Salem City Schools
The Salem City Schools Gifted Program is designed to identify and meet the needs of those students, K-12, whose aptitudes are so outstanding that they require specially designed instruction to meet their educational needs. All teachers in the division, with the assistance of the gifted resource specialists, are charged with providing an appropriate educational program for the gifted students in their classes.
The process for identifying gifted students begins, of course, by defining what “giftedness” means. In general terms, gifted and talented students are those students who possess unique talents and/or superior abilities that differ profoundly from those of their peers. By Virginia law, local school divisions are allowed to establish their own identification procedures, provided they follow the guidelines provided by the State. Therefore it is possible that a student transferring into one school division from another may not qualify for that district’s gifted program even though he/she qualified for a gifted program previously at another school in Virginia.
In grades K-5, Salem City Schools uses a more global approach to identify its gifted population by assessing a child’s general intellectual aptitude. In broad terms, this means that the skills required to perform certain mental tasks—memorizing, pattern completion, creative thinking, vocabulary recognition, etc.—are assessed. Ability tests, for example, may measure a person’s general intellectual talent by testing them on several of these factors.
In grades 6-12, students may be identified as Generally Intellectually Gifted; they may also be identified as gifted in Humanities, Math, Science, and/or the Visual-Performing Arts.
Regardless of the grade level or age of the student, Salem City Schools recognizes that there is no one indicator of giftedness. For this reason, Salem uses multiple criteria which, when viewed together, strongly indicate giftedness. Data to be examined may include: samples of student work; grades; standardized test results; auditions or portfolios for Visual and Performing Arts; parent checklists; teacher observation forms; and other significant data.
The Identification Process
The identification process may be initiated at any time through a referral from parents, teachers, or from the students themselves. Additionally, a pool of candidates for potential identification is created once per year by examination of standardized test data and teacher observations. Once the gifted resource specialists have formally received permission to test, they then meet with the child to administer a series of nationally norm-referenced assessments. These tests allow the student to be compared to peers of his/her age across a larger sample. When testing is complete, the Identification / Placement Committee at each school meets to discuss the results as well as to consider any other additional data. This Placement Committee is composed of administrators, gifted resource staff, and guidance and instructional personnel, and it is the responsibility of this committee to ultimately make a final decision about proper placement of students who are screened for the program.
A student may be found eligible, not eligible, or may be deferred for consideration of services again at a future time. A parent who disagrees with a decision may request an appeal with the Central Placement Appeals Committee within 10 days of notification.
Serving the Gifted
Like most school districts in Virginia and elsewhere, in-class differentiation is the cornerstone of Salem’s gifted program. In broad terms, this means that the gifted resource staff works with classroom teachers to ensure that appropriate challenge is being offered. Students are encouraged to go beyond the regular curriculum by their teachers who use a variety of differentiation techniques. These include open-ended questions; self-directed tasks; and higher level, critical and analytical thinking in both independent and group tasks.
In grades K-5, the gifted resource specialist may also additionally serve the identified student by pulling him/her out of class for enrichment in a small group setting and/or by working in the classroom with the instructor in a co-teaching manner.
In grades 6-8, the gifted resource specialist works primarily with the classroom teachers of the gifted to provide resources and assist with curricular and lesson differentiation, sometimes even co-teaching to model appropriate gifted strategies.
Beginning with the 9th grade, students self-select specialized classes, dual enrollment courses, and AP and/or IB curriculum. Within this framework, a continuum of growth in students’ skills and intellectual development should exist.
An additional component of Salem’s Gifted Program consists of workshops and seminars that enrich and extend the schools’ programs of study. These sessions, which may occur both in and outside the school day, are based on the interests and needs of the students involved. Several workshops are offered each semester differentiated by grade level and/or program placement.
Making the Decision to Request Screening
Because the screening process is an in-depth undertaking for the student, it is wise to consider the request for screening thoroughly. To assist you with this, consider these characteristics carefully. These may help you decide whether your child is “bright” …or more truly “gifted.”
A bright child may… know the answer … whereas a gifted learner … will ask the questions.
A bright child may… be attentive … whereas a gifted learner … will be mentally and physically involved.
A bright child may… work hard … whereas a gifted learner … might play around but test well.
A bright child may… answer the questions … whereas a gifted learner … will discuss in detail and even elaborate.
A bright child may… be in the top group … whereas a gifted learner … is beyond the group.
A bright child may… listen with interest … whereas a gifted learner … shows strong feelings and opinions
A bright child may… learn with ease … whereas a gifted learner … already knows.
A bright child may… need 6-8 repetitions for mastery … whereas a gifted learner … needs only one or two.
A bright child may… understand ideas … whereas a gifted learner … makes abstractions.
A bright child may… grasp meaning … whereas a gifted learner … draws inferences.
A bright child may… complete assignments … whereas a gifted learner … initiates projects.
A bright child may… enjoy school … whereas a gifted learner … enjoys learning.
A bright child may… absorb information … whereas a gifted learner … manipulates information.
A bright child may… enjoy straightforward, sequential presentation … whereas a gifted learner … thrives on complexity.
A bright child may… be pleased with self-learning … whereas a gifted learner … might be highly self-critical.
The Salem City Schools Gifted Program continually strives to improve and to meet the individual needs of the gifted child. The items discussed in this brochure are indicative of this as well as the division’s focus on communication with parents as all parties seek to make wise and informed curriculum-based adjustments for identified gifted students. Salem is committed to providing a quality program for its gifted students. The gifted department is also committed to communicating effectively with all parents at every stage of the identification process. Whether you are simply considering the screening or have fully initiated it, be assured that gifted staff members are available to assist. This may include telephone or in person conferences as needed with parents of students who would like more information.
Should you desire any additional information, please feel free to call or to email the gifted resource specialists.
The telephone number is (540) 389-0130.
Thank you for taking the time to read this material.
Mrs. Beverly Nicely
Mr. Chris Taibbi
Salem City Schools Gifted Education Specialists