Ad. Learning Programs & Services

Gifted Services Update July 2020


We have enjoyed connecting with you in such intentional ways this year. Although these newsletters began as a way to keep you informed and to garner feedback during our elementary services transition, we value the relationships and dialogue they have created. It is our plan to continue these as a regular part of our department's communication plan.

Connect With Us

We love to hear from you! We are providing multiple ways to connect with us. Here are two ways you can connect with us at any time.

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Who will be my GT teacher (ALT=Advanced Learning Teacher) this year? (Elementary)

As you know, we are updating our gifted services model so that we can provide more support and enhanced services to our high-ability students. Click HERE to see which teacher is serving which campus(es) and learn a little more about him/her!

What will services look like year?

That's a great question! While RISD is responding to state and local requirements, please be assured that gifted services will continue. Although there is much to be determined, here are a few things to know.

  • Gifted services will be provided regardless of a student receiving instruction in-person or virtually. However, students who withdraw from RISD will not receive the services.
  • Students who withdraw from RISD and return at a later date will be placed back in gifted services. If the student is withdrawn during the 2nd-grade or 6th-grade universal screening, that testing will take place upon return to determine what services the student needs.
  • Elementary ALTs will be assigned to campuses as we planned before. After school starts, the ALT will be in contact with parents to share when and how services will be provided. Each ALT will design a schedule and service plan based on enrolled students in each of the formats. It is possible, even likely, that each ALT will have a different type of schedule; however, all ALTs will use the same curricular theme and lesson iteration during the year. Students who receive instruction virtually and who qualify for GT3/GT Pullout potentially will be allowed to go to their home campus at the designated time for those services if they choose. Otherwise, they will receive their GT3/GT Pullout services virtually.
  • The elementary ALTs will work with classroom teachers, both virtual and in-person, to incorporate pre-assessments, extensions, and enhancements during the core content learning times. (GT2/GT Core+). MAP testing data will provide us information to best challenge our students and to ensure growth is occurring.
  • The Advanced Learning department is providing a "toolbox" for classroom teachers with TEKS-aligned questioning and strategies designed for high-ability learners.
  • The ALTs will provide opportunities, as appropriate, for students to engage in optional independent research in addition to the Core+ and Pullout services.
  • **Note**: Since the publication of The Blueprint for RISD re-entry to school this fall, we have received questions from many of our families regarding the "optional" enrichment activities. Please be assured that no part of gifted services is optional. The purpose of the additional "optional" opportunities for things like independent study was to be responsive to some Council of PTAs SAGE parents who shared that RISD Virtual School students who receive gifted services, regardless of whether it is Core+ or Pullout, would benefit from an opportunity to meet with their peers in a safe, face-to-face environment to share learning experiences beyond their specific service time much like students who will attend in person can more easily access.
  • Secondary GT courses will be offered virtually as well as in person. Qualifying students will receive their GT services in all grade levels of virtual instruction. In the event a Secondary GT section does not make due to low enrollment, GT services will be provided in the corresponding PreAP or AP classroom through support, grouping, training, and curriculum modifications.

As more information becomes available, we will share it with you.

Tier 4 - Responsive Acceleration Pathway

Acceleration is one of the most widely accepted and research supported practices for gifted or advanced learners. There are more than twenty types of acceleration which all support students moving through learning at rates faster or ages younger than is standard practice. Richardson ISD provides multiple types of acceleration which include but are not limited to Credit by Exam, elementary single-subject acceleration, PreAP, AP and other college-credit courses, and concurrent/dual enrollment. Therefore, RISD has begun the process of implementing an acceleration tier of service for highly-advanced learners who meet the required qualifications.

The original plan for this level of service included identification of students this spring with services to begin in the fall of 2020; however, with schools not in physical session as a result of Covid-19, some students with incomplete or outdated (more than two years old) data profiles would not receive appropriate consideration, and we are committed to ensuring this opportunity is provided with equity. Additionally, there is much unknown about how school will look in the fall and some families may choose virtual learning platforms instead of attending in person which would impact this service. It is important to all of us that we implement this expansion strategically and intentionally so it yields the highest form of success and growth for our students.

