HAL Overview - Fall 2012

Results, observations, questions, and planning ideas

Designing a Program for Every High-Ability Learner: A Note from Gretchen

The shift in focus for the high-ability learning program included a paradigm shift to move from a competition and team-focused program to a district-wide movement to challenge each high-ability learner every day in every classroom. This shift has focused in several areas: revisions of the IPMP, refocusing of building facilitator responsibilities, revising communication pieces, and filling leadership roles within the program. The district also adopted a goal that academic achievement will increase for all students - which is a challenging notion for our district's high-ability learners who may not be challenged through the traditional curriculum. In order to meet this goal, the district must continue to educate teachers about the learning needs of gifted students, strategies to challenge these students, and traits that are unique to gifted students.

Below you will find an overview of each of the areas of focus from the fall semester. It is a work in progress and certainly not perfect. This is meant to be an outline only and suggestions and commentary are based on my observations as the District 7-12 HAL facilitator this fall.


Board stated goals for the HAL Program (per 2001 & 2004 revisions)

  1. Provide a program for identified students that is an integral part of the district's curriculum;
  2. Identify and provide services to students who demonstrate potential abilities of high performance in recognized areas of giftedness;
  3. Incorporate curriculum adaptations, teaching methods, activities, and instructional materials designed to meet the needs of high ability learners;
  4. Provide guidance and counseling to meet the needs of high ability learners;
  5. Communicate the various aspects of the high ability learning program to staff, students, and the community;
  6. Evaluate goals, activities, materials, procedures, and accomplishments of the high ability learner program.

Definition of "Learner with High Ability" per Nebraska statute

"Learner with high ability means a student who gives evidence of high performance capability in such areas as intellectual, creative, or artistic capacity or in specific academic fields and who requires accelerated or differentiated curriculum programs in order to develop those capabilities further"

Summary of Board Policy - Secondary HAL program

  • Placement of students is within the regular classroom.
  • IPMP developed on a yearly basis. Developed by the students teacher(s), building rep with input from parent/guardian and student. Should be developed within a period of time best suited for the activities of the student and should be reviewed periodically. All IPMP's must be reviewed and signed by the student and student's parent/guardian before implementation of the plan.
  • These plans should include: a) student's present strengths and interests; b)objectives and activities for the student; c)a categorization of the student's activities as supplemental or supplanting regular class work; d)names of person(s) responsible for providing and evaluating student activities; e)modifications in the student's schedule and classroom work requirements.
  • A committee shall review all initial placements. This should include the principal of the school (or other designated administrator), building facilitator for the program, and one other member appointed by the principal. This committee shall also determine if student progress is adequate for continued participation in the HAL program.

Development of Individual Progress Monitoring Plans

Per board policy, every HAL student should have a IPMP developed early in the year. In the past this has consisted of students "registering" for activities, field trips, and teams they wish to participate with throughout the year. The list then, was compiled throughout the year and sent home as the IPMP at the end of the year. Changes to this process have included:


Wisconsin's Department of Public Instruction lists characteristics of effective gifted education plans:

  • Systemic
  • Collaborative
  • Sustainable
  • Responsive
  • Fluid
  • Appropriate
  • Comprehensive
  • Aligned
  • Measurable


Current status:

  • Approximately 660/880 student interest inventories completed
  • Approximately 44 parent submissions


Questions/Concerns:

  • Completion by students has been troublesome, particularly at the high school level where facilitators had difficulty locating students and arranging time for the inventory to be complete. Every student has received notification via paper and email of the requirement to complete the inventory.
  • Completion by parents has been poor - however, a follow up will be sent once parent communication goals are established.
  • The teacher input piece remains in flux depending on how/when/where and to what extent teachers will be expected to provide input into each student's IPMP.
    Middle school principals have indicated an interest in having teams contribute to student plans, while HS principals were unsure as to how this would be done beyond the 9th grade.
  • Technology is a huge issue. Tech help has been sporadic and infrequent. Management of the 900 student file system effectively and safely is questionable at best. Are there possibilities for tech help to create a file management system so that the file can travel with the student and allow teacher input occasionally in a safe fashion?
  • The theory behind these plans is similar to that of IEP's. However, the caseload for the district facilitator is essentially 900 students. It is inconceivable that a personal, fluid, and meaningful plan for each student can be created at the district level. Building-level assistance as an IPMP case manager or HAL specialist would provide meaningful local interaction between students and their plans.


Building Facilitators

*Currently each secondary school has two identified HAL facilitator/academic coach positions paid an extra stipend for their contributions.

