CCS report recommends little change to high ability program

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A Carmel Clay Schools program once planned to be reworked won’t change much at all in the foreseeable future, as it turns out.

CCS Supt. Michael Beresford reviewed a report on the district’s elementary school high ability program at the April 22 school board meeting. Among the conclusions after months of gathering feedback from school administrators, teachers and parents is that the program is working well now.

Last year many CCS parents spoke out about plans announced in March 2018 to begin using Total School Cluster Grouping, which combines high ability students and general education students in the same classroom, in the 2018-19 school year. Later that month CCS announced that it would “temporarily postpone” the transition to TSCG.

Beresford joined CCS a few months later. During parent meetings earlier this year to discuss the high ability program he said that TSCG was no longer on the table.

“Once we got the information out on what our program was really like and the facts of it for next year, that we weren’t going to go wholesale on a one size fits all identification process, we didn’t get much feedback after that,” he told the school board.

Of the feedback he did receive, some common concerns were potential negative effects – such as increased pressure – for students labeled as high ability and some high ability class sizes reaching 30 students or more. Beresford called those classrooms “hot spots” and said they are often caused by new students moving into an elementary district over the summer or other unpredictable situations.

“We’re not comfortable with (those numbers) either,” Beresford said, adding that an ideal class size is 25 to 27 students. “It’s kind of a difficult thing to manage sometimes.”

CCS plans to work with Ball State University to bring high ability graduate course offerings to Carmel teachers, who may apply for tuition reimbursement from the state. The district will also continue to offer professional development for teachers that focuses on meeting the learning needs of high ability students.

The report outlines four areas for further study:

  • Research and complete a feasibility study for programming for exceptionally gifted students
  • Study and review appropriate high ability identification and support of the youngest learners
  • Study and review effects of labeling students and appropriate communication for high ability support
  • Study the feasibility of exploring opportunities to schedule students into different peer groups throughout the day

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