GATE at Cold Spring School
The goal of the Cold Spring GATE Program is to meet the academic and affective needs of gifted and talented students. The state standards for gifted and talented education require that these needs be met during the course of the school day. As an educational community, we are further committed to providing access to enrichment opportunities for all students.
Currently, Cold Spring's GATE identification criteria are aligned with that of the Santa Barbara High School District, to facilitate effective transition and appropriate placement. Students are tested in February of the fourth grade year, and again in sixth grade. Test results provide parents and teachers with important information that guides educational planning. State standards require that gifted students in grades K-6 be served, and to that end teachers are provided with training and identification tools to use before formal identification takes place in fourth grade. Parents are made aware of student strengths and instructional accommodations at fall conferences, and are kept abreast of progress and/or concerns.
Since its inception several years ago, our GATE program has focused its resources on professional development for teachers. This year, Cold Spring joined with Montecito Union School in hosting gifted education consultant and author, Susan Winebrenner. She spoke to parents about strategies for effectively addressing the unique needs of gifted children, and offered teachers creative ideas for differentiating curriculum in heterogeneous classrooms. Teachers were provided with her informative books, Teaching Gifted Kids in the Regular Classroom, Teaching Kids With Learning Difficulties in the Regular Classroom, and Super Sentences. In addition, five teachers had the opportunity to attend the California Association for the Gifted Conference, where we were inspired by wonderful speakers and exposed to exciting ideas for use in our own classrooms and those of our colleagues.
This year, the GATE budget, which included a reserve accumulated over the past several years, funded a certificated math specialist who delivered math curriculum to gifted and high achieving fifth and sixth graders. With the carryover depleted, the annual GATE budget is approximately $12,000.00, not nearly enough for a math specialist. The current plan under consideration for 2006-7 is to fund teacher training, parent education, and classroom resources that support differentiation for all students.
Currently, classroom teachers differentiate language arts and math curriculum for students of varying ability levels. This is accomplished in different ways, depending on the preference of the teachers at a particular grade level. Models for differentiation include cluster grouping within a classroom and part time grouping, each with a certificated teacher (fifth and sixth grade math).
The GATE committee, which consists of the superintendent-principal, the GATE coordinator, teachers and parents, has met several times during the year. We developed a short survey for parents of GATE students and attached it to the SIP survey. The vast majority of respondents conveyed that their children's academic and emotional needs were being met. They also offered comments and suggestions to guide future planning. Most often requested were increased consistency across grade levels and further program enrichment in the areas of language arts, science and media. While encouraged by strong community support as evidenced by the survey, both the staff and the committee will continue to explore options for more effective program enrichment for our students.
Several ideas are currently under consideration by the staff. One is an elective option to provide students with a variety of engaging activities that would support curriculum standards. Another is an exciting web-based program developed by Sally Reis, a gifted education specialist from the University of Connecticut. Several of us were able to hear Sally describe both the program itself and the rationale behind its development. The School Enrichment Model advocates providing students with curriculum that encourages a love of learning and instruction driven by student ability levels and interests. Some of our students participated in a three-week trial. A pilot program, including staff development, is being considered. Teachers are also interested in the possibility of supplementing our current artist-in-residence programs with science and creative writing specialists, and remain committed to differentiated learning in our classrooms.
As the school year comes to a close, it is satisfying to reflect on a successful year, and exciting to look forward to working with a dedicated teaching staff and supportive parent community as we strive to maximize our resources and provide an outstanding educational experience for the students at Cold Spring School.