Gifted program grows in Rockdale schools

CONYERS -- The gifted program in Rockdale County schools continues to grow.

Eugene Baker, assistant superintendent in the Office of School Improvement at RCPS, reported that the gifted services through Rockdale County Public Schools have increased 53.40 percent over two years. Most of the growth has been at the elementary school level.

From the 2010-11 school year to the 2012-13 school year, there was a more than 80 percent increase in elementary school students in the gifted program, which includes 245 elementary students.

For the same time period, there was nearly a 79 percent increase at the middle school level to 336 students and only a 9 percent increase at the high school level to 209 students.

Baker has said that the program was out of balance, so now the system is better at identifying the students, especially at the lower grade levels.

"We anticipate more growth this year," he said. "It's a very significant growth, and we think it's a positive trend."

Alex Alvarez, RCPS academic rigor coordinator, said the growth has been the result of a collective effort by the system to ensure the gifted student population is served to its highest level. Gifted specialists have provided professional development on gifted characteristics, which has increased the number of student referrals for gifted screening.

A gifted student is one who demonstrates a high degree of intellectual and creative abilities, exhibits an exceptionally high degree of motivation and/or excels in specific academic fields. They need special instruction or ancillary services to achieve high levels commensurate with their abilities.

Baker said the district has focused on awareness of gifted models and delivery methods. Twenty Advanced Placement teachers were gifted endorsed last year, and 24 regular classroom teachers were fully gifted endorsed. Twenty-four more teachers are pursuing the gifted endorsement for next school year.

"It's a very rigorous process and outside of the normal hours," Baker said.