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Gifted Services Update for 2021-2022 School Year

Gifted Services Update for 2021-2022 School Year
Changes to the structure of gifted services at the elementary level for the 2021-2022 school year will result in more students being served. “By rethinking the way we work and committing to a multi-year rigorous professional development plan, we’re going to be able to not only serve more students, but also add services,” said Lauren Webb, Lakota’s assistant director of gifted services.


For several years, the district’s gifted intervention specialists (GIS) have provided targeted instruction to students identified as gifted in math through Lakota’s Math Plus program beginning in third grade. Students identified as gifted in reading are clustered together in class placement. Currently, the district’s eight GISes serve approximately 350 students. That number is expected to more than triple with the new structure in place.


Beginning in the fall, the GIS team will no longer pull students in order to teach a separate math class, but will instead join the classroom teacher where there are clusters of gifted students. This will allow the GIS team to support the gifted students while working alongside the classroom teacher. Targeted professional development will be given to classroom teachers so that they will be able to instruct gifted students as well. “By approaching the way we teach differently, more teachers are being trained to provide these services. This, in turn, will increase the number of students receiving services in a class instead of serving a smaller number of students by pulling them out of the classroom setting,” explained Webb.

With more teachers trained in providing gifted instruction, the district is also introducing ELA Plus for students identified as gifted in English Language Arts. “We’ve never been able to offer ELA Plus before,” she continued.


The “train the teacher” method has already proven successful in Lakota’s Virtual Learning Option (VLO). “This whole year has been about thinking differently,” said Lori Brown, Lakota’s director of student services. “In order to provide gifted instruction for our VLO students, we had to shift our teaching methods. And, it’s worked.”


Beginning in August, at least one teacher per grade level will return to each of Lakota’s eight elementary schools already having been trained in providing gifted instruction. Additional teachers will be trained through professional development efforts. 


With general education teachers being able to provide this support, it also opens up opportunities for the district to increase its social-emotional learning (SEL) efforts. In the fall, the district will shift to four GISes and seven SEL teachers. While Math Plus and ELA Plus will begin in elementary schools, SEL specials will include grades kindergarten through six. Included in SEL will be mental health awareness, prevention-based education, mindful practices and restorative circles built around Ohio’s social-emotional learning standards. “We’re excited to be able to reach so many more students next year,” said Webb.


“Even in the midst of a pandemic, we’ve made great strides in the services we are able to offer to our students,” said Brown. This also includes high school students. Advanced Topics in Math is now being offered to seniors and this is the first year when high school students have been able to take the PSAT at their home school. In addition to the new ELA Plus curriculum and being able to provide services to more students, parents are now able to access the advanced coursework matrix on the department’s website


“We know that this shift will require our families, and even some of our staff, to think differently,” said Webb. “We’re excited to move forward with our gifted curriculum and are always happy to speak with families to clarify any questions they may have."


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