For those reasons, we are proceeding as follows:

  • Communicate this information via Smore newsletter

  • We have hired two highly-qualified teachers who will spend the 2020-2021 year finalizing the identification process while developing a vertical alignment of curricular services oriented to these students. We anticipate the teachers will

    • Teach at least one Tier 3 class;

    • Conduct identification procedures for Tier 4;

    • Develop and pilot Differentiated Learning Plans for identified Tier 4 students to include the following:

      • Goal-setting

      • Plans for high school through graduation

      • Virtual enhancement and acceleration support for four core areas of instruction;

    • Provide in-person enhancement experiences; and

    • Develop curriculum for 2021-2022

We realize that you may have questions about this service and process. We value your feedback and questions so we have included two ways to contact us: Monica Simonds at 469-593-0888 or or fill out this form with questions and someone will reach out to you as soon as possible. Also, please know we will hold a parent information meeting in the fall and provide more information via newsletters throughout the year.

We are so proud of RISD for taking this bold, innovative approach to advanced learning demonstrating once again that “All Means All”. With this new timeline, we anticipate the highest of successes for our students.

May your summer be full of joy and learning.

Elementary GT Referrals and Testing Update

Although we are still in a time of uncertainty, we are planning for this year's GT referral and testing process.

We still plan to hold our K-6 referral window in October.

Based on current information, we will test students at their home campus regardless of their learning model choice, virtual or in person. We will communicate this to families throughout the fall so parents are informed and can make decisions best for their students.

Secondary Services Update

Secondary GT Summer Referral Window and Testing

RISD offers GT- sheltered sections of the following courses in grades 7-11:

GT PreAP/AP ELAR (English/Language Arts)

GT PreAP/AP Social Studies

GT PreAP/AP Science

Students who were scheduled to test in the spring of this year or signed up for testing during the summer referral window will be tested in August. Newly enrolled 7th-11th grade students may request testing through their school counselor who can contact our department for scheduling.

These testing results will be used to determine GT placement for Fall of 2020.

From the desk of ... Monica Simonds

Being confined to our homes has been a real challenge for some but I would say I have weathered it fairly well. I saw my husband quite a bit more. I've read more books for fun than in years. I've started walking every day. All good stuff. But it's not been all silver linings.

Usually by now I've planned most of the "welcome back" activities for my team. I have a theme, a quote, professional learning ideas, and a focus. This year? Not so much. And maybe that's a good thing. In the past, I would have obsessed for days looking for just the right ideas, color schemes, thematic goodies and snacks. I like planning things and I like knowing plans. Now, I consider myself lucky if I know appropriate protocols two days in a row. Let's be honest, sometimes just knowing which day of the week we are on is a win.

Maybe your children are like this. They like to know what's coming in their future. The unknown can be a very scary place. Uncertainty can heighten anxiety and fear. Your child may be concerned about how we will "do school" in the fall. He may worry about getting sick or she may worry about having to stay home some days.

The National Association of Gifted Children published this resource-filled document to support parents during these uncertain times. Not only is the document full of great suggestions, it has links to other resources.

When your child becomes anxious about the unknown, asking "What's the worst that can happen?" after each response can help him drill down to the root of the concerns while simultaneously highlighting that generally the "worst" is likely not as bad as imagined. Partnering those questions with "What's the best that can happen?" or "What's an opportunity that can come from that?" helps the student refocus on the equal or probable likelihood that the outcome will be positive.

Finally, sharing that sometimes you have concerns about the unknown will help the child see he is not the only one. That strategy can be helpful for you, too.

As H. Jackson Brown, Jr. once said, "When you can't change the direction of the wind - adjust your sails." There is no magical solution to make the unknown, well, change the wind; however, we can take this opportunity to strengthen our flexibility, our ability to adjust our expectations and our thoughts to move forward. Let's practice adjusting our sails.

Exec. Director of Advanced Learning Services

Elizabeth Swaner, M. Ed.

Advanced Learning Specialist

Dr. Joseph Russell, Ph.D.

Advanced Learning Specialist

Jasmine Patel, M. Ed.