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June 2011 Teacher's Corner

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Looking Ahead: Considerations, Suggestions, and Success

I’ve already begun to plan for the coming fall. Usually, I’m concerned with my curriculum; the sequence of lessons, orders of various units, and review of the assignments and assessments I utilized. This year, however, will be different. Just last week, my administrator asked for suggestions and considerations in preparation for a tentatively planned program evaluation. At first I was a bit hesitant about this “talk” of a complete program evaluation. I, and other colleagues have been advocating for one for quite some time, but with the end of the year filled to the brim with demanding responsibilities, the potential for stressful conversations is certainly increased.  Just as educators and parents alike may focus on deficiency over success, administrators can get caught up in suggestive criticism, failing to focus on the positive.

During some down time and reflection, I found that I was actually quite excited to embark on a reflective journey of 13 years teaching in the same program.  Shakespeare’s words immediately came to mind, for if those involved in education can indeed look to the past as a place to begin anew, perhaps positive change can be attained.

As I began my own look at “what is done” I thought I would share some of my considerations and ideas. I decided to use the NAGC Gifted Programming Standards' guiding questions as a starting off point, a perfect complement to the standards themselves. For each area focused on below, I’ve included a link to the Standard. You can then access supporting resources for the standards. My hope is that although my list of “suggestions” is specific to an individual program, they may ignite your own thoughts on improving your program you.

Standard 2. Assessment

  • The establishment of a stronger baseline within the areas of math and language might be of some consideration, for these present the areas of most discrepancy. Goals of the program should be aligned with the identification measures used, and as the curriculum is varied, it is sometimes unclear “what we are identifying for.”
  •  Those involved in “observation” days could be given a short professional development on the characteristics of high-ability students. 
  • Perhaps testing, which measures Intellectual and Academic ability, Creativity, Artistic talent, Leadership ability, and Motivation might be utilized.

Standard 3. Curriculum Planning And Instruction  

  • Due to the complex nature of the daily schedule, revolving around schedules of those not directly linked to the program, proves quite difficult and time consuming in terms of the schedule.
  • Strategies to enhance curricular materials and delivery could be utilized. Two recommended “Guides” are The Multiple Menu Model and The Parallel Curriculum Model.
  • The recent mini-partnerships with local institutions of Higher Education (Brown, Bryant, Harvard, etc) could be increased and strengthened. Other institutions include RIC, PC, Johnson and Wales, New England Tech, RISDE, and others. 

Standard 1: Learning And Development & Standard 4: Learning Environments

  • The advisory program, having been conceived and developed in the early 90’s, could benefit from a fresh look at the multitude of new material created for the purpose of advisory discussions. Jean Peterson’s text is one of the newest available from Free Spirit Press. Others can be found at www.prufrock.com and www.freespirit.com 
  • A stronger link is needed between a student’s advisor and the guidance counselor who will oversee their years spent in Grades 9-12.
  • The formation of a stronger mentorship program for the purpose of independent investigation that allows for a complete immersion into a subject area chosen by the student. By exploring the local community, students could be paired up with a mentor beginning much earlier than they are currently. 
  • Interest-a-lyzers and learning styles inventories could be given earlier and revisited during the course of the two years.

Standard 5: Programming & Standard 6: Professional Development

  •   A comprehensive program evaluation should occur. Healthy schools usually complete an evaluative review in 5-7 years. This includes the addition of teacher observation and feedback.
  • Administration and Faculty could schedule post-conference presentations (voluntary) about  “What they have learned.” A visit to the NAGC event calendar would be a great start. 
  • The possible addition of several publications in the field (Magazines, Journals, and Texts)(see below), which  highlight practical applications of current research and offer the latest contests and camps for students and professional development opportunities for Administration would be beneficial.  NAGC has great resources for each of the standards as well as fully stocked bookstore.

Have a wonderful start to the summer! I’ll be sure to keep you posted from here in the corner.