We, the teachers of the Columbia County elementary schools gifted program, would like the opportunity to clarify some potential misconceptions regarding the Horizons Program. The opinion piece entitled "Gifted education due for a shakeup" (Feb. 25) made assertions that need to be addressed.
The first assumption we wish to correct is the idea that our program has not been progressing for the last 20 years. To the contrary, we have been a flagship for gifted education in the state of Georgia. Throughout those years committees from other counties have come to study our program delivery model. We have not been "coasting," but have had an ongoing process of evaluation of the program.
On a regular basis, we have been:
- revising program processes to support state-regulated gifted policies;
- articulating gifted education goals, objectives and guiding principles; and,
- designing and implementing tools for curriculum writing, program evaluation and teacher assessment.
Differentiation strategies have always been the cornerstone of gifted teacher preparation and curriculum implementation. This is something the county has recognized very recently as of primary importance in all areas of education, so much so that differentiation staff development is currently being provided to regular classroom teachers.
Another claim is that gifted education has become an enrichment program, disconnected from curriculum standards and the accountability those standards demand. Our program's curriculum has been aligned with nationally recognized standards (McREL Standards and Benchmarks, Fourth Edition) for gifted education as well as the Georgia Department of Education goals for gifted education. Clearly this is not in isolation from academic standards.
Yes, the resource program is, always has been, and always will be an enrichment program because that is the only model approved by the state of Georgia for gifted elementary students. Any county that ignores state policy would lose their funding for gifted education. However, this does not mean that advanced content is being neglected.
In fact, enrichment is a vehicle through which advanced content, among other things, is delivered. It is advanced content together with these "other things" that have been identified as best practices for gifted elementary students. Enrichment, as defined by the Georgia Department of Education, is curriculum that must have an academic content focusing on thinking skills, problem solving, research, communication skills and creative productivity (IEC 160-5-1-08). This is exactly what they Columbia County elementary gifted program has been doing.
The current decision to reorganize the elementary gifted program is providing us with a wonderful opportunity to correlate our curriculum with both the state goals for gifted education and the Georgia Performance Standards. This does not mean one model is being abandoned in favor of another, as that would not be in compliance with best practices as deemed by the Governor's Education Task Force and the Georgia Department of Education regulations and policies. We are very pleased that this process has enabled the program to share information with the community that will hopefully clarify these unfortunate misconceptions about gifted programming.
Olivia Callister, JoAnn Davis, Heather Holley, Lynn Johnson, Michelle Radford, Heidi Schulz, John Shearouse and Jon Wolf
Columbia County Gifted Education teachers
The Columbia County News-Times ©2013. All Rights Reserved.