comprehensive program review of the policies and practices of our

1 AN EVALUATION OF THE GIFTED PROGRAMS IN BELLEVUE, WASHINGTON This report examined the features and operational aspects of the Enrichment Program (Grades 2‐5) and the Prism Program (Grades 2‐12) in the Bellevue School District by examining multiple data sources including document review, focus groups, classroom observation, and national standards of best practice. Findings suggest that the district needs to improve its programs in respect to identification, curriculum, organizational arrangements, and professional development. Recommendations provide direction for the nature of desired changes. Prepared by Joyce VanTassel‐
Baska. EdD. College of William and Mary Final Draft June 2, 2011 1 Table of Contents Pages Section I: Introduction……………………………………………………………………… 3‐5 Section II: Document Review and Findings……………………………………….. 5‐16 Section III: Qualitative Stakeholder Data…………………………………………… 16‐23 Section IV: Classroom Observation Data…………………………………………… 23‐31 Section V: Review of BSD Programs Relative to NAGC Standards……... 31‐34 Section VI: Summary of Findings Across Data Sources………………………. 34‐38 Section VII: Recommendations and Summary……………………………………. 38‐44 Bibliography…………………………………………………………………………………………… 45‐53 Appendix A NAGC Standards Analysis Appendix B Comparison of Elementary Cluster Models Appendix C Classroom Observation Scale‐Revised Appendix D Focus Group and Interview Questions 2 Section I: Introduction
The purpose of this gifted program evaluation was to assist Bellevue School District in addressing
relevant questions regarding the status of their gifted program. The orientation for the study drew upon
Stake’s (1976) idea of “responsive evaluation” and is framed by three key beliefs: 1) the fundamental role
of evaluation is to provide information that can be used to improve and advance high quality gifted
programs, 2) evaluation research is a collaborative process among stakeholders in local school districts
and the contractor, and 3) the use of multiple data sources helps to illuminate the complexity and salience
of issues needing to be considered. The evaluator who executed the evaluation recognizes that rational
decision-making is mediated by values and that the structural, social, political, and symbolic dimensions
of a given context (Bolman and Deal, 1997) influence the nature and degree of change that will be made.
The evaluator spent five days onsite, two in January and three in March, 2011, engaging in data
collection. She then began the task of data analysis, culminating in this report.
Research Questions
The following research questions guided the design and implementation of this gifted program review:
1) To what extent is the gifted program being implemented according to its stated goals and outcomes?
2) To what extent is the program perceived to be effective by relevant stakeholder groups?
3) To what extent is there evidence that students have enhanced achievement and abilities as a result of
program participation?
4) To what extent does the program meet national standards for the operation of gifted programs?
5) To what extent is the program quality consistent across settings and cost effective?
Data Sources
Data collected to investigate all evaluation questions involved both empirical and perceptual sources. Two
on-site visits were conducted that included 1) selected classroom observations using a structured
observation form in elementary, middle, and high school gifted classes, 2) interviews with the gifted
coordinator, assistant superintendent, superintendent, and parent advocate, and 3) separate focus groups of
parents at elementary, middle, and high school levels in the Prism program and Enrichment Program
parents, teachers in both programs at elementary and middle school levels, and both building and central
office administrators.
The district also provided for review documents that described the gifted programs. Such documents
included various program-related materials, curriculum units, AP and IB data, and other district
documents including initial work on the district’s strategic plan. These documents were analyzed and are
described in the report.
3 Finally, an analysis was done of the relationship between the gifted program practices in Bellevue and
best practices nationally, using the National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC) standards as the
basis for review.
Overview of Instrumentation
The following instruments were used to collect data in conjunction with this program review. These
instruments have been used in prior research for similar purposes and have been tailored to the nature of
the Bellevue review.
Classroom Observation Scale (COS-R). This instrument has been developed by the Center for Gifted
Education and used in a variety of program evaluation and research projects. It involved scripting an
observation and then confirming the frequency and teaching effectiveness of 25 behavioral indicators
grouped into six categories. These indicators focus on general teaching practice, elements of educational
reform, and differentiation for gifted learners. The content validity of the instrument was established by
expert review and calculated at .97 and the inter-rater reliability using Cohen’s Kappa, reached .82 (Feng,
Interview Form. This structured interview form was used to gather specific data about the features of the
gifted program and the reactions of key individuals to those features. It supplemented and verified other
information gathered. Questions were drawn from the focus group questions which follow but also
probed issues as they emerged.
Focus Group Protocol. The focus group protocol involved the use of open-ended questions, tailored to
participants’ perceptions of the gifted program. A small group of individuals, based on their role in the
program, were invited to participate in each focus group. Participants completed individual response
cards as well as having the overall conversation tracked by the facilitator or designee.
NAGC Program Standards. A content analysis of the alignment of the gifted program with the National
Association for Gifted Children (NAGC) standards was done by the evaluation consultant in order to
gauge the extent to which the district is employing best practices in gifted education.
Data Analysis and Interpretation
Both quantitative and qualitative techniques were used in the data analysis. Descriptive statistics
including means, standard deviations, and percentages were used to present the classroom observation
data, and other quantitative sources of data collected. Content analysis and identification of patterns or
themes were used to capture qualitative findings from focus groups and interviews.
4 Overview of this report
This report is organized into six major sections and includes sections on each major data source used to
collect data: classroom observations, focus groups and interviews, document review, and NAGC
national standards alignment. Individual school data are presented anonymously, with classroom
observation and focus group summary findings aggregated across the district. The intent was not to
evaluate any one school or teacher but to gather a picture of the depth of gifted program development and
implementation across the district.
In addition to reporting out each set of data collection strategy results, the findings also are organized
across data sources and by the research questions of interest. Conclusions drawn are based on the support
for them across available sources, typically at least two. Recommendations are made, based on program
development areas and level of the programs within the system.
Appendices include a copy of each instrument used to collect data (see Appendix C and D).
Section II: Document Review and Findings
The Bellevue School District provided the evaluator with several sets of materials for review of the gifted
programs in the district: Enrichment, Prism, and the Gifted High School Program (GHSP), designed for
Prism students. These materials included program policies, a manual for identification, multiple
curriculum units and charts, program descriptions, and newsletters. In addition, the following materials
were available for review but are not commented on separately:
1) The state funding proposal from which the district receives $150,000 to support the program
which is supplemented by the district in the amount of $260,000 from the general fund.
2) Budget data on each program in respect to supplies, supplemental compensation, and travel
3) PowerPoint presentations made to the advisory board on current and proposed program status.
4) An internal evaluation report generated in 2000-2001 that recommended enhanced professional
development opportunities for Enrichment teachers.
5) Parent meeting PowerPoint that describes the testing and programs annually.
6) The gifted program coordinator job description, verifying the .2-.4 position to coordinate the
general aspects of the program, provide professional development to teachers, supervise the
selection process and appeals, and facilitate communication with and among stakeholders.
7) Sample newsletters sent home to parents from all aspects of the program.
8) The information contained on the district website.
5 Through the lens of these materials, the evaluator has prepared a commentary on key aspects of the
I. Description of the two programs in operation: Prism and Enrichment
The evaluator reviewed several documents that described the nature of each program in respect to how
students were selected for it, the nature of the curriculum, and the perceived benefits accrued from
participation in it.
Each program has a long and illustrious history in the district, constituting over 30 years of practice.
Students identified for Prism are operating above 144 IQ on a standardized group measure of ability.
Students in the Enrichment program are operating at the functional level of ability at 132+ IQ.
The difference between the two programs, in addition to entry level threshold IQ levels, is the nature and
extent of services provided. In the Prism program, students are placed in self-contained programs from
Grade 2-12 and provided with accelerated curricula in core areas, culminating in a special advanced
course of study in International Baccalaureate at the high school level. In the Enrichment program,
students receive services one day or two half days a week for 5 hours in an Enrichment center where the
curriculum is centered on special project work with limited connections to the regular classroom
Placement of the programs also differs. The Prism program is at one school site at elementary, middle,
and high school levels while the Enrichment program is located at four different school sites at the
elementary level with no continuation at middle or high school levels for these students.
Elementary Enrichment
The elementary Enrichment program is housed at four centers throughout the district and 74 out of the
360 students in the program are bused one day a week for five hours of specialized instruction. Other
Enrichment students are enrolled in the four Center schools. The program has a goal structure that
promotes critical and creative thinking, affective skills in self-management, and math problem-solving
skills. The delivery of the goals is accomplished through a project-based interdisciplinary model,
organized around specific units of study, usually two per year. An FAQ booklet has been prepared to
provide parents more information on the program as needed.
Elementary Prism
The elementary Prism program is housed in one school (Spiritridge) and services 200 highly gifted
students at the grade levels of 2-5. Goals of the program focus on its accelerated and enriched course
offerings, its nurturing environment for peer interaction and teacher support of social and emotional
needs, and its emphasis on preparation for future education, contributions, and lifelong learning. Within
the curriculum, instruction emphasizes critical thinking and other higher cognitive processes,
interdisciplinary thematic teaching, and the use of technology. Multiple approaches to assessment are
6 The description of the program also provides information on homework, attendance, and entrance and exit
Middle School Prism
The middle school Prism program is housed at Odle Middle School and serves 240 students. Its goals are
the same as those found at the elementary level as are the general program policies. Students engage in an
accelerated course of study in all core subjects, leading to the equivalent of high school mastery in each of
these subjects by the end of eighth grade. Additional information on the program is shared with parents
and students on student responsibilities and communication between home and school.
Gifted High School Program
This program, housed at Interlake High School, and in existence for five years, was started to serve the
needs of students matriculating from the middle school program. Ten teachers are assigned to teach two
classes of gifted students out of a total load of five classes. Current enrollment in the program is 198
students. The core curricular focus of the program is an enhanced IB diploma program. However, AP
options, internships, and dual enrollment are also offered.
The documents provided to describe the program are well-done and provide the appropriate information
to understand the general operation of each level and type of gifted program provided. More in-depth
information on the curriculum and instructional emphases for the Prism program at elementary level may
be warranted, given the fact that it is fulltime placement. The documents do not clearly delineate the
distinctive curriculum features of that program.
II. Teacher background and preparation
The evaluator reviewed data on the background training and experience of teachers in both programs.
Moreover, job descriptions for teachers and the coordinator were reviewed.
Preparation of teachers to work in these programs is limited. The State of Washington requires no
certification or endorsement to work with gifted learners and thus is out of compliance with the gifted
teacher education standards passed in 2008 for a minimum of 12 semester hours of coursework to endorse
teachers to work with the gifted in any state where a university has decided to offer coursework in this
field. Most of the teachers working in the program at secondary level have content credentials and
program-specific credentials such as AP and IB training. At middle and elementary levels, the nature of
the training is less targeted. Several teachers have National Board Certification which speaks to their
capacity to document exemplary practices in their classrooms that mirror reform efforts although this does
not specifically address the needs of the gifted. Other teachers at these levels have workshop and institute
training in the pedagogy of the field, mostly obtained through sporadic attendance at conferences and
workshops nationally to which they have access annually.
7 In the elementary Enrichment program, the teachers (N=6) have a range of one year to 26 years of
experience in working with the gifted and possess varied background in respect to their preparation.
Three are National Board-Certified.
In the Prism Program, of the teachers returning the form (N=4), the average number of years of
experience teaching gifted students ranged from 7-12 years. Three have master's degrees with one
holding a master's in gifted education. Two are National Board-Certified.