High school facilitators have piloted a "seminar-style" approach meeting during 9th hour GPS targeted at HAL students. Topics have included career exploration, college planning, and improving study habits.
  • Challenges to the HS seminar plan have included lack of planning time (this has become an added prep with no additional plan time.
  • Attendance at HAL GPS is problematic and sporadic.
  • Balancing a quality seminar approach in addition to academic coaching duties can be troublesome.
  • Facilitators lack HAL-specific professional development. One from each school did attend the National Gifted Education conference this fall.

Middle school facilitators have maintained a strong academic coaching presence. Issues within the middle schools include:

  • Initial confusion and reluctance to shift into facilitator role versus academic coaching position.
  • Lack of training in HAL-specific methodology.
  • Continued unclear building-level guidance as to the specific leadership role HAL facilitators/coaches have within each building (scheduling events, promoting a HAL mission, distributing calendars and announcements).


Questions:

1. Will these positions continue in current form past this school year? If not, what revisions are planned?

2. How can building-level facilitators become personally involved in leading the HAL program within the building as a whole? Can these positions be seen as functional and informed resources that teachers turn to and parents seek out for advice and advocacy?

3. What is the vision for leadership from these positions? Is restaffing necessary?

4. What is the ideal relationship between district-level facilitator and building-level facilitators?

5. Seminars are a popular middle school offering. These are generally planned, organized, and taught by building-level facilitators. Is this possible?

6. How do we cultivate HAL leaders within each building?

Issues with Identification

  1. The secondary HAL program began 1st semester with approximately 900 students. It has maintained a number close to this with a few students moving out of the district.
  2. Identification protocol improvements were noted to decrease the pool of identified students while also maintaining effective identification of typically underidentified groups of students.
  3. Current identification requires a minimum 79% on a national norm-referenced test (MAP) to qualify for further testing.
  4. As a result of fall MAP tests, a large pool of 7th graders who qualify for further testing based on a 79% or higher exist.

Questions:

1. Is 79% the appropriate score to qualify for further testing?

2. Should there be tiers of gifted learning available - perhaps a lower tier for students whose needs will typically be met through traditional instruction and a higher tier for those students who need "services" and additional HAL planning?

3. Where is a cost-effective testing cutoff? Are other alternatives for identification necessary such as portfolio evidence, case-building, or some other personal advocacy approach?

4. Is it possible to provide a building-level contact who can effectively and efficiently converse with parents regarding testing protocol and identification practices?

Communication Plans

In past years, HAL program communications have consisted of an initial letter to staff describing identification practices and board policy regarding high-ability learners, a state-mandated letter to parents serving as notification of identification, a website with calendar of events for each building, a paper handout with a calendar of HAL events for each HAL student.

Alterations to these communications have included:
1. A monthly e-newsletter to all BPS secondary staff that includes teaching tips, HAL program position statements, and links to external resources.
2. A letter mailed to parents serving as state-mandated notification of qualification for gifted services.
3. A letter mailed to parents regarding shift in program focus and brief information on affective needs of gifted students.

Questions:
1. What specific communication pieces are desired by the district?
2. Will email suffice or is a physical mailing required so that all parties are reached? Will a website resolve this issue?
3. What is the goal of a parent newsletter? To inform of HAL activities or to provide parenting of gifted student information? Clarity of purpose needs to be achieved.
4. What is the goal of a student newsletter? What parameters should be set for building-level facilitators/coaches?
5. What will the overall goal of a website be - to provide activity information, K-12 HAL program resources, 7-12 information, or building-specific information?

Leadership

Leadership for the HAL program is a necessary and vital piece in order to create a cohesive and strong program. Both Megan and myself are excited to work as district representatives for the program but we are both working with an undefined job description. As such, we have discussed possibly adding and revising some components of the District HAL Facilitator positions to include the following responsibilities and duties:
  • Provide formal professional development and CCU offerings focusing on differentiation and gifted student learning needs.
  • Present positive results and evolving trends at statewide professional development as district representatives.
  • Oversee facilitators who are responsible for IPMP management. Provide advice, insights, and interventions when necessary.
  • Advocate for gifted students in each school. Identify the highest-ability learners and ensure acceleration, alternative offerings, and enrichment activities are taking place. Maintain conversations with principals about specific students and/or teachers so that high-ability learning is both a priority and a responsibility within the buildings.
  • Lead a non-evaluative walk-through teacher observation program providing positive feedback and teaching suggestions for teachers of high-ability learners.
  • Function as an actual division of CIAA - much like SPED with leadership, decision-making abilities, and advocacy efforts.


Questions:

  1. What is the desired leadership capacity of each district-level HAL facilitator?
  2. Is the current chain of command effective?
  3. Are building-level HAL facilitators equipped to handle troublesome issues with parents, teachers, and/or principals?
  4. Should the HAL program utilize current facilitators in an administrative or leadership fashion?
  5. Is the current placement a teaching position reflective of district-wide responsibilities?