Shenandoah schools see increase in gifted program students

Shenandoah County Public Schools’ gifted education program serves 554 students,  and that number is expected to increase over the course of the year.

Susan Fream, director of the Massanutten Regional Governor’s School, said, there are 263 students identified, 105 students to be evaluated and 166 students in the primary resource pool to be served by the division’s gifted program.

“However, all students kindergarten through second grade receive services,” she said, “If you add all K-2 students in the school division, plus the number already identified, the total is 1,579 students.”

This is 25.8 percent of the division’s total student population, she added.

“Since 2013, the total number of students receiving service through the program has increased each year,” she said.

Fream said that by the end of the 2015 school year, the gifted program had served 51 more students since 2013. At the elementary level resource pool, “the number has almost doubled since last year and almost tripled since 2014, going from 63 to 166.”

In order to serve the growing number of students in this program better, Fream said that more time is needed.

“What the program truly needs is more time. More time to work with students that are identified as eligible for the program, more time to work with K-2 students to develop talent, more time to work with teachers to design instruction to support the needs of the these students,” she said.

“The time issue is especially taxing at the elementary level because of the number of students that go through the evaluation process each year,” she added.

Fream said this evaluation process requires two to four hours to collect the necessary data to make an eligibility decision.

Fream recently submitted a budget request for the 2016-2017 school year, which is the same request made for the current school year. The request includes a full-time coordinator, a screening instrument to test all first graders in order to have a standardized score on all students to ensure equity to the program, additional Chromebooks for differentiation and enrichment opportunities, and funding for out-of county seminars.

“The focus of the instructional program has always been critical thinking and problem-solving skills,” she said.

Fream said Virginia mandates that school divisions identify students who are eligible for the gifted programs and provide them with the appropriate educations for their instructional needs.

She added that each school division must create a Local Plan for the Education of Gifted Students, which “serves as a blueprint for how the division implements the state regulations.”

Contact staff writer Kaley Toy at 540-465-5137 ext. 176, or ktoy@nvdaily.com