By MEAGAN WILKS
Director of Special Services, Tippecanoe Valley School Corporation
AKRON — In today’s classrooms, teachers address an extreme range of learning needs. Typically, much emphasis is placed on the needs of students who struggle academically.
There are many resources and specific programs within schools designed to help these students make gains and maintain success in school. While providing remediation services is extremely important, we must also place an importance on high-ability learners, who need accelerated instruction and enrichment opportunities as part of their curriculum.
According to the Indiana Code, a high-ability learner is one who “performs at or shows the potential for performing at an outstanding level of accomplishment in at least one domain when compared with other students of the same age, experience or environment and is characterized by exceptional gifts, talents, motivation or interest in these areas.”
High-ability learners can have many unique learning needs. These learners are often creative, curious, observant and have extensive vocabulary background knowledge. They learn new ideas quickly. In fact, it typically only takes one or two repetitions of instruction for a high-ability learner to master a new concept compared to seven to eight for an average learner. High-ability learners also tend to have long attention spans and want to work independently.
High-ability learners may also have different social and emotional needs than the average learner. They may have a more heightened emotional sensitivity to criticism, fear of failure or perfectionism and place unrealistic high standards for performance on themselves. Anxiety, frustration, and self-blame may occur for a less than perfect performance in class or on a test.
At Tippecanoe Valley, we strive to address the unique learning needs of high-ability learners. Much time has been devoted to creating a high-ability program manual to ensure that a plan is in place to provide appropriate identification procedures, training and differentiated instruction and curriculum to these students. The key goals for our high-ability plan include:
Goal one: High-ability students in grades K-12 will be identified regardless of gender, race, age or social-economic background, with a multifaceted assessment plan.
Goal two: School staff will be provided professional development to understand the needs and characteristics of students with high ability.
Goal three: TVSC will provide challenging, differentiated curriculum and instruction for high-ability learners.
Goal four: The high-ability program will be evaluated to make changes and improvements.
During the 2015-2016 school year, TVSC has focused attention on goal two, professional development. Throughout this year, our building-level high-ability coordinators, teachers, instructional coaches, counselors and administrators have participated in professional development opportunities relating to characteristics and social emotional needs of high-ability learners. We have also focused some professional development on curriculum and higher level thinking concepts and instruction.
As the high-ability coordinator for TVSC, it is my responsibly to provide teachers with the knowledge and tools to address the needs of our high-ability learners. Instruction should be rigorous to provide challenging learning opportunities for these students. By providing these challenges for high-ability learners, we are demonstrating one of the TVSC core beliefs :We believe in challenging every student’s potential.