OCPS needs a School for the Gifted

Source: Orlando Sentinel, Dec 2013

Central Florida school districts have few options to challenge young, highly gifted children such as Spencer.Many Orange elementary schools, including the one Spencer attended, pull gifted students out for special attention for only one day a week.

The Orange School Board recently discussed the possibility of creating a districtwide gifted school, but no final decision was made.

In a survey of gifted parents last month, 82 percent of respondents said they would send their student to such a school if transportation were provided. The district has more than 12,000 students identified as intellectually gifted, or about 6.7 percent of the student body.

“I think that there is a gap in what Orange County offers to these kids,” particularly at the middle school level, said Cortney Thekan, who has two gifted children in Orange schools. She said she “wholeheartedly” supports the idea of a gifted school.

Gifted services aren’t mandated by federal law, and the depth of offerings can be influenced by the number of higher-income parents advocating for them, said Tiombe Kendrick, a school psychologist in Miami-Dade schools and president-elect of Supporting Emotional Needs of the Gifted, an advocacy group for gifted children and adults.

To address disparities, Orange schools universally screen second-graders in high-poverty schools for gifted, and they admit some students based on potential and academic performance instead of raw IQ.

School Board Chairman Bill Sublette has made clear that Orange needs to at least consider a gifted school such as the highly regarded Pine View School in Sarasota County. Having such a school can enhance the reputation of a district, he said.

The district needs to do more, Superintendent Barbara Jenkins agreed.

“It is critical that we challenge our advanced learners,” she said. “If you do not, they will find other places to take their children.”

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