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Identifying the Talented and Gifted

Crook County School District explores new ways to serve students who are in the 97th percentile
Among the myriad of policies that the Crook County School District has been updating, the policy on the Education of Talented and Gifted Students is among the oldest, having not been updated since 1994.
   The school district is required to provide an educational program that recognizes, identifies, and serves the unique needs of talented and gifted (TAG) and intellectually-gifted students in grades K-12. Regular classroom teachers are primarily responsible for meeting learning needs of gifted and talented students.
   In the early 1990s, the state provided extra funding for these programs, and many districts even had a designated TAG coordinator. Shortly thereafter, the extra funding was discontinued. Contrary to misconceptions that the requirements also went away, many people did not think there were still TAG programs in place.
   The purpose for updating the current policy is obvious. It is not only outdated, but many things have changed in the district since 1994. The amount of programs at the high school alone has grown exponentially.
   The philosophy for serving TAG students is basically the same as the one that is applied to all students in the district. Each student should receive educational experience appropriate to their individual abilities, interests, and learning style. The purpose of TAG is to focus on higher level thinking skills, social adjustment, social responsibility, and the development of leadership. CCSD uses the Response to Intervention (RTI) model to provide enhancement to those students who are progressing at a faster rate and higher level. This model is also used to provide interventions to those students who fall behind.
   Crook County High School Assistant Principal Michelle Jonas explained that each TAG student has a TAG plan, very similar to an individual education plan. She added that there are many programs available for TAG students at the high school level because of the wide array of advanced programs and classes currently offered.
   “The high school has an advantage that other levels don’t have because of advanced placement classes and college classes and those kinds of things,” said Jonas.
   She added that placement is key for students in the TAG program at the high school, and ensuring that they are in the right classes and programs.
   The TAG policy for the district consists of 33 pages, and includes not only an explanation and breakdown of the procedures, but a chart of the services that are provided at elementary, middle, and high school levels in the district. There are also 14 pages of forms, which include everything from referrals to case studies and TAG team reporting forms. Each student has a TAG instructional plan set up, and the process is driven by policies adopted by the Crook County School District School Board.
   In order be identified as a TAG student, the child must initially score at or above the 97th percentile on a state assessment or on the total battery scores of reading and mathematics on a standardized test. Intellectually gifted students must demonstrate unusual capabilities in mental reasoning. No single test, measure, or score is the sole criterion for identification. Additional information is gathered, including referral forms, classroom tests scores, work samples, grades, and anecdotal records.
   Jonas said that once the student is identified, they go before a care team.
   “Usually that is happening more at the elementary and middle school levels, and once they get to the high school, we just have the one test,” explained Jonas. She added that at the high school, they now have the OAKS (Oregon Assessment of Knowledge and Skills) tests their junior year.
   Crook County School Board member John Lang explained that a parent can also nominate their student, even if they have not scored in the 97th percentile. The student would still have to go through the process, as with any TAG student nominee.
   “That was good news,” said Lang.” I didn’t realize how comprehensive the available resources were to a TAG student.”
   He was pleased to see the amount of programs that were available to students of all grade levels.
   Cecil Sly Principal Jim Bates said they are currently in the process of revising and refining what they do for the students that are identified as TAG students. He said that they use OAKS tests as a universal screening tool for TAG students in reading and math. He added that they must maintain the 97th percentile to remain in the TAG program.
   Most students are identified at fourth grade and beyond, mainly because that is when students begin their OAKS testing. Bates noted, however, that there are other ways to identify students, such as intelligence (IQ) tests.
   “We are trying to address the topic, wholeheartedly, with who are our students who are gifted in the building, and we really need to focus on trying to develop their skills. And who are our kids that are in the “potential to perform category,” which is the 90th to 96th percentile?”
   Bates verified that his school is currently serving nine students that are either TAG through OAKS or intellectually gifted as identified through other measures. Jonas said that there are six TAG students identified at CCHS, but they are in the process of testing and possibly identifying several more. Numbers were not available at the other grade schools and middle school as of press time.
   This school year, the district received some additional Title I dollars for the elementary schools. Bates said the choice was made collaboratively by all three schools to share an interventionist. He said that they also utilize the position to develop an enrichment program for their TAG students.
   Crook County School Board member Scott Cooper said that the TAG update has been on their work plan for the past year.
   “I’m delighted, and I hope it works,” exclaimed Cooper. “We have a lot more options than we used to have in terms of the way we can provide TAG instruction for kids.”