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School board OK’s plan for gifted students

All parents believe their children are above average, but in truth fewer than 3 percent of all children are truly gifted, said Cody Gardner, director of special education programs in the Sunnyside School District.

Until now those gifted students have been offered few programs to truly challenge their brains, he told the Sunnyside School Board during its Thursday night meeting.

The Washington State Office of Education is working to change that and is mandating that schools develop programs which will offer those children enhanced learning opportunities.

Gardner told the board that a local committee of teachers and parents have been meeting to develop a plan to submit to the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction, which will address the needs of Sunnyside School District’s gifted students.

Gardner said the largest part of the new plan is the pre-testing and referral of students who may qualify for the highly capable program.

The most important part to the students is that all curriculum will be the same as for the general population of students, but with enhanced and deeper study challenges of all subject matter. Gardner said the program will closely follow some of the gifted programs already in place.

The second component of the program is for the students to have all-day classes with other gifted children, he explained.

“We may be talking about only 147 children, but we must provide programs to educate them, just like any other special education program student,” he said.

Currently, the district offers the SEEK programs to children in third through fifth grades.

At the middle school level highly capable students are encouraged to take part in special study programs like the STEM programs.

At the high school level, gifted ninth and tenth graders are challenged in special STEM classes while juniors and seniors are offered advanced placement classes.

Adam Copenhaver, a parent serving on the district’s Highly Capable Planning Committee, told the school board he is looking forward to seeing the district’s new enhanced highly capable programs put into place.

“In my opinion, because of the relative ease with which our gifted students accomplish their school work and glide through standardized tests, this minority group of students have not been receiving the kind of education that can enable them to utilize their full aptitudes and maximize their potentials,” he said.

With the Sunnyside School Board’s approval, given during last night’s meeting, the district’s plan will now be sent on to the OSPI for evaluation.

“We expect to hear from the state by the end of March or in early April,” Gardner said.

The district hopes to implement the new program in the next school year.

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