After a year of discussions, Hickman High School has decided to launch a program for gifted students.
The school delayed the start of a gifted program because it already offers advanced and honors programs.
“We always felt we maximized opportunities for gifted students and, really, all students,” said Ann Landes, head of the guidance department at the school.
The Columbia Public Schools’ recently adopted budget for 2005-06 allocated money to Hickman to hire a part-time teacher to help start the program.
Landes said this teacher will work within the guidance department, acting as both a guidance counselor and a resource teacher for the program.
“When we looked at the job description of a gifted teacher, it centered around post-secondary planning, which is basically what we do in the guidance department,” Landes said, “so we decided to combine them.”
The teacher will focus on helping gifted students reach their full potential through counseling programs and prepare them for the future. The program will be similar to an existing one at Rock Bridge High School and will focus mainly on guidance.
The program is meant to help meet the social and emotional needs of gifted students, said Marte Bock, director of the Gifted Education Center in the district. “The teacher will have a caseload of identified students … and will help with course selections, college selection, scholarships and coordinating students with honors and (advanced placement) classes.”
Bock said the program and the teacher position are funded mostly by the state. The district will pay for 35 percent of the cost, while the state will contribute 65 percent.
“A district without a program is basically losing money because the money (from the state) is there,” said Marilyn Toalson, who runs the gifted program at Rock Bridge.
Gifted programs provide services for students that are academically advanced, according to the Columbia Public School’s Web site. Some characteristics of gifted learners include avid reading, a large vocabulary, sharp sense of humor and high expectations for themselves.
The Center for Gifted Education Web site includes more qualifications. According to the center, students go through a three-step process to qualify as gifted. All students are first screened in grade school and then selected for further testing based on test scores. They are then evaluated individually, and 1 percent to 5 percent are placed in the gifted program. High school students who have not already been identified as gifted can be tested if they are nominated by a parent, teacher or school counselor.
At Rock Bridge, gifted students can participate in an elective class, Advanced Seminars and Investigations, taught by Toalson. The class curriculum includes serving an internship or mentorship, community service and writing grants. She also oversees three senior mentors that help with advising.
Gifted students at Rock Bridge also receive assistance with course selection, college decisions and scholarship opportunities. They get extra help preparing for the ACT and SAT, career exploration and have the opportunity to take field trips, such as college visits.
“There are two benefits to the program,” said Toalson. “I get to know them, and they get to know me on the very first day, and in advisory study hall, they can form study groups for their classes.”
Hickman’s program will initially look similar to Rock Bridge’s, but the program may develop differently over time.
“The program is just in the beginning stage,” said Bock. “We just want to see what the needs are going to be.”