

○        Legally defensible GIEP writing and deployment

●        (2) 3C Provide professional learning to all professional staff focused on Chapter 16 multiple criteria, to assist in recognizing gifted learners as a part of the screening and identification process.

○        Underrepresented groups

■         Students of Hispanic/ Latino descent

■         Female students

○        Twice exceptional gifted students

●        (7) 3D Deploy professional learning sessions focused on the newly developed screening and identification process.

●        (5) 3E Provide training and support for the creation of GWRs to include more specific, individualized, and academic strength areas to comprehensively aid in developing GIEP goals. 

○        GWRs currently fit the program model of enrichment and reflect little evidence of impact on general education services.

●        (3) 3F Develop and implement a module as a component in the new professional staff member induction program that provides a common foundation to support gifted learners.

●        (6) 3G Provide professional learning to all teachers focused on co-teaching, effective teacher collaboration, and instructional practices to meet the needs of gifted learners.

○        Co-teaching

○        Cluster grouping

○        Curriculum compaction

○        Extensions based on increased complexity

○        Pre-assessment for mastery

 

4.       Communication

Guiding Question and Probes

●        How do we promote effective communication about gifted education among stakeholders (i.e. teachers, parents, students, administrators, and community)?

○        How do regular education teachers and teachers of the gifted communicate with each other regarding present education levels, GIEPs, and progress monitoring?

○        What is the philosophy and vision of gifted education in our district?

○        How are district gifted identification and GIEP implementation procedures coordinated and communicated in a consistent manner to our district stakeholders from K-12?

○        What are the methods used to educate parents about gifted students and gifted programming?

Strengths

●        Internal communication and coordination of gifted programming has improved with increased district leadership focus.

●        Staff coordination and collaboration between gifted support teachers and the school psychologists is occurring.

●        The district conducted a comprehensive parent survey and staff survey to assess stakeholder concerns and needs for programming in gifted education.

●        The district website has a page dedicated to gifted programming that contains a list of resources.

●        Gifted support teachers realize the importance of communication and have established varied methods of communication including a parent newsletter.

●        Gifted support teachers recognize the importance to communicate and collaborate with general education teachers.

●        District administration has responded to parental request to meet concerning gifted support services and has collected important feedback from these meetings. 

Needs

●        Increased district communication about the range of gifted programming and placement options available for identified gifted students across grade levels. (4A, 4C, 4D)

●        Develop an articulated and well communicated, shared philosophy, vision, and mission statement for the gifted program. (4E)

●        Increased communication to parents about the procedures for screening and identification of students who are thought to be gifted. (4A, 4C, 4D)

●        Increased communication and training for parents regarding Chapter 16 requirements, identification, GIEPs, and the characteristics of gifted learners. (4C)

●        Provide consistent internal communication to staff about the procedures for identification of students who are thought to be gifted and for placement of students who are subsequently identified. (4B)

●        Create internal staff communication, on a regular basis, regarding identified student needs and supports as developed through the GIEP and related gifted program service options. (4B)

Recommendations

●        (1) 4A Implement a variety of informational processes to increase communication to all stakeholders via regularly scheduled updates, including: (#5 overall)

○        Gifted program brochure

○        Frequently Asked Questions guide

○        An overview of AGSD Gifted Education processes 

○        Internal procedural and staff guidelines for gifted education services

○        AGSD website

○        AGSD screening and identification procedures

○        Other print resources

●        (3) 4B Develop a systematic process for internal communication focused on gifted identification, placement, practices, gifted program service options, GWRs, GIEP responsibilities, and the re-evaluation process.

●        (2) 4C Initiate systematic parent engagement/ informational events for parents of students, both identified and not, who want more information about gifted programming, including: 

○        Chapter 16 requirements

○        GIEP development

○        Service/ program options

○        Comprehensive gifted identification process overview

○        Traits of gifted learners

○        Twice exceptional learners

○        Social and emotional supports

●        (5) 4D Expand professional learning opportunities to bolster building administrator, teacher and school counselor understanding of gifted education services, as they are often called upon to articulate the process to parents. 

●        (4) 4E Develop and communicate to all stakeholders a shared philosophy, vision and mission statement for the Gifted Division of AGSD.

 

Important Dates related to the audit-

  • Stakeholder meeting- October 18th Stakeholders will frame the key questions/ concerns
  • Curriculum Committee Updates- October 17, November 28, January 16, February 20
  • Parent survey- data collected
  • Staff survey- data collected
  • Student feedback forums- happened December 6th
  • Parent Feedback Forums- Held December 6th
  • Stakeholder Prioritization Meeting- March 15th
  • Board Recommendations- April 2018