In the Prism Middle school program, nine teachers returned the form. Teaching experience with the
gifted ranged from 1-22 years. All but one hold master's degrees, many in their subject area or a related
field. Four are National Board-Certified teachers. Five of these teachers also have training in Advanced
Placement workshops and two in IB, indicating a familiarity with the demands their students will face in
high school coursework.
In the Gifted High School Program, nine teachers returned the form, representing English, World History,
Government, Math, Chemistry, and Physics departments. Teaching the gifted was a new experience for
these teachers, ranging from 2-5 years. All but one hold master's degrees. None of these teachers hold
endorsements or certificates in gifted education although three have attended special workshops on the
topic. Five have no experience in gifted education training. Two have worked in gifted education
leadership positions within the school. One has National Board Certification.
Hiring for positions in the program is open to teachers in the district and the surrounding area. No
threshold criteria for hiring are exercised, with committee decisions being the basis for such practices,
based on interview and credential and reference review. The interview questions provided suggest the
committee is interested in ways that a teacher can extend learning for the gifted and has general
knowledge of the field.
The data on teacher preparation suggest the need for systematic preparation to work effectively with
gifted students. Incidental workshops are insufficient to meet this need. Running endorsement classes
onsite or online would be highly desirable to get teacher personnel up to a minimum threshold of
knowledge and skills for working with the gifted. In addition, in-house professional development
sessions should be held by program level and type at least 5 days per year on topics of need.
III. Identification Practices
The evaluator reviewed documents that described the procedures for identification for both programs.
Basic data on students identified in the district for 2011 show that at Grades 2-5, the top 4% of students
on nationally normed measures are identified for the Prism program, while 7% are identified for the
Enrichment program, constituting 11% of the district. At Grades 6-8, the top 6 % are served, while 4%
are served in the high school program at Interlake in the Prism Program. Out of district students comprise
10% of the elementary, 15% of the middle school, and 29% of the high school Prism Program.
Each program has its own protocol for identification and placement. Families must submit an application
form with a parent recommendation for testing. The use of ability and achievement measures is balanced
8 by the use of teacher recommendations and grades. Placement in program, however, is dictated by
threshold IQ levels at the 98th percentile on the composite of the CogAT for the Enrichment Program and
99.7th percentile on the composite of the CogAT for the Prism Program. Moreover, a floor level of 9097% is required on reading achievement and quantitative ability.
There do not appear to be special criteria or other considerations made for students from underrepresented
populations. For example, no nonverbal testing is included in the battery for either program although the
scores are available to use as the CogAT yields data on verbal, mathematical, and nonverbal ability.
Presence of students from minority groups other than Asian, and low income students are limited in the
current program. Data for 2011 show that only 8 Hispanic/Latino students have been identified for Prism
from Grades 2-12 and only 8 in Enrichment from Grades 2-5. Only one African American student is
enrolled in the Enrichment Program. Low income students also constitute low numbers in each program:
23 in Prism and 15 in Enrichment while 164 such students have been tested for inclusion. Twice
exceptional students constitute 34 students across both programs.
The teacher recommendation form is an 8 item Likert scale (1-5) that asks teachers to assess the following
areas: creativity, analysis, academic achievement, problem solving, group skills, and initiative. It is used
to verify the other data available for each student and is examined by the selection committee along with
test data and grade performance. The selection committee is comprised of a teacher, an administrator, and
a psychologist.
No testing has occurred for the K-1 level for the last 3 years.
Gifted Program Policy (revised 1988)*
Procedures and policies for identification, including procedures for placement and appeal, are spelled out
for each program in this document. The identification system is a three stage process, beginning with
nominations, including self-nomination, at the screening level. At the second stage, all nominated
students are given group ability (CogAT) and achievement (Iowa Test of Basic Skills) tests that include
the subtests of math concepts and reading comprehension. Threshold levels of performance at the 94th %
on ability and the 90th on achievement are necessary in order to take an individual IQ test at the third stage
of the process. In order to be placed in the Prism program, students must score at 144 on IQ and at least
97th % in one academic area with a floor of 90th % in other areas. Students scoring above 132 on the
individual IQ test are placed in the Enrichment program.
A set of policies for the middle school program are outlined in the document as well, including the
capacity to add students to the program to reach equitable numbers and be assigned teachers who have
access to continued professional development in gifted education..
* In conversations with program personnel, it was noted that several of the policies in this manual have
not been used for several years. Of special note is the discontinuation of individual IQ testing as a third
level of the identification process. Students are placed in either program based on the threshold levels
noted for the second stage. Moreover, teacher recommendations, parent recommendations, and selfnomination for the Enrichment program are also considered pieces of evidence for identification
9 purposes. The middle school policy on adding non-identified students has also not been in effect for
several years.
Gifted Education Assessment Manual (2010-2011)
This document contains the specific forms for initiating the identification process, including an
application form and teacher recommendation form that uses a 9-point Likert scale to assess qualities and
characteristics relevant to the program and an open-ended section to assess performance in specific
subject areas. A list of tests for use at Grades 1-9 is included along with a testing timeline. The state rules
and regulations, which are also included in this manual, speak to the use of the term “highly capable”. to
describe the gifted, and to the use of a multidisciplinary selection team to determine program placement.
The process for the identification of gifted learners in this school district is carefully delineated in written
documents. It is a multi-step process, culminating in the use of group ability and achievement
assessments to determine placement in programs. Several questions emerge out of the process:
1. How are low income and underrepresented minority students faring in the process? How many are
screened for the program and how many make it in?
Data for the last year of the program show that only 23 low income students have been accepted for the
Enrichment program and only 15 for Prism. Underrepresented minority students are also missing from
the ranks of both programs. In 2011, 16 Latino students were identified and 1 African American across
both programs. A relatively low percentage of students screened for the program from these groups make
it in.
2. The artificial separation of students into two groups may not be warranted by a 12 point differential on
one test. What evidence do you have that would suggest the Enrichment group could not handle the
Prism curriculum?
There are no data available in the district to suggest that students who score at lower IQ thresholds cannot
be successful in either program.
3. The choice of instruments for both group ability and achievement are good. However, it appears the
district could exploit the CogAT for more data on specific student profiles which might impact teaching
and learning in each program. How are identification data used by teachers in planning the program for
It appears that identification data are not used by teachers in either program although subtest data on the
CogAT might be useful for counseling and curriculum planning.
IV. Curriculum Practices
Curriculum decisions in the elementary Prism program are dictated by district curriculum policy and the
calibration of the program as accelerated by one year or more beyond the district curriculum. Thus
materials used are one grade level beyond in core subject areas. This practice continues at the middle
10 school level of the program although the majority of the curriculum used at middle school is teacherdeveloped in math, language arts, and the social sciences. At the high school level, the curriculum is
dictated by preparation for AP and IB coursework in the early years and by the syllabi for each of these
programs during the final years. Prism students receive an upgraded and more advanced IB course of
study and participate in an internship program as well during their senior year.
Curriculum decisions in the Enrichment program are made by the Enrichment curriculum developer and
have been developed over the history of the program. Special projects have been honed to work in each
Enrichment setting, with some variation across sites, depending on the teacher and grade level from 2-5.
No extensions of this curriculum are offered beyond Grade 5.
V. Instruction via differentiated practices
Teachers in both programs use both facilitation of learning and direct instruction, consistent with best
practice. However, it appears that Prism students receive more direct instruction in subject areas than do
Enrichment students. The Enrichment Program teachers use facilitation of learning practices extensively
in project-based work.
VI. Assessment of student learning
At the present time, neither program uses an assessment tool beyond state testing to calibrate the nature
and extent of learning in each program. While some performance-based measures such as student
products are available from the Enrichment program, they are not used to assess extent of learning in the
program. Rather they employ rubrics that get at the processes employed in constructing the product
rather than a direct assessment of product quality. Moreover, the Enrichment Program and the Middle
School Prism program employ portfolios of student work as a tool for assessment.
VII. Communication
The evaluator reviewed several newsletters that were sent home on the program over the course of a year.
These newsletters were done by teachers in the program and typically reported on the nature of
curriculum experiences students were engaged in during the time period.
The major lever for communication appears to be newsletters that go home to Enrichment families.
Prism students receive newsletters with monthly regularity at the elementary level coupled with regular
parent conferences, held on the school district's timetable. Enrichment program parents participate in
midyear student-led portfolio conferences to inform parents on growth in targeted learning in the
Middle school and high school communication is handled through the nature of the program the student is
engaged in and on an “as needed” basis. Parent information nights, student-led portfolio conferences,
website links and evening events are other modes of communication.
The communication about the program is handled in a manner consistent with other programs in the
district. Website information is kept up to date, and newsletter information is specific and timely to the
11 nature of instruction in classes. Perhaps more information to parents on the outcomes of the gifted
curriculum would be valuable to share in the Prism program at relevant levels.
VIII. Review of curriculum units used in the Enrichment and Prism programs
The evaluator reviewed the materials provided by the program coordinator for the elementary Enrichment
program and the Prism program at elementary, middle, and high school levels. It was clear that many
more curriculum materials were submitted on the elementary Enrichment program than at any level of the
Prism program and that detailed curriculum development had occurred at the level of structured lesson
plans that addressed each project to be taught during a given year.
Elementary Enrichment Program Curriculum
The evaluator reviewed the curriculum framework and selected units of study that have been used over
the course of the last five years or more in the elementary Enrichment program. The curriculum
framework contained the following sections organized around three goals of application of cognitive,
affective, and independent skills:
 Critical thinking that uses the Paul model of reasoning with special emphasis on the elements
and standards.
 Creative thinking that focuses on the skills of fluency, flexibility, elaboration, and originality
coupled with the affective characteristics associated with creativity such as curiosity and risktaking.
 Inductive and deductive reasoning skills such as analysis, evaluation, and predicting.
 Problem-solving skills, using a math heuristic to outline the process.
 Affective skills of personal organization
 Interpersonal and intrapersonal skills
In respect to differentiation components of gifted programs, the materials for this program provided
evidence of complexity, depth, and creativity. In some instances the challenge level was less apparent as
was the accelerated nature of the learning.
In respect to learning outcomes, it was unclear what students took away and how the learning connected
to their regular school subjects. Project-based learning was the main mode of delivery with materials
organized to provide student handouts and resources. A list of resources used in the program was
included. A progress report is completed each semester on three dimensions of learning: independent
skills, group dynamic skills, and thinking process skills. Of the three areas, the one linked to the goals is
the third.
Rubrics had been developed for each project that assessed differential aspects of the project, often
focusing on issues that were less relevant than the nature and extent of learning accrued. Two out of six
criteria, for example, focused on the neatness of the project. Project work is done in the following areas:
12 Observation: Take a closer look, Archaeology, Mental and Physical brain, Bridges around the world, Only
one ocean, World in a Box, Math problem-solving, and other selected areas that may vary by year.
Selected GEMS units in science are used in this way.
One example of the differentiated projects was to have students create a world by choosing artifacts
associated with that world (eg. The World of Fashion, The World of Plants). Study sheets were provided
to scaffold the project demands, including the preparation of a museum guide. While the directions for the
project were clear, students chose to do the project at their own level of comfort, often not straying to
levels of abstraction or symbolism in the choice of artifacts. While student choice is valuable, so is
student challenge. The resulting project displays observed often reflected low level busy work as opposed
to challenging thinking and problem solving. After working on these projects for multiple weeks, parents
came in to see the results and to ask questions of the students about them. Students had prepared
responses and a commentary for what they had done. Parents appeared to be pleased with the work
produced, demonstrating the public relations value in the public display of products.
