Callahan, Moon, Brimjoin, Conover & Reynolds, 2003, p. 129). Suitable adaptations for advanced and gifted students include using advanced text materials, providing advanced novels on class themes, providing expert-level goals for student products, encouraging and supporting independent study, pre-testing students and exempting them from practicing skills they have already mastered, encouraging student choice, varying working groups including ample opportunities for work with other advanced students and providing opportunities to work alone (DeLisle, 2002; Mulhern, 2003; Parke, 1992; Tomlinson 1994; Van-Tassel-Baska & Stambaugh, 2005).
The SAS system is aligned with Pennsylvania standards, and will include diagnostic assessments so that teachers can easily determine which students should be flexibly grouped to do above-grade level work. Once mastery levels have been determined, teachers can access the wide variety of curricular resources that are available through SAS.
The premise of acceleration is that the educational placement must match the mastery level of the student rather than his or her age. Longitudinal research shows that when appropriately accelerated, gifted students exhibit improved motivation, and that “their grades are higher than those of their peers who chose not to accelerate, and they compare favorably with those of older students in their classes” (Lynch, p. 2, 1994). Single-subject or whole-grade acceleration, and curriculum compacting are models for gifted education which enjoy overwhelmingly positive, longitudinal research support, (Brody, et. al. 1987; Colangelo et. al., 2003; Gross, 1993; Lynch, 1994; Olszewski-Kubilius, 1989; Passow, 1994; Rogers, 2002; Robinson, 1996), but these practices are comparatively rare, and often meet with skepticism from educators. PDE Chapter 4 regulations allow for all forms of curricular acceleration including early entrance to kindergarten and first grade, single subject acceleration, curriculum compacting, whole grade acceleration, dual enrollment and early entrance to college. PDE recognizes that too few Pennsylvania school districts’ policies and practices encourage acceleration of advanced students, a situation that persists, in part, because of a lack of clear communication, professional development and explicit advice available to our educators.
Statewide Network of Resources for Advanced and Gifted Students
PDE formerly maintained a gifted liaison network throughout the Commonwealth that facilitated through the Pennsylvania Intermediate Unit system. This network supported school districts and parents in the 29 Intermediate Unit districts with information, professional development, collaboration and resource sharing. When the department position of Director of Gifted Education was vacated, the liaison system languished. In 2009, Intermediate Unit personnel re-established this network informally and have met quarterly to work together to reinstate the functions of the former gifted liaison network. As of February 2010, PDE has formalized the relationship between the newly formed Intermediate Unit gifted network and is in the process of building a revitalized system of communication, collaboration and professional development.
Many of Pennsylvania’s teachers have received professional development in differentiated instruction, but little of that training has focused on differentiation for advanced students (Maguire, 2008). As a result, some teachers misunderstand differentiation for more able students as the assignment of additional work instead of more challenging replacement work. Even teachers who have received general training on differentiation may be unable to integrate effective, appropriately tiered lessons for the gifted unless they also have specific background knowledge about the nature and needs of gifted students and access to sufficiently rigorous materials and lessons. The PDE SAS system will provide teachers with immediate access to rigorous lessons for their advanced students and the Department’s more than 50 SAS professional development sessions planned across the state will incorporate explicit training in the use of the system to meet the needs of advanced students.
As mentioned above, PDE offers an online gifted education professional development course1 for Act 48 credit and also offers gifted education workshops for teachers, administrators and school psychologists at PaTTAN’s annual spring conference in Hershey, PA. Additionally, through the work of Dr. Shirley Curl at the Bureau of Special Education, Division of Monitoring and Improvement, professional development sessions are offered periodically throughout the Commonwealth. PDE is committed to increasing communication about these existing professional development opportunities and to expanding the number of professional development opportunities through an increased presence at the annual PaTTAN conference as well as through the deployment of the Intermediate Unit gifted network. Also under consideration is the expansion and support of currently offered regional gifted conferences (such as the Delaware County Intermediate Unit annual conference). Additionally, a new emphasis is being placed on the creation and offering of gifted education Act 48 courses for teachers and Act 45/PIL courses for administrators. Three new gifted education Act 48 courses2 have been approved in the last few months and have been accessed by many Pennsylvania educators and two Act 45 course proposals3 for administrators are currently being considered in PDE’s Invitation to Qualify process.
Moreover, PDE has recently established a working relationship with the College Board to expand student access to Advanced Placement and pre-AP coursework and to extend the reach of professional development related to middle and high school rigor.
An integral aspect of expanding access to Pennsylvania’s existing and developing resources for advanced and gifted students will be the creation and maintenance of new avenues of communication. A major step in this communication effort will be to bring together under one umbrella information and links concerning gifted education on the PDE SAS portal for easy reference. Clear advice will also be provided as to the relevance of these resources for supporting advanced and gifted students. This work will be undertaken in consultation with gifted education experts across the state.
Quarterly meetings of the Intermediate Unit Gifted Network will be continued and will include PDE representation. In addition, bi-annual meetings will be scheduled between PAGE and department representatives.
2010 Vision Statement
PDE is committed to providing all students in Pennsylvania the opportunity to reach their academic potential without limitation by grade level. In particular, the needs of advanced students in PA, including those identified as mentally gifted, and the research-based academic resources available for meeting them, must, be explicitly communicated throughout the Commonwealth. Although the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) provides numerous resources for advanced and gifted students, many are either unknown or underutilized by school districts. PDE will implement a new plan to increase school district awareness of and access to these resources through improved communications, professional development and revitalization of the gifted network throughout the Commonwealth, while developing new resources for advanced and gifted students.
For further information, please contact:
Bob Staver, Chief
Division of Planning
Bureau of Teaching and Learning
1 Strategies for Modifying and Adapting Instruction for Gifted Students
2 Gifted Education in Pennsylvania: Regulations, Protocols and Resources;
Writing Effective GIEPs, Part I; Writing Effective GIEPs, Part II.
3 Gifted Education and the Law; Gifted Programs that Positively Impact
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