Houston Co. to Change Elementary Gifted Program

6:31 PM, Apr 22, 2013   |    comments
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More than 4,000 students take part in Houston County's gifted education program.

Next fall, its elementary students will see a significant change. For the first time in the program's 40 year history, those children will attend gifted classes five days a week.

Seniors at Warner Robins High, Anderson Moss and Carolina Smith, tested into gifted classes in first grade.

Moss said, "I really like it when a class is challenging."

Smith recalled her experience saying, "It was always so fun. It was different, outside of the ordinary kind of activities we got to do."

One day a week, they left their classroom for the gifted program called FOCUS. It stands for Fostering Originality, Creativity, Unique Ideas and Self Direction.

Moss said, "Everything was hands on."

They loved that, but not missing regular classes.

Smith said, "If you're in FOCUS all day on a Wednesday, when you get back to class on Thursday, you missed everything they did in class Wednesday. You're kind of behind. You don't know what's going on. You have to get worksheets or copy from a friend."

Jan Jacobson, Houston's director for the gifted and talented program, says that wasn't the only obstacle.

She said, "There were some things that were of concern."

The gifted students often missed their specials, activities like P.E. or music.

Some students had to be bused to other schools for the gifted class.

Next fall, that's all changing with elementary students taking gifted classes all day, every day.

Jacobson said, "Part of the reason were doing this is so we can add that more rigor, more challenge with their assignments to better prepare them. The younger we start the better."

Middle and High School students already follow the five day a week gifted cirriculum.

Moss and Smith see the merits of the change.

Moss said, "They're going to have consistency to the same level of work, each and every single day."

Both believe the program pushed them to stretch their limits. They graduate, college bound, in May.

Jacobson says they need more teachers who are qualified to teach the expanded number of gifted courses. About 110 teachers are going through the two year training process.

Elementary students identified as "high achievers" will also be eligible for the gifted curriculum.

The name will be changed from FOCUS to GTE, for Gifted and Talented Education.

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