Elementary Prism Program
The evaluator reviewed the charts provided to illustrate the accelerated nature of the program at grades 25. The charts delineated major materials used at each grade level in each subject area. While some like
the FOSS kits in science have been found to be effective with the gifted, most of the materials were not
differentiated for the gifted although they were one grade level beyond. The progress report is organized
by subject matter with little indication of advanced skill development noted on the form which appears to
be organized by subject standards for the relevant grade level. I could not judge how it differed from the
regular report card for all learners.
While off-level materials are employed in the program, most are not differentiated for the gifted. They
only represent the next level up in a basal series used in the district. For example, the district math series
called Math Expressions is used off-level up through Grade 5. The Springboard program from College
Board is used for reading/language arts at Grades 2-5, again not sufficiently advanced for highly gifted
Middle School Prism Program Curriculum
The evaluator reviewed the description of courses at the middle school for gifted learners which includes
a humanities program at 6-8th grades, a philosophy program within the world history program at 8th grade,
and an integrated math and science program at each level. Multilevel placement in math is
accommodated, based on student proficiency. In general, the gifted courses are one year accelerated, with
the expressed goal of preparing students for success in AP and IB.
One math unit of study was provided to see the middle school curriculum at a closer level. It was
apparent that the coursework, designed by the teacher, in Algebra and trigonometry was both advanced
and challenging for students, with challenge problems used as quizzes in each day's lessons. The focus of
each lesson was on problem-solving and analysis. Sixth grade math uses Connected Math II, which
includes the topics of variables and patterns, comparing and scaling, and samples and populations.
13 Three units of study in the LA/SS aspect of the program were reviewed for Grades 6-8. These units were
organized in a loose leaf notebook and revealed an emphasis on the linkage of history to the choice of
literature. For example, students learn Mongol history in order to prepare them to read relevant literature
of the period, and they study the Victorian Period to prepare them for reading Jules Verne's Around the
World in Eighty Days. The units also reveal a connection to the district curriculum and its pacing guide
for Ender's Game, requiring students to do a project and participate in a debate.
An outline of readings and assignments for the 8th grade philosophy course was reviewed. The book
Sophie's World was used as a central resource along with reading the Odyssey and excerpts from Joseph
Campbell's work.
The United States History course was integrated with literature selections as well. It engaged students in
a National History research project.
Teacher-developed questions for these courses were provocative and high level. Essay exams asked
students to analyze, synthesize and evaluate some aspect of what they were studying. Frequent writing
assignments required students to develop essays on relevant topics to their unit of study.
The middle school science program description was reviewed, indicating that the program was both
accelerated and enriched, used design projects and laboratory investigations, and was inquiry-based.
However, the nature of the curriculum and the texts used were the same as the district curriculum. In
Grade 6, the emphasis is on the use of the STC curriculum to study catastrophic events in an Earth and
Space unit and a unit on the nature of matter and phase changes.
In Grade 7, topics included electricity and magnets, energy, nature of matter, motion, and forces. The
Rube Goldberg project was assigned for students to design a machine. Biology was the course offered in
8th grade, using an accelerated text.
Gifted High School Program Curriculum
The evaluator reviewed the scope and sequence of gifted offerings at the high school which offers both
AP and IB options for students in multiple subject areas. The schedule was also provided for review.
Gifted students participate in their own sections of IB. Results of IB participation and AP participation
show students performing at the top level on the exams. For example, IB results for 2010 show Interlake
students' average mean scores exceeding world averages by one or more points in each subject area. In
AP Interlake students averaged 4.35-4.90 in seven different courses compared to national averages of
2.57-2.91. Internships and dual enrollment options are also available to high school gifted students. The
school tracks college acceptances for seniors at the school. For 2010, seniors accepted places at 19
selective colleges across the country.
The evaluator reviewed several products generated in a freshman level honors English class at the high
school level for Prism students. The projects ranged from asking students as a group to create a play,
based on myths from Greece and Rome in the meter and style of the day to producing reports on a book
they had read, complete with illustrations and an analysis of the book's strengths and weaknesses. In
Physics, students produce 10-page experimental reports, indicating findings but also next steps and what
14 the experiment was unable to show. In math, a mock final showed students working on problem
prototypes in pre-calculus in preparation for exams, attesting to the advanced level of the class.
Lesson plans supplied by other high school teachers in math, government, and science suggested a
rigorous emphasis on advanced learning opportunities that are subject-based.
The curriculum materials provided highlight the strengths of the written curriculum work in the
Enrichment program and call into question the extent of such development in other aspects of the
program. Individual teachers clearly drive the process. How does curriculum development happen in the
programs? What is the process used and how does it tie in to general curriculum development practices in
the district? It appears to be haphazard in respect to alignment and limited by the opportunities for
curriculum development time.
The lack of use of curriculum-based differentiated materials for the gifted in the elementary Prism
program is disturbing as the nature of a fulltime program should lead to replacement curriculum and
materials, if they are available. There is no evidence that such materials have been procured, nor teachers
trained to use them.
The curriculum in the elementary Enrichment program suffers from a lack of connection to the regular
school program while the Prism curriculum at that level appears underdeveloped and too dependent on
the district curriculum and materials for definition.
The middle school curriculum provides interesting interdisciplinary approaches to organizing curriculum,
but the curriculum products were somewhat scattered and disorganized. The math curriculum appears to
be highly challenging although not differentiated in respect to creativity. The science curriculum appears
to not have been differentiated at the level of written materials nor texts employed.
The high school curriculum is defined predominantly through the syllabi of AP and IB and thus is not
distinctive for the group of learners targeted. Some teachers described the nature of differentiation they
employ to accommodate the gifted students in the honors program and provided evidence through student
products of the extent of learning experienced. Most high school teachers characterized this
differentiation as greater depth and more acceleration.
What is the scope and sequence of options for gifted learners at each stage of development in each
It appears that no formal scope and sequence has been developed to demonstrate differentiated curriculum
and materials used with gifted learners in these programs.
How does the gifted curriculum in Prism at elementary and middle school align with the relevant content
Although there are overlaps in the curriculum in the district, much of the Prism elementary program
curriculum is the same as the district curriculum, especially in math. Thus standards alignment is not an
15 issue. At middle school level, teacher-generated curriculum is clearly different from the district template
in LA/SS except for one unit.
The document review section of this evaluation report highlights a school district that is providing
multiple options for gifted learners at each stage of development, based on their degree of giftedness.
Identification practices, curriculum development, professional development of teachers, and program
management are all documented through various means. Organizing a notebook that includes these
sections for dissemination to new teachers would be an important way to keep the history and
development of the program in one place. Commentaries provided in each section speak to the need to
consider key questions and to move forward in future planning with revisions in program practices more
attuned to national standards in gifted education.
Section III
Qualitative Stakeholder Data: Focus Groups, Interviews, Discussion
The evaluation of the Bellevue school district included the collection of qualitative data from a variety of
constituencies across the district. The focus group/interview/discussion group model was selected as a key
data source because of its capacity to provide a rich vein of information on the perceptions of key
stakeholder groups or individuals and its relative efficiency as a means for doing this. The responses of
groups and individuals tapped through these various channels were then documented, summarized, and
compared in order to abstract key themes and trends in the feedback garnered.
The instrumentation varied slightly across the various data sources, but most groups were queried
according to all, or a sub-set, of the following questions:
1) What are your perceptions of the gifted program(s)?
2) How effective do you think the identification protocol is?
3) How effective is the curriculum and instruction in the gifted programs?
4) How effective is the instruction in the program?
5) How effective is the assessment system used to gauge gifted student learning?
6) What do you perceive to be the major strengths of the program?
7) What do you perceive to be the major weaknesses of the program?
16 Interviews conducted at the building level with administrative staff often focused on the broader
educational program in order to understand the context of the gifted program in each setting. The group
discussion with the district curriculum developers focused on their perceptions of the effectiveness of the
district’s curriculum for identified gifted students. This conversation dealt with both the gifted component
of the program and services delivered through the provision of general education classes including
Honors, Advanced Placement, and International Baccalaureate.
When focus groups were held, the moderator for the group recorded notes about the content of the general
discussion. In all cases, these general discussions were supplemented by individual response cards
completed by each participant prior to the open dialogue. In the case of individual interviews, the
evaluator took notes of the exchange among participants. This process also included more informal group
discussions that were not formalized as focus groups. No note cards were completed in these situations
which included the curriculum coordinators and administrators.
Description of the Data Sets Collected through this Process
The following chart shows the scope of the qualitative data collection effort as it related to groups of
stakeholders in the system. Overall, 92 people were involved as participants in the 10 group discussions
around the questions cited above.
Stakeholder Group
Parents (N=41)
Elementary Prism School
Middle School Prism
High School Prism Program
Enrichment Program
Elementary Prism
Middle School Prism
High School
Administrative Staff
K – 12
Curriculum Supervisors
K – 12
Advisory Council
17 In addition, small group or individual interviews were held with 4 principals to ascertain their perceptions
of the programs:
Individual Building
Interlake High School
Odle Middle School
Bennett Elementary
Spiritridge Elementary
Almost all of these data were collected during the on-site visits of January 20-21 and March 14-16, 2011.
Data Analysis and Interpretation Procedures
Each session convened (formal focus group, informal discussion group, or individual or small group
interview) was documented in a narrative summary. Qualitative data by nature are subject to more
variable interpretation, but as multiple data sets converge on one another to confirm the themes
abstracted, reasonable inferences begin to emerge. In order for a theme to surface in this part of the data
analysis, evidence of the theme had to be present from at least two data sources.
Themes Identified Across Focus Group and Interview Data Sets
The following table shows the themes and the data sources that supported the identification of these
themes across the qualitative stakeholder data collection approaches used in the Bellevue gifted program
Table 1.1 Themes Emergent across Focus Groups, Discussion Groups, and Interviews
Data Sources
The use of stringent cutoff scores for each program raises
concerns about who is being left out.
P, S, A, PR
The lack of underrepresented students of poverty and minority
groups is an equity concern, especially since some children are
test-tutored to qualify.
P, A,T, PR
The identification process does not account for domain-specific
talent development abilities.
P, T, S
Stakeholders are not clear on the district’s identification protocol
or its implementation, and better communication is needed
P, A, T
18 Curriculum and Instruction
The elementary Prism Program lacks a solid differentiated
curricular framework and as a result is teacher-developed and
P, A,
The Enrichment Program curriculum is not connected in a
meaningful way to the regular classroom curriculum.
P, A, PR
Students enjoy the content delivered in the Enrichment Program,
especially the special projects.
P, T
The grouping of gifted students for services is a valuable
dimension of the program; it creates a “sense of belonging.”
P, S, T
Some, but not all, of the gifted teachers were perceived as
competent in working with and as “caring deeply” about the
gifted population.
P, A, S
There is no significant differentiation provided for gifted students
in regular education classes at the elementary or middle school
levels, nor are there options for advanced classes in subjects other
than math and 8th grade English.
P, S, T
The International Baccalaureate Program at the high school level
was seen as challenging and is well-regarded in the community.
P, S, T
Additional curricular offerings in non-core areas such as the arts
and foreign language are needed in all the gifted programs.
P. S
Program Effectiveness
The program lacks a central vision and consistent implementation
across targeted buildings and levels.
P, A
Channels of communication are informal and inadequate. This
includes feedback between the Enrichment teacher and regular
classroom teachers, and between gifted teachers in both programs
and parents.
P, A
The program suffers from neglect in respect to leadership from
the Central Office level, with frequent changes of personnel over
the last decade.
