Center Grove looking to improve high-ability program

For the past two school years, Center Grove officials have worked to ensure that the district’s highest achieving students are placed in the challenging, engaging classes to best develop their talents.

But children can prove they’re high-ability learners in different ways. The key for the schools is making sure no gifted students are missed.

“All students should be looked at for high ability, instead of having to qualify first. So we’ve really opened up our process to find all of those students that potential qualify for high ability,” said Marcy Szostak, Center Grove’s assistant director of elementary curriculum.

School officials will meet with parents on April 12, explaining how elementary school students are chosen for the high-ability program. The presentation is part of an ongoing informational series to help parents better understand the program and adaptations being made to it.

The hope is to keep the public aware of how the high-ability program is improving at Center Grove.

“I hope our community sees that we’re designing optimal learning experiences for all students, and that high-ability is one element that we’re looking into,” Szostak said. “All of our students need different things at different times in their academic careers.”

During the 2015-16 school year, Center Grove officials worked with gifted-education experts from Ball State University to study the high-ability program and make recommendations to improve it, Szostak said.

Using recommendations from that study, Center Grove officials focused on areas such as identifying high-ability students, as well as changing the curriculum and instruction of high-ability courses. Self-regulatory skills, professional development and program effectiveness could also be improved.

School officials have been working with a committee of parents, teachers and administrators to work through those recommendations and start making changes to the high-ability program.

One of the main focuses is improving the ways students are identified for high-ability courses, particularly early in their school career, Szostak said.

“We’re looking at identifying students in a more sound, best-practice way,” Szostak said. “Some of our identification procedures are changing.┬áThis meeting is really a continuation of all of the work that this committee has been doing with the evaluation from the national consultants.”

At the elementary school level, Center Grove students can qualify as high-ability in language arts, math or both. All students can be considered for placement.

The school district uses a variety of assessments to determine if children should be included. Scores from a reasoning ability test, as well as criteria such as teacher observations in enrichment activities and pattern identification are factors.

The high-ability identification team, made up of administrators and teachers, reviews to determine who qualifies for the high-ability track.

But using the recommendations from the Ball State team, the hope is to develop a system that considers each student, Szostak said.

“At Center Grove, we’re really fortunate and really proud to have a high-achieving population, but not all high-achieving students qualify as high ability,” Szostak said. “So we’re really looking at this process, I hope our community walks away knowing that we’re looking at all students to find and identify truly high ability ones.”

If you go

High-ability informational meeting

What: An informational meeting for Center Grove parents to learn about ongoing changes to the high-ability program at the elementary school level.

When: 7 p.m. April 12

Where: Center Grove High School auditorium, 2717 S. Morgantown Road, Greenwood

Author photo
Ryan Trares is a reporter for the Daily Journal. He can be reached at rtrares@dailyjournal.net or 317-736-2727.