19 Professional Development
Teachers who work with the gifted need to have coursework in
gifted education as a foundation for their work with the gifted.
AC, T, A
There is a need for more professional development in the area of
gifted education to enhance both regular classroom teachers'
pedagogy and teachers of the gifted.
A, AC, T
Discussion of Findings from the Qualitative Stakeholder Data
Four categories emerged from the data sets for grouping the prevailing themes. These categories were 1)
Identification, 2) Curriculum and Instruction, 3) Program Effectiveness, and 4) Personnel Preparation.
The following synthesis is organized by each category.
There is strong evidence from data sources that identification is perceived as a problem across multiple
sectors of the school district. It may be more restrictive than necessary, particularly since almost no low
income or minority students end up being included. Tied to this second issue is the concern that surfaced
about the lack of attention to domain-specific talent development abilities, particularly as they have
relevance to instructional programming. The programs have traditionally focused on a general intellectual
ability model, but best practice in the field recommends a broader definition of the construct to include
students with specific high level aptitudes in either verbal or performance domains.
Two other issues were culled from the data in regard to identification. The first issue cited the need for a
more formalized re-assessment process, particularly as students (who might have been overlooked
previously) cross levels of the system. The second issue advocated for improved communication among
the various stakeholders groups around the identification protocol. Related to this second issue is the
perception that the identification process can be manipulated (or influenced), and in the absence of a
written description of the procedures, forms, and criteria used, one can understood why this distrust
exists. The combination of the rigidity of the system and the lack of trust in the process itself has created
some ill will among the various groups.
Curriculum and Instruction
Stakeholder groups consistently expressed concerns about the nature of the curriculum delivered in the
Enrichment Program and, in particular, the curriculum disconnect from the general education program.
The curriculum was seen as Enrichment-centered with low levels of academic challenge; it was described
as teacher-directed and teacher-developed. There was almost universal acknowledgement that students
who participated in Enrichment classes found them fun and relaxing, but most stakeholders questioned
the value of the time and resources allocated for this purpose. There was also fairly consistent regard for
the intentions, if not always the expertise, of many teachers in the program.
20 Tied to concerns about the efficacy of the curriculum in the gifted classes was an equal discontent with
the lack of appropriate programming for the gifted learner in the regular classroom (at the elementary and
middle school levels). Key groups were in agreement that regular classroom teachers had little skill to
differentiate effectively for these students.
Since the curriculum offered in the Enrichment Program classes is focused on process skills and
independent research, and the curriculum in the regular classroom is inadequately differentiated for the
high ability learner, at no point in the system is there evidence of the idea of optimal match. Of course, the
inability of the program to address this idea is grounded again in the identification model used. If
attention is not paid to the child’s profile but only to the composite score, there is no impetus for
designing interventions that correspond to strengths and limitations. Five data sources in the evaluation
highlighted this issue.
Groups also coalesced around the lack of a curriculum framework, a differentiated scope and sequence,
and differentiated units of study being used in the elementary Prism Program. While the grouping of
these highly gifted students together was lauded, there was a sense that more work needed to be done to
make the curriculum stronger.
Four groups also expressed a desire to see more offerings in non-core areas based on student talents and
interests. New course options in the arts, foreign language, and technology, and co-curricular offerings
such as debate and chess would expand the template for addressing the issue of optimal match even
further. Again, district personnel would be able to draw on this expanded menu of offerings to supplement
a student’s strengths and interests.
Emergent themes related to curriculum at the middle school level centered on the perception that quantity
of work was stressed over quality with a heavy homework load, a strong concern from parents. Other
groups cited that the curriculum was teacher-developed in isolation from the district curriculum and
lacked an appropriate review process.
Several themes emerged in relation to the high school level of the program. International Baccalaureate
and Advanced Placement courses were highly lauded. There was some dissatisfaction noted, however,
about work requirements for the 10-12th grade years.
Instructional Effectiveness
While groups expressed some concerns about the Enrichment Program on several grounds, it was
considered by several stakeholder groups to effectively use instructional approaches found to be
appropriate to the needs of gifted learners, including project-based learning, higher level thinking,
problem solving, and research skills. Parents voiced strong positive reactions to the teachers in the
Stakeholder groups saw the need for greater instructional differentiation within the classes for Prism and
Enrichment. There was consensus that very little individualization was occurring for gifted learners
within the classes.
21 Assessment
Parents from all focus groups found the assessment system in both the Enrichment and Prism program
insufficient in providing them with data on their child’s performance and progress in the program.
Despite conferences and written reports sent home, parents complained that there was a lack of individual
feedback on student progress, especially as it related to project work in Prism at elementary and middle
school levels. Concerns about feedback on writing skill development were especially vocal among Prism
elementary and middle school parents.
Educator groups felt the assessment approaches used were innovative as in the case of student –led
conferences on portfolios in the Enrichment Program and sufficiently thorough in the case of the Prism
Program at all levels.
Personnel Preparation
There was widespread recognition that more core preparation for working with the gifted was needed in
the district for teachers hired to work with the Prism program and their principals. Since it is a fulltime
program, personnel should meet NAGC minimum requirements for working with this special population,
typically 12 semester hours or 18 quarter credits of university coursework.
Moreover, professional development was needed to enhance the service delivery skills of both gifted and
regular classroom teachers. In addition some stakeholder groups, such as the principals and curriculum
coordinators, indicated that they, too, could benefit from a better understanding of who should be
identified as gifted and what interventions are most effective in meeting their needs. Many stakeholders in
the district appeared receptive to understanding gifted education more completely.
Program Effectiveness
All the major stakeholder groups felt that the elementary Prism gifted program in the district lacked a
coherent, integrated program mission and consistent implementation parameters across levels of the
program. They recognized that the program was based on an accelerated model of learning, but they were
concerned about the extent of differentiation used in subject areas, especially math.
A second concern that intersected with this perceived lack of differentiation dealt with poor
communication. Since the elementary Prism program has had little status or attention, there were no
effective channels built in for program staff to communicate with parents nor attention paid to the use of
differentiated assessments beyond the district-wide model.
The middle school Prism Program was perceived as disconnected from the regular district curriculum in
ways that were seen as differentiated in some respects, depending on teacher and subject areas addressed.
Concerns were voiced by parents about the work load required by some teachers in the program.
This situation, i.e., problems with both communication and with program quality, may have spurred the
concern expressed by all parent focus groups except high school about their perception of the district’s
attitude toward gifted students as neutral or negative. Not all parents in these groups shared this
perception, but it was pervasive enough to surface in the data sets. Of course, some of the professional
educators also expressed displeasure at parent’s advocacy for their child’s inclusion in the program. These
22 kinds of comments suggest that both groups might share culpability for this unnecessary and distracting
The qualitative data collection strategy used to gather input from key stakeholders in the system was
effective in yielding insightful information about gifted program issues and concerns. The focus
group/interview component allowed for gathering in-depth knowledge and understanding of program
strengths and limitations as perceived by representatives of all stakeholders in the district. In this
particular district evaluation effort, there were discernible differences in how stakeholder groups
perceived the effectiveness of the identification protocol, but there was remarkable uniformity in
perceptions of the issues around the programs and the regular classroom curriculum in addressing the
needs of gifted learners. In addition, to these two major areas of emphasis, information was gleaned about
overall program considerations, the assessment approaches used, personnel preparation and professional
development, and the short-comings of the programming models in demonstrating measurable
educational benefits to the gifted students served.
Section IV: Classroom Observations
The purpose of classroom observations is to gain firsthand knowledge of the classroom instruction being
provided for gifted learners at all grade levels and across organizational models used to deliver services.
The focus of observations is not on the evaluation of individual teachers but on the prevalence of bestpractice instructional behaviors for advanced students in the classroom. The form used for classroom
observations lists 25 different research-based, best practice instructional strategies. It is not expected that
all instructional behaviors listed on the form will be observed during one observation. Having only 30
minutes per observation captures a snapshot of the overall instructional practices within a classroom. The
program evaluator realizes the limitations of the form and its utilization across a small window of
instructional time. Nevertheless, when multiple classrooms are observed, inferences can be drawn that
support or refute data collected from other strategies such as focus groups and materials review.
To ensure a reasonably representative picture of gifted education in the Bellevue program, the evaluator
observed all Prism classes at elementary and middle school, and selected high school classes. These
included classrooms identified as Elementary Enrichment, Prism, Advanced Placement and International
Baccalaureate classes. Table 1.1 presents the breakdown of observations by level and type of class.
23 Table 1.1: Distribution of Classroom Observations by Grade/Program
Elementary Enrichment
Elementary Prism
Middle School Prism
High School Prism
24 Instrumentation
All observations were documented on the Classroom Observation Scale - Revised (COS-R), a twenty-five
item instrument that has been developed and validated by the Center for Gifted Education at the College
of William and Mary. Before completing this scale, the evaluator first scripted the lesson being observed,
noting the teacher’s instructional behaviors, student responses, sequence and time allocated to lesson
activities, materials used, and grouping arrangements, if applicable. The evaluator (observer) then
completed the COS-R, rating the effectiveness of observed behaviors on a scale of three to one. A 3
signified effective utilization of the behaviors; a 2 was used to code somewhat effective, and a 1 meant
ineffective. If a behavior was not present in the lesson, it was marked as “not observed.” Not observed
ratings were counted as neutral in the overall analysis, meaning that these ratings were not counted
against or for a total observation score. The evaluator spent a minimum of thirty minutes in each
Data Analysis
Descriptive techniques were used to analyze the data from the COS-R. These included percentages and
means for each item. In addition, means were computed for categories of items including: Curriculum
Planning and Delivery, Accommodations for Individual Differences, Problem-Solving Strategies, Critical
Thinking Strategies, Creative Thinking Strategies, and Research Strategies.
Teacher Observations in Elementary Prism
The evaluator spent 30 minutes in each of eight classrooms at Spiritridge, observing the use of
differentiated strategies for the gifted. Evidence of the curriculum materials used in each subject was
strongly in evidence in most classrooms, documenting the use of off-level texts in all areas of the
curriculum. Lessons were seen in Math (2), science (1), language arts (4), and social studies (1). In most
instances, the techniques employed in instruction related to the way the topic was taught in the materials
employed. This was especially true in math. In science, the use of technology was employed to access
websites of importance in students doing of the assignment. No evidence was present for the use of
differentiated models of instruction (eg. Paul's model of Reasoning, The Creative Problem-Solving Model
or others). Small group work was in use in selected classrooms; however, all students were assigned the
same work.
Discussion with the principal suggested that she was working to get the teachers to use the Reasoning
Model and other techniques she had modeled for them. Her perception was they were receptive to her
ideas and willing to try new methods. Teachers in Prism do not have a common planning time but rather
meet with grade-level teams, thus hampering their opportunity for discussing how to incorporate new
Teacher Observations in Middle School Prism
The evaluator spent 35-40 minutes in four middle school classrooms, observing two LA/SS classes, one
in 6th grade only and one operating on the 6-8 cross-graded model, a science biology class for eighth
graders, and a math class for Grades 6-8 in geometry and trigonometry. In one LA/SS class, students
were engaged in writing a story, based on their reading, and critiquing each other's work. In another,
25 students used the Paul model of reasoning to notate a current events article and to write to the author's
purpose. In the biology class, students were engaged in a lab activity called Reebops which illustrates
important understandings about genotype and phenotype variations. Discussion preceded the lab which
was conducted in teams of two. In the geometry-trig class, students were working on problem sets related
to the operation of pulleys. The teacher introduced the concept of pulleys, questioned students about
them, and then had the class begin to work on related problems, requiring them to articulate their
reasoning as well as their answer as she circulated to answer questions and help as needed.
In a discussion with the principal, he indicated his positive impression of both the faculty and the students
in Prism. However, he indicated that parents never seemed happy with the program that articulation was
a problem in respect to differentiation between elementary and middle school, and that curriculum
ownership at the school has interfered with alignment at the high school. He noted that homework varied
from very little to 1-2 hours to 2-3 hours daily, depending on the class and the nature of assignments at
given times.
High School Prism Observations
The evaluator conducted formal observations in three classrooms: pre-calculus mathematics, physics, and
government. She also spoke with the teachers about their program and to selected students as well. In the
English department, she met with the 9th grade GHSP teacher to discuss assignments and review student
products. Teachers viewed their work as accelerated, with a mix of students in respect to age in the same
class doing well with the advanced nature of the classes. In many instances, the younger students were
the most successful with the subject. For students, the key feature of the classes was the opportunity to go
faster and learn more, feeling they were not held back in their learning. Teachers expressed a desire to
learn gifted pedagogy even as they demonstrated high level competence in their respective subject areas
and in the AP and IB program requirements.
Discussions with the high school principal confirmed the impressions gleaned from teachers in respect to
training, competency, and openness to improvement. He also concurred with student perceptions of
opportunities afforded for advanced work not available in classes other than Prism. He presented
evidence of the positive outcomes from the program via AP and IB exam results, showing Interlake
students performing at the top levels in all subject areas.
Enrichment Program Observations
The evaluator observed four Enrichment classes, comprised of 30 minutes each. In three of the
classrooms, the students were engaged in various stages of the World in a Box project. In one classroom,
they were examining their project through the lens of the rubric to be used for assessment; in another, they
were preparing their written commentaries to share, and in the third, parents were present to hear about
the students' projects through asking students to share their boxes in a poster session model. In the fourth
classroom, the focus was on the Archaeology unit to be taught in subsequent weeks. The teacher gave
students four questions to discuss in their groups about what archaeology is, what archaeologists do, and
the skills and jobs they are involved with. An open discussion followed that generated a list of responses
which were all accepted by the teacher.
26 Discussion with one Enrichment program principal suggested that, in her view, the program was
problematic at several levels: in respect to lost instructional time because of busing, lack of connection to
the regular curriculum, activities that kids may enjoy but that are questionable educationally, the need to
share the Enrichment strategies with general education teachers, and the fact that students have to make
up their work from the regular classroom. She would favor a model that increased time and connected
instruction to the regular classroom through stronger differentiation techniques that could be co-taught.
Results by Whole Sample
Of the 19 observations, eight were conducted in the elementary Prism Program, four in the elementary
Enrichment Program, four at the middle school Prism level, and three at the high school Prism level.
Table 1.2 shows the results of these observations on each of the items on the COS-R.
27 Table 1.2: Overall Classroom Observation Results by Frequency and Effectiveness
Set high expectations for student performance
Incorporate activities for students to apply new knowledge
Engaged students in planning, monitoring, or assessing their learning
Encouraged students to express their thoughts
Had students reflect on what they had learned.
Provided opportunities for independent or group learning to promote
depth in understanding content
Accommodated individual or subgroup differences
Encouraged multiple interpretations of events and situations
Allowed students to discover key ideas individually through structured
activities and/or questions.
Employed brainstorming techniques
Engaged students in problem identification and definition
Engaged students in solution-finding activities and comprehensive
solution articulation
Encouraged students to judge or evaluate situations, problems, or
Engaged students in comparing and contrasting ideas
Provided opportunities for students to generalize from concrete data
Encouraged student synthesis or summary of information within or
across disciplines
Solicited many diverse thoughts about issues or ideas
Engaged students in the exploration of diverse points of view to
reframe ideas
Encouraged students to demonstrate open-mindedness and tolerance of
imaginative, sometimes playful solutions to problems
Provided opportunities for students to develop and elaborate on their
Required students to gather evidence from multiple sources through
research-based techniques (e.g., print, non-print, internet, selfinvestigation via surveys, interviews, etc.)
Provided opportunities for students to analyze data and represent it in
appropriate charts, graphs, or tables
Asked questions to assist students in making inferences from data and
drawing conclusions
Encouraged students to determine implications and consequences of
Provided time for students to communicate research study findings to
relevant audiences in a formal report and/or presentation
29 Findings
In regard to the first category related to Curriculum Planning and Delivery, four of the items were
observed in at least 50% of the classrooms. The last item that deals with having students reflect on what
they learned was only observed in 27% of the classrooms. Of some concern, however, in this category is
the quality of the utilization of the instructional behaviors. Particularly notable is the mean score (1.87)
for the third item. This behavior focuses on providing meta-cognitive scaffolding for student performance.
This validates to some extent stakeholder perceptions gathered from focus group data that an emphasis on
meta-cognition is not in evidence across all levels of the program. Similarly, the last item in this category
was also not rated highly. Even when it was observed (only 7 classes), it was not handled as effectively as
it might be.
The behaviors in the second category dealing with Accommodations for Individual Differences were also
in evidence across a majority of classes observed. About three-quarters of the classrooms demonstrated
opportunities to promote depth in understanding content and allowed students to discover ideas through
structured activities or questions. This latter instructional strategy is intended to encourage students to
find meaning for themselves, rather than to parrot back predigested subject matter. Its widespread use is
very positive.
In the category dealing with Problem-Solving Strategies, very little of the behaviors were observed. This
is not unusual as this category is derived from the literature on problem-based learning which is most
often utilized in science instruction. Even so, aspects of it can be adapted to other subject areas, and it is
often a strategy that underlies the development of Enrichment-oriented curriculum. Most classrooms
used the technique of brainstorming and did it effectively.
In the category dealing with Critical Thinking Strategies, three of the four items were observed in twothirds of the classrooms. The fourth item, which dealt with student synthesis of information within or
across disciplines, was less frequently observed and usually in language arts classrooms in Prism.. Of
more concern are the ratings given to two of the four items in terms of effective utilization. The item
dealing with comparing and contrasting ideas, which is a staple of most gifted classroom practice,
received a rating of 1.50. The item dealing with synthesis received a rating of 1.78.
Most of the items in the category on Creative Thinking Strategies were observed in less than 50% of the
classrooms. The most frequently observed item dealt with solicitation of diverse ideas. Although
classrooms did evidence the exploration of viewpoints to reframe ideas and the provision of opportunities
to develop and elaborate these ideas, the mean ratings fell below 2.0.
The final category, Research Strategies, is typically not observed in evaluations of this type. Even though
many classes offer a research component, it is spread out through the course of a grading period so that in
any one day, it is less likely to be observed. There were 3 classes observed that showed some evidence of
research strategies in play. When they were seen, their mean ratings were above 2.0.
Looking at the means generated across each category and comparing them to each other, the mean
category ratings ranged from a high of 2.21 (for the Research Strategies category) to a low of 1.85
30 (Creative Thinking Strategies ). Given that the category means are all less than 2.25 on a scale that climbs
to 3.00, there is room for improvement across all six categories.
Two examples might serve to strengthen this point. The first example is in the area of student research. In
at least two elementary and/or middle school classrooms, gifted students were given the opportunity to do
a research project of their own choosing. All of the examples of projects shared with the evaluator were
topic-based rather than issue-based, and some of the topics were of questionable educational value. While
students do learn important research skills in conducting any kind of self-directed, comprehensive,
investigative, product-oriented work, they can maximize critical thinking skills when the subject matter
requires them to analyze points of view and draw inferences and conclusions from irreconcilable
perspectives. Having students devote time to issues of contemporary merit and concern offers greater
challenge than having them spend weeks studying discrete topics. This should not abnegate student
choice, but student choice should be guided by educational relevance and merit.
The evaluator chose not to disaggregate the item data by grade levels or program type because of the
small sample size. Rather, the observation results should be viewed as a generic look at gifted program
pedagogy in operation. While frequency of certain behaviors was low, of greater interest is the
effectiveness of use for those behaviors noted.
The evaluator believes that the following findings are supported by the classroom observation data.
There is evidence across the gifted programs that a number of instructional strategies that support
learning for gifted students are being used in classrooms.
The extent of use and the effectiveness of application in these classrooms can be improved.
These findings have implications both for selection of personnel to work with gifted students and
for providing training and professional development that will ensure that teachers have the skill
sets they need to work effectively with such learners.
Section V: Review of the Bellevue Gifted Programs in relation to the National Association
for Gifted Children (NAGC) Program Standards
The National Association for Gifted Children established a set of program standards for use by
local school districts in upgrading their programs in 1998. These standards were upgraded in 2010 to
align with new teacher education standards for gifted education. They are divided into six categories
related to planning, implementation, and maintenance of program development indicators. The six
categories are: learning and development, curriculum planning, assessment, learning environments,
programming, and professional development. A simple yes/no framework was used to determine the
status of key indicators within each area assessed. (Appendix A)
31 If the indicator was seen in only one of the programs and/or only at one level, the evaluator checked the
item as a yes and provided commentary in the following section to explain the mixed response. Some
items appeared to be inapplicable to the program or not clear as to the status of the indicator so those
items were left blank with an explanation of why.
Summary results
In the area of learning and development (Standard 1), the district received 5 “yeses” and 8 “nos”. The
areas of deficiency centered around the lack of a counseling program that addressed psycho social needs,
academic planning needs, and career education needs. Moreover, items relating to underachievers, use of
individual data to design programs and work with families on recommendations for their child did not
appear to be at work in the Bellevue programs.
In the area of assessment (Standard 2) the Bellevue District identification approach garnered 8 “yeses”
and 14 “nos”. The district garnered positive marks for using universal screening procedures, multiple
measures, and technically adequate instruments. However, there appeared to be a lack of strong
communication with parents about the assessment system, a lack of using the data for curriculum and
program planning, the absence of learning outcome data being collected and systematically reported, and
the lack of program evaluation occurring annually.
The areas in which the identification system is deficient lie in several indicators found to be critical for
an effective system. One area of deficiency is in the limitations of open nominations from any source for
consideration for the gifted program. After nomination, parents are still required to make the final
recommendation for testing. Moreover, all parents must receive information regarding characteristics of
gifted students and be aided in understanding giftedness, a situation not available in the district. The
second area of deficiency is regarding the use of assessment tools. Assessments must be sensitive to the
needs of underrepresented populations in respect to language and culture. The use of a single ability
instrument where composite data are used does not meet this criterion.
The assessment process should be sensitive to the stages of talent development, and the purposes of the
assessment should be communicated across grades to relevant audiences. Neither of these conditions is
currently met. Another indicator found deficient was the use of one instrument to deny eligibility for
services. Moreover, current guidelines for specific procedures for identification are not articulated in
written form.
In the area of assessment of learning, the Enrichment Program practices met the standard indicators
through the use of portfolios, as did the high school IB program, through the use of standardized
performance-based testing protocols. Neither the elementary or middle school Prism program showed
consistent use of appropriate assessment approaches. None of the programs consistently employ preassessment strategies.
In the area of curriculum planning (Standard 3), the district received 8 “yeses” and 12 “nos”. Positive
responses were given for the use of diverse learning experiences. The district was found deficient in the
areas related to a comprehensive articulated plan for differentiated curriculum across 2-12, for lack of
alignment of the gifted curriculum to the regular curriculum. This alignment would ensure that regular
32 classroom teachers are routinely adapting and modifying curriculum to meet the needs of the gifted in
their classes, and for putting in place acceleration procedures and policies that accommodate needs for
flexible pacing of instruction and subject, and grade skipping.
The areas of deficiency were found to be in the lack of adaptations of the curriculum for special needs
students, the lack of systematized career guidance, the lack of use of differentiated curriculum materials
available for the gifted, and the lack of use of key strategies like pre-assessment and meta-cognition.
In the area of learning environments (Standard 4), the district received 13 “yeses” and 2 “nos”. Two
items were marked N/A due to limited diversity in the program. The program is strong in setting high
expectations for learning, but less effective in teaching specific affective strategies that would help
students with psycho-social growth. An emphasis on leadership skills appeared to be relegated to the high
school IB program. Lack of counseling and guidance services along with outdated policies led to
negative responses on a few items.
In the area of programming (Standard 5), the district received 5 “yeses” and 4 “nos”. One item received
an N/A due to incomplete data on resource allocation equity. The district received credit for offering
programming to all qualified gifted students and for serving students as part of the regular school day.
Grouping practices were noted in a positive way. Use of technology and communication skill
development also received an affirmative response. Budget delineation was seen as satisfactory, although
the extent to which gifted programs receive a fair share of the district budget could not be discerned.
Lack of collaborative planning, engagement of parents, and development of multi-year plans for gifted
students were noted.
The areas of deficiency in programming appear to be in the lack of a clear philosophy and set of goals and
objectives that all district audiences understand and embrace, the lack of connection to the regular school
program, and the lack of school/district policies that cite provisions for gifted students.
The areas of positive response came from the qualifications of the district coordinator who has a master's
degree in gifted education and has shown leadership in respect to the program. While somewhat uneven
based on individual teachers, in general there is ongoing communication between parents and gifted
program staff. There is also evidence of resources and materials being provided to the program upon
formal request.
In the area of professional development (Standard 6), the district received 2 “yeses” and 10 “nos”. The
areas of deficiency in this category include the lack of attention to broad-based awareness of all staff to
the needs of the gifted and required professional development for gifted staff on gifted education. The
area of greatest deficiency rests with the lack of qualification of most of the personnel working in the
program in regard to formal preparation in gifted education and prior experience in working with gifted
students. The teachers in the program fail to have coursework or deep experience in working with these
The district received mostly “nos” in four areas of concern: (1) lack of systematic professional
development sessions for teachers of the gifted; (2) lack of follow-up to professional development; (3)
lack of professional development plans and; (4) lack of district support for professional development.
33 The standard indicators “met” and “not met” by category may be found in Appendix A.
Section VI: Summary of Findings Across Data Sources and by Evaluation Question
This section of the report integrates the findings from each of the data sources across key program and
administrative elements. Not every individual finding may be found in this section of the report; rather the
intent here is to capture major themes and issues that emerged across data sets. These findings are
grouped by category for explanatory purposes. However, each category is a part of a whole picture that
must be understood in its entirety if the program is to be systematically improved.
Finding 1: The identification protocol currently used draws on a rigid, restrictive, and narrow
interpretation of who gifted students are, without consideration for the identification of students in
specific domains of verbal, mathematical, and nonverbal areas, even though the data are available to
disaggregate from existing instruments used.
Finding 2: The emphasis on general intellectual ability is antithetical to the direction currently taken by
the field of gifted education. The field, as represented by the professional organizations (NAGC and CECTAG), endorses identification practices based on both general intellectual ability and specific aptitudes.
Since schools, in fact, deliver educational services through subject matter areas, this dual perspective
aligns with the ways that schools structure and deliver curriculum.
Finding 3: There does not appear to be strong evidence of a written protocol that is widely disseminated,
especially to parents for the district’s policy on the identification of gifted students. The absence of such
documentation fosters inconsistency in the application of protocols and possibly in decision making as
well, distrust of the system, and spurious charges of manipulation by both staff and parents.
Finding 4: No consideration is included in the identification protocol for the inclusion of
underrepresented groups, including low socio-economic learners and minority learners other than Asian.
Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment
Finding 5: The curriculum in Enrichment Program classes is process-oriented, teacher-directed and
developed, and is connected to generalized skill areas such as critical thinking skills, research,
independent study, etc. but not to the regular school curriculum.
Finding 6: While key stakeholder groups see merit in the kinds of learning experiences that gifted
students receive through the Enrichment Program classes, they are rightly concerned with the disconnect
with the regular curriculum at all levels of the system and with the lack of challenge provided to gifted
Enrichment students at the elementary and middle school levels of the system in general education
classes. Classroom observations from the elementary Enrichment program support such concerns.
34 Finding 7: The district’s emphasis on the expansion and the quality of Advanced Placement courses and
the Prism-based International Baccalaureate Program at the high school level is to be lauded. This
emphasis is critical in establishing a climate that supports academic excellence in the district for all
learners as well as for identified gifted students. As the economy has grown more global, our brightest
students are now competing with their intellectual peers in other states and other countries, and the
performance expectations have dramatically increased. The data from Interlake High School is
impressive in its evidence of high performance in both program areas. However, more options that
represent curriculum rigor are needed at lower levels of the high school program.
Finding 8: The elementary Prism program requires a consistent use of differentiated curriculum materials
and accompanying pedagogy in all content areas that are aligned with the district curriculum but
demonstrate appropriate acceleration and Enrichment practices across all levels. The math program needs
special attention to ensure adequate challenge.
Finding 9: Academic planning and college/career preparation are limited in all of the operative gifted
programs in the district. This strand of academic and counseling support needs to occur early in the
program, being initiated no later than at the conclusion of the elementary grade sequence.
Finding 10: The assessment approaches employed to judge performance and progress within the Prism
Program at elementary and middle school levels need to be communicated more effectively to parents.
Individual progress reporting with ideas for improvement need to be incorporated into the assessment
system at key periods during the year for each subject area. Moreover, more appropriate measures for
gifted learners need to be included in the assessments used at elementary levels. The Enrichment Program
staff, while employing appropriate techniques for assessing gifted learners, needs to be more vigilant in
communicating to parents regarding individual student progress.
Organizational Arrangements
Finding 11: There is a lack of advanced and differentiated options available to the Enrichment Program
gifted students at the middle school level, revealing a lack of vertical articulation of course content.
Moreover, there is little evidence that they are receiving any differentiated services in their regular
classrooms at elementary level. Secondary program options at the high school such as AP and IB are
open to these learners if they opt in to them.
Finding 12: The current organization of the Enrichment Program causes undue problems for students in
respect to lost instructional time, logistics of scheduling and transportation, and the need to make up
regular classroom work. Moreover, there is a need for these students to have more time for differentiated
learning in core areas of curriculum, not just in special projects outside of it and for regular classroom
teachers to benefit from the strategies used by Enrichment teachers. Consequently, an alternative model
of organization is proposed, based on these findings.
Finding 13: Identification and service delivery to gifted students are not systematically initiated until
Grade 2 for Prism and Grade 2 for Enrichment. While it is a legitimate concern to not want to mislabel
children at a young age nor to create undue pressure about performance expectations, there are ways to
offer content differentiation that strengthen precocity and appropriately advance, rather than stagnate,
35 learning. Furthermore, the inclusion of such provisions for advanced learners contributes to an orientation
toward academic excellence that should permeate the whole system.
Professional Development
Finding 14: Annual professional development should be required for fulltime personnel working with the
gifted, grounded in the nature of the programs they are delivering and individual growth plans.
Finding 15: The state of Washington does not require special certification or licensure for teachers of the
gifted. It therefore becomes incumbent upon local districts to determine the qualifications that are
necessary in filling positions that deliver services to this population. The nature of the program provided
often intersects with the personnel decisions that are made. This finding is highlighted in order to reveal
the underlying connection between staff qualifications and further professional development. Staff in
positions working with gifted students who are inadequately trained require more comprehensive
professional development. Moreover, criteria for selection of such staff should emphasize preparation
through formal coursework.
Administration and Accountability
Finding 16: There is very little evidence of formal accountability for the services that are provided to
gifted students. Anecdotal evidence suggests much popularity among the students themselves for special
gifted options, but the district should be establishing a barometer of academic performance that goes
beyond client enjoyment and self-report. What are the expectations for students who matriculate through
specially designed services targeted to their advanced aptitude levels? How effective is the system in
meeting such expectations? One source of data is the rich vein of feedback that is provided by the
Advanced Placement and IB programs. This needs to be routinely mined as part of an accountability
Finding 17: The formal administration of the gifted program is a part-time position that reports to the
Executive Director of Exemplary Programs. This decision undermines the quality of the overall program
in any number of ways. It speaks to the program’s lack of priority and status in the whole system. It
obfuscates the need for formal communication mechanisms between staff at all levels. It obviates the need
for deep program accountability. It short-changes opportunities to mobilize parent advocacy and
involvement. It partially explains the absence of consistent district policies on identification, acceleration,
and other program features. Basically it diffuses gifted education as a programmatic area. With the fiscal
concerns and accompanying demands, this is an understandable, but not a worthy choice, for a district
with large numbers of identified gifted learners and others who are promising.
Evaluation Questions and Responses
In addition to the findings that were derived from the data sources and that have become the basis for the
specific recommendations in the next section of this report, the evaluator has crafted responses to the
36 specific questions that were formulated in the proposal to conduct the evaluation process. These responses
are as follows:
1) To what extent is the program being implemented according to stated goals and outcomes?
There is evidence that the elements of the curriculum overview provided in written form for both
Enrichment and Prism are incorporated into the program through the classes. Observation data confirmed
that these were the elements that tended to tie the program together, but they were being implemented
with great unevenness across classrooms and levels of the system. In the Prism elementary program, the
use of non-differentiated materials coupled with typical grade level practices work against the clear
implementation of the stated goals and outcomes. There also was no evidence of a systematic approach to
stating and measuring differentiated program outcomes in the elementary Prism program.
2) To what extent is there evidence of student growth and other benefits as a result of
Evidence of program impact on students is somewhat anecdotal and relies on subjective self-report by
students, parents, and staff. There is no consistent system in place for measuring gifted student growth
over time in the Prism program at elementary and middle school levels while the Enrichment Program
uses portfolios to document growth within an academic year. Parents reported that many of their children
saw the one day a week Enrichment experiences as the highlight of their elementary week. The best
evidence for gifted student performance may be seen in the standardized test results for AP and IB
programs at the high school level. Comparable performance-based measures are not employed at earlier
levels of the program.
3) To what extent is the program perceived to be effective by relevant stakeholders?
The bulk of constituents voiced concerns about key program components when the evaluator inquired
about them. Clearly concerns were registered about the impact of the identification protocols in the lack
of inclusion of underrepresented groups and the lack of clear information about the screening procedures.
Moreover, the disconnect between the Enrichment curriculum and what is offered in regular education
classes at the elementary level was found to be a consistent concern along with logistical issues of
scheduling and transportation for a third of program participants. The lack of differentiation in the
curriculum, instructional processes, and assessment in the elementary Prism program was consistently
voiced by multiple groups as was the homework load in the middle school program along with
unevenness across subject areas in respect to differentiated practices. There is widespread
acknowledgment that the Advanced Placement and IB offerings at the high school level are a feather in
the cap of the district. Lack of vertical articulation was especially evident to several stakeholder groups
including parents.
4) To what extent do the programs meet the standards of best practice in gifted education,
according to the-2010 NAGC program standards?
There is room for much growth in respect to the national standards for practices in gifted education.
Areas of greatest concern are in curriculum, assessment, and professional development practices. Many
37 of the program recommendations flow from the areas of deficiency noted through analyzing this data
5) To what extent do the programs constitute consistent quality across sites and are cost effective?
The quality of the programs was judged to be uneven, depending on level and program type. In many
instances, the quality was also related to the teachers who worked in the program, based on their capacity
to work with gifted learners effectively and their openness to change and flexibility in respect to program
operation. While the Prism programs are highly cost effective, the Enrichment Program is not, given
added costs for personnel and transportation. The high quality aspects of the Enrichment program (ie. Its
use of project-based learning, its focus on critical and creative thinking, and its portfolio model of
assessment) could be transplanted to a cluster group model in each building where gifted students could
benefit from daily differentiated instruction rather than just once per week. Appendix B offers a set of
three options for organizing such a model.
Based on this composite analysis, four areas of the district’s gifted education program demand immediate
attention: identification, organizational arrangements, curriculum, and professional development. All
relevant data sources coalesced around these areas although the pathway to analysis was organic, not
linear. In addition, findings emerged related to the need for program accountability, and the overall
administration of the program.
Section VII: Recommendations
This section of the report contains the recommendations that the evaluator is proposing. These
recommendations, based on the 16 findings cited in the previous section of this report are organized
around the same program development categories probed throughout the study. In this section, the
categories are sequenced to display the internal logic. The last section of the recommendations is
organized by specific suggestions for the Prism elementary, middle, and high school programs. The
elementary Enrichment Program is treated separately in respect to recommendations. This
disaggregation of the recommendations may help stakeholders see the relevance of the findings for each
level and type of gifted program in the district.
The purpose of a well planned identification system is to obtain as complete a picture of students as
possible in order to select those students who will profit most from a differentiated program for gifted
learners. An effective identification process is systematic, comprehensive, and includes consideration of
all students during the screening phase. It should consist of multiple criteria, both objective and
subjective. Since each method has its limitations, a good identification program never relies on a single
assessment technique, but on a wide variety of criterion measures. An effective procedure obtains
information from many sources and scores from formal and informal assessment techniques. The
procedure for identifying gifted students should ideally involve four phases: 1) initial screening and
38 follow-up, 2) second level testing and assessment, 3) comprehensive evaluation and selection process, and
4) placement.
1) The district protocols for identifying gifted students should be revised to establish cut-off score ranges
at the screening level and to consider a broader range of testing data in selecting students who should be
placed for services. Teacher recommendations should be sought, using a technically adequate checklist of
behaviors linked to characteristics of gifted learners in content areas.
2) The district should include students whose profiles show domain-specific talent development levels of
giftedness as well as students with gifted levels of general intellectual ability. Services delivered to these
groups should align with their profiles.
3) Identification protocols should be written down and shared with relevant audiences. As necessary and
relevant to the audience, training should be provided for the implementation of the protocols.
4) The inclusion of instruments and/or procedures for the identification of underrepresented populations
should be articulated in the protocols as the current data suggest that few of these students are selected for
either program.
Organizational Arrangements
While research suggests that cluster, pullout and special class groupings are all effective to enhance the
learning of gifted students, it is also true that cluster grouping models at the elementary level are more
cost effective than pullout approaches, both in the deployment of resources but also in the learning time
accrued for differentiated instruction. Given the concerns raised by stakeholders about the disconnect of
this program to the regular classroom curriculum, the fact that students must make up the work they miss
while participating and the logistics of transportation for a third of these students, it seems prudent to
suggest an alternative organizational model that honors the positive benefits of the program for students
through extending its influence into cluster classrooms designated in each elementary school.
5) While the Enrichment Program has made a strong contribution to the lives of gifted students for a
number of years in Bellevue, this model at the elementary level should be changed in respect to its
organizational delivery for several reasons. First of all, gifted students are gifted every day and deserve
differentiated instruction consistently across their instructional week. Moving to an in-school model
would increase contact time from five hours per week to at least two hours per day. Secondly, the
curriculum for these students should be both content-based and connected to the regular district
curriculum, extending beyond minimum expectations to optimal levels of learning in the common core
areas of reading and math. Thirdly, placing the Enrichment Program in selected school sites allows more
students to participate in the differentiated strategies and activities from which they could benefit. Lastly,
an in-school delivery model would create greater opportunities for more staff to be involved in the
professional development practices of gifted education, another factor that could elevate learning for more
A cluster grouping model should be adopted at each school site. Teachers of students for these classes
would group and regroup students based on domain-specific talent development talents. The students in
the highest reading group might include students who are verbally gifted, but not mathematically gifted.
39 The inverse would be true for mathematics instruction. Over time, the same levels of stratification should
be extended to science and social studies areas. Teachers in the current Enrichment program might
provide support services to cluster classrooms and designated teachers who would need to be trained in
gifted education differentiation practices. The project-based learning, math and science curriculum
materials and other challenging curricula inherent in the current Enrichment program should be
incorporated into the regular classroom delivery for cluster groups.
This recommendation also suggests the importance of establishing a middle school honors or advanced
program for current Enrichment Program students, once they leave the elementary level. Given the
numbers of students in this category, it may be feasible to establish such options at both Odle and a
second middle school.
6) The Prism program at the middle and high school level should target one counselor to focus on
academic planning and college/career preparation. Because the middle school years are critical in
building a sense of one's abilities, aptitudes, interests, and values, the middle school counselor should
work with students and their families to identify student profile data that could aid in making decisions
regarding high school and beyond programs of study. Because the nature of the program at the high
school level has many components, it is essential that these students and their families have important
information about services and important insights into future planning beyond high school. The
counselor should also serve as a liaison to middle school eighth grade parents as well. The designated
counselor should have coursework in the social and emotional development and guidance of gifted
Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment
7) Curriculum in both cluster and Prism classrooms should be more standardized, not exclusively teacherdeveloped, and should draw on research-based materials that are designed to meet the needs of gifted
students. A scope and sequence of curriculum offerings should be developed that highlights the alignment
to the district curriculum and also shows the ways that the gifted curriculum extends beyond proficiency
levels expected for all learners.
8) The district should continue to expand honors and AP /IB options at the high school level as
appropriate for the population served in the district. Additional advanced electives for Prism students
should be developed along with mentorship opportunities. Counselors should encourage students to take
full advantage of these options.
9) Use of more appropriate measures for assessing gifted student learning should accompany the use of
more differentiated materials in the elementary Prism Program. Many of the recommended materials
include pre-post assessment measures that are off-level, focus on higher level thinking and problem
solving, and require students to articulate understanding. These types of assessments need to be routinely
employed in both programs at all levels.
The above changes proposed in the organization model for service delivery should facilitate vertical
articulation of the curriculum across the system. However, this will not happen on its own, and
40 mechanisms must be put into place to ensure that it occurs. The focus needs to be on creating increased
levels of challenge at earlier points in the delivery system, designing down from the level of expectations
required by the hallmark high school programs offered.
Personnel preparation and professional development
10) Teachers hired for the gifted programs in the district should be recruited as broadly as possible to
ensure a background in gifted education, experience in working with gifted learners in relevant models of
delivery that mirror the district models employed, and strong general classroom practices.
11) Existing staff in the program should have the opportunity to earn the national recommended standard
of 12 hours in gifted education, coupled with ongoing professional development opportunities, dictated by
individual teacher needs and curriculum implementation considerations.
12) Professional development needs as they relate to this population of learners should be recognized and
addressed. The response to this concern will vary depending on steps that are taken in regard to the
recommendations cited in the curriculum section, particularly as they relate to organizational changes. For
instance, if the pull out model is retained as it currently exists and classroom teachers continue to bear the
brunt of responsibility for differentiation in heterogeneous settings, the implications for professional
development are profound. If, on the other hand, the numbers of personnel working with gifted students
are reduced, professional development can be tailored on a more individualized basis. However, a strong
focus for the professional development needs to be on curriculum implementation for the gifted.
Particularly, if curriculum materials are adopted for use in these advanced classrooms, teachers must be
trained on how to deliver them effectively.
Administration and Accountability
13) The district should create a position for a full-time coordinator of the gifted program, with
comparable reporting approaches as used now in ELL and Title I. This position would be responsible for
the following kinds of activities:
Creation of written policies and procedures to guide program operation,
Creation and coordination of a professional development plan that would ensure that teachers
working with gifted students have the requisite skills needed to do the job well,
Quality assurance that the curriculum delivered in cluster classrooms and Prism classrooms at
all levels is meeting appropriate standards for content and challenge for gifted learners and
that differentiation is occurring where appropriate even in these settings,
Creation and management of a data base tied to pre-set expectations for program operation
and effectiveness with annual reporting to district administration of results,
Creation and chairing of the district Advisory Committee (parents, teachers, and
administrators) to meet at least monthly during the first year to oversee the implementation
plan for the changes in the program
41 14) The gifted program needs a database that yields information about the level of effectiveness in
meeting the needs of gifted students. This may ultimately require additional off-level testing procedures to
be implemented. It certainly suggests that AP and IB exam data be collected and tracked annually in ways
that allow the district to make inferences about the extent to which students are able to succeed in these
courses, especially in light of the move toward vertical articulation of content for this population of
15) Formal mechanisms for parent involvement and advocacy should be strengthened in the district gifted
programs at all levels. There should also be more feedback to parents on how their child is doing in the
program, based on performance assessments throughout the program year.
The following recommendations represent a concise breakdown of the major recommendations by levels
of the program.
Recommendations for the Elementary Enrichment Program:
1. Establish a cluster grouping model with trained teachers at Grades 2, 3, 4, and 5 (see Appendix B
for options).
2. Use research-based curriculum materials appropriate for gifted learners in all core subject areas.
3. Seek professional development on the differentiated materials to be used.
4. Use gifted Enrichment Program teachers as support personnel for classroom implementation and
----------to collaborate in K-1 classrooms on differentiation activities.
5. Restructure the identification system in a variety of ways such that each school is identifying --------students who are intellectually gifted and academically talented in the core areas of verbal, --------nonverbal, and math areas. Identifying students with specific academic aptitudes in addition to ---------those with intellectual ability could provide the basis for underrepresented groups to be identified.
--------Recommendations for the Elementary Prism Program
1. Design and develop a differentiated framework for learning in each subject area that aligns with
district curriculum but extends beyond it in significant ways in respect to acceleration and
Enrichment approaches. Establish a scope and sequence of outcomes and assessments by subject
area that demonstrate advanced learning expectations.
2. Provide professional development and coursework in gifted education to augment exiting teacher
3. Use research-based differentiated curriculum materials for the gifted. Employ the differentiated
assessment tools developed for each unit as well. A list of such materials may be found in
Appendix E.
42 Recommendations for the Middle School Prism program:
1. Institute an identification system that identifies students in domain-specific talent development
areas and provides follow-up services in special classes or cluster groups for identified
Enrichment Program students and new students identified at this level. Use district-available
diagnostic tools in the core subject areas as a part of the process for identification and establish a
goal of including underrepresented populations.
Appoint one counselor to work with both Prism and Enrichment Program students in respect to
assessment profile data, academic planning, and psychosocial concerns.
Conduct professional development for all staff who work with gifted learners on relevant ---------content pedagogy and gifted education principles. Offer a certificate program in-house for ------teachers interested in working with gifted learners.
Designate a second middle school in the district to serve Prism students as well as ---------------Enrichment Program students in the model described above.
Align the Prism curriculum to the district curriculum, demonstrating the ways in which the
curriculum is similar yet varies and extends the learning of Prism students. Develop scope and
sequence charts that demonstrate the use of integrated learning and differentiation across Grades
6-8 and link to the AP and IB models to be employed at the high school level.
Recommendations for the High School program:
1. Honors and AP/IB classes should continue to be encouraged and expanded for gifted and high
achieving populations. They should be perceived as an important part of the high school options
for gifted learners in the district. Attention to upgrading elective and non-Prism classes in which
these students participate should be undertaken.
AP and IB performance and trend data should be examined in relation to the assignment of staff
and viability of given courses.
3. High school staff working with honors, gifted IB and AP should be trained in gifted education
pedagogy through either a certificate program or targeted professional development that links the
gifted pedagogy to subject-specific best practices.
4. A counselor should be assigned to the gifted program students at Interlake who is trained in the
social and emotional development of these students and effective at planning programs, college
and career opportunities for them.
43 Summary
These recommendations suggest some substantial changes in the operation of the gifted program in the
Bellevue School District. To this end, the evaluator suggests some caution in the decisions to move ahead
on them in the absence of opportunities for discussion and clarification by key stakeholders. Sharing of
this report and its recommendations with all stakeholders who participated in the data collection efforts
should be the first step in the follow-up process, coupled with developing a plan of action.
44 A Bibliography of Topical Readings on Differentiation for the Gifted
Prepared by Joyce VanTassel‐Baska, EdD. College of William and Mary Acceleration and ability grouping Hany, E. & Grosch, C. (2007) Long term effects of Enrichment summer course on the academic performance of gifted adolescents. Educational Research and Evaluation, 13, 6, 521‐537. Neihart, M. (2007) the socioaffective impact of acceleration and ability grouping: Recommendations for best practice. Gifted Child Quarterly, 51, 4, 330‐341. Noble, K., Vaughan, R., Chan, C., Childers, S. et al. (2007) Love and work: the legacy of early university entrance. Gifted Child Quarterly, 51, 2, 152‐166. Swiatek, M. (2007) The talent search model: Past, present and future. Gifted Child Quarterly, 51, 4, 320‐329. Cognitive characteristics of the gifted Coleman, L. J. (2004). Is consensus on a definition in the field possible, desirable, necessary? Roeper Review, 27, 10–11. Gagné, F. (2004). Transforming gifts into talents: The DMGT as a developmental theory. High Ability Studies, 15, 119–147. Renzulli, J. S. (2002). Emerging conceptions of giftedness: Building a bridge to the new century. Exceptionality, 10(2), 67–75 Sternberg, R. J., & Davidson, J. E. (Ed.). (2006). Conceptions of giftedness. New York: Cambridge University Press. Identification of the gifted Feldhusen, J. F. (Ed.). [Special Issue] (1987). Gifted Child Quarterly, 31(4). The IQ controversy [Special Issue]. (1986). Roeper Review, 8(3). Johnsen, S. K. (Ed.). (2004). Identifying gifted students: A practical guide. Waco, TX: Prufrock Press. 45 Lohman, D. F. & Lakin, J. (2008). Nonverbal strategies as one component of an identification
stystem: Integrating ability, achievement, and teacher ratings. In J. VanTassel-Baska
(Ed.), Alternative assessments with gifted and talented students (pp. 41-66). Waco, TX:
Prufrock Press Inc.
Olszewski-Kubilius, P. & Kulieke, M. J. (2008). Using off-level testing and assessment for gifted
and talented students. In J. VanTassel-Baska (Ed.), Alternative assessments with gifted
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51 Assessment of Gifted Students and Program Evaluation Avery, L. D., & VanTassel‐Baska, J. (2001). Investigating the impact of gifted education evaluation at state and local levels: Problems with traction. Journal for the Education of the Gifted, 25, 153–176. Avery, L. D., VanTassel‐Baska, J., & O’Neill, B. (1997). Making evaluation work: One school district’s experience. Gifted Child Quarterly, 41, 124–132. Moon, T., Brighton, C. Callahan, C. & Robinson, A. (2005) Development of authentic assessments for the middle school classroom. Journal of Secondary Gifted Education, 16, 2/3, 119‐133. Purcell, J. H., Burns, D. E., Tomlinson, C. A., Imbeau, M. B., & Martin, J. L. (2002). Bridging the gap: A tool and technique to analyze and evaluate gifted education curricular units. Gifted Child Quarterly, 46, 306–338. Reid, C., Romanoff, B., Algozzine, B., & Udall, A. (2000) An evaluation of alternative screening procedures. Journal for the Education of the Gifted, 23, 378–396. Revital, T. & Miedijensky, S. (2005) A model of alternative embedded assessment in a pull‐out Enrichment program for the gifted. Gifted Education International, 20, 166‐186. VanTassel‐Baska, J. (2002). Assessment of gifted student learning in the language arts. Journal of Secondary Gifted Education, 13, 67–72. VanTassel‐Baska, J. & Stambaugh, T. (Eds.) (2008). What works: 20 years of curriculum development and research for advanced learners. Williamsburg, VA: Center for Gifted Education. Available online at VanTassel‐Baska, J., Quek, C. & Feng, A. (2007). Developing structured observation scales for instructional improvements in classrooms accommodating gifted learners. Roeper Review, 29(2), 84‐92. Van Tassel‐Baska, J. ed. (2007) Assessment of Gifted Students. Waco, TX: Prufrock Press. VanTassel‐Baska, J. (2002). Considerations in evaluating gifted programs. Gifted Education Communicator, 33(2), 20‐24. Implementing Programs through Professional Development and Policy Garet, M. S., Porter, A. C., Desimone, L., Birman, B. F., & Yoon, K. S. (2001). What makes professional development effective? Results from a national sample of teachers. American Educational Research Journal, 38(4), 915–945. Gentry, M., & Keility, B. (2004). Rural and suburban cluster grouping: Reflections on staff development as a component of program success. Roeper Review, 26, 147–155. Gubbins, E. J., Westberg, K. L., Reis, S. M., Dinnocenti, S. T., Tieso, C. L., & Muller, L. M., et al. (2002). Implementing a professional development model using gifted education strategies with all students. (Report RM02172). Storrs: University of Connecticut, National Research Center on the Gifted and Talented. Guskey, T. R. (2000). Evaluating professional development. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press. Guskey, T. R. (2002). Does it make a difference? Evaluating professional development. Educational Leadership, 59(6), 45‐51. Guskey, T. R. (2002). Professional development and teacher change. Teachers and Teaching: Theory and Practice, 8(3/4), 381‐391. Matthews, D. & Foster, J. (2005). A dynamic scaffolding model of teacher development: The gifted education consultant as catalyst for change. Gifted Child Quarterly, 49(3), 222‐230. Swanson, J. (2007) Policy and practice: a case study of gifted education policy implementation. Journal for the Education of the Gifted, 31, 2, 131‐164. Internet strategies Johnson, A. (2008) Internet strategies for gifted students. Gifted Child Today,31, 2, 58‐64. Besnoy, K. (2006) How do I do that? Integrating web sites into the gifted education classroom. Gifted Child Today, 29, 1, 28‐34. Appendix A: Analysis of Bellevue Program by NAGC Program Standards
Appendix B: Comparison of Research-Based Grouping/Programming Models for Use at
Elementary Level
Each model would need to respond to the following criteria:
-A minimum number of contact hours for gifted students to work together in an identifiable differentiated
program of study, preferably on a daily basis.
-A school-based approach that is connected to the core curriculum but extends beyond it for identified
-A model that could include more students from low income and underrepresented minority populations
in at least one domain of service.
-A model that would engage more teachers in training in gifted education pedagogy for use in their
classrooms with gifted and other students as well. Model #1 Description
Subject Area Grouping for Differentiation requires students to be identified and programmed for in their
domain-specific talent development area (s) of aptitude. It requires that teachers differentiate in
reading/language arts, math, and spatial abilities on a daily basis for identified students.
-The model is consistent with research on domain-specific talent development abilities and would include
more students in the program by using the criterion of identification in one or more areas for qualification.
It also would pick up more low income and minority students for program inclusion.
-The model would ensure evenness of services across the three most prominent areas of the elementary
-The program would be building-based, reducing the need for time and cost spent in transport for a third
of the students.
-The program could be organized differently by building. Some principals may want to use a pullout time
daily for the classes; others may want to have instruction occur across grades; still others would prefer an
in-class delivery model in selected classrooms.
-This model requires elementary staff to be strong in a content area and trained in gifted education
-This model would increase the numbers of students served in the programs substantially by school.
-This model would require great flexibility in building schedules to ensure accommodation in the three
areas of the curriculum.
This model provides the potential for improving both the identification and curriculum aspects of the
program at the same time. Moreover, it would potentially involve more staff in delivering the gifted
program in buildings. Current Enrichment program staff would need to be integrally involved in
transitioning to this model.
Model #2 Description
Cluster grouping requires that identified gifted students receive differentiated instruction in an assigned
grade level classroom daily in relevant curriculum areas, including interdisciplinary project work.
-Students receive regular instruction at their level in multiple subject areas.
-Gifted learners and promising learners may be served in the same classroom.
-Students do not need to leave their assigned school to receive services.
-The curriculum base for gifted learners is an extension of the core curriculum for all.
-The use of project-based learning and special materials use, hallmarks of the Enrichment program, can
be superimposed on the core curriculum for these students.
-Requires cluster teachers to be trained in gifted education.
-Requires clear decisions on differentiating within the class for the needs of individual learners, given the
broader range of learners.
-Requires strong building leadership to ensure fidelity of implementation.
This model responds to most of the concerns voiced about the Enrichment program—disconnected from
the regular curriculum, troublesome logistics in respect to scheduling and busing, and lack of
understanding of the program. The current Enrichment Program staff would need to be involved in
assisting cluster teachers in working on various aspects of a differentiated curriculum, including project
Model #3 Description
This model would transplant the special project emphases of the current Enrichment program to each
school, using the current Enrichment Program staff as experts in gifted education and providing them with
time and space to extend the regular core curriculum with the identified gifted students on a regular
schedule to be determined. Students would be pulled out to attend the Enrichment work.
-Makes the minimum changes in the program other than making it school-based and connected to the core
-Provides for project-based learning done by experts in gifted education pedagogy
-Limits disruptions in the lives of the identified gifted population in respect to learning time.
-The model still makes communication difficult between regular classroom teachers and the gifted
-The model does not require regular classroom teachers to become more skilled in working with the
-The model would require more personnel resources to staff the pullout in each school than is currently
This model would be the easiest to change to as it takes away nothing from the current model but
amplifies its capacity for impact by being connected to the core curriculum. Enrichment specialists in this
model could be spending some portion of time each week doing professional development in targeted
buildings, especially related to differentiation of content in the regular classroom. Collaboration with
media specialists on project work would also allow for more and richer resources to be brought to bear on
project work.
Appendix C: Classroom Observation Scale (COS-R)
Appendix D: Bellevue School District Focus Group and Interview Questions 1. What is your overall perception of the gifted programs in Bellevue School district?
2. To what extent do you think the identification system used is effective?
3. To what extent do you think the curriculum offered is a good match to the abilities
and needs of the gifted learners in the district?
4. To what extent are the teachers well-qualified and effective in their instructional
approaches with gifted learners?
5. To what extent is (are) the assessment approach (es) used within the gifted program
appropriate to gauge beneficial learning from program participation.
6. How effective is the communication system employed in reaching all stakeholder
groups (eg. parents, other teachers, administrators, etc.)?
7. What do you see as the major strengths of each program? Weaknesses?
Appendix E: A Matrix of Research-based Gifted Curriculum Resources by Subject
and Grade Level Cluster
 Everyday Math
 TIMS (Teaching Integrated
 TOPS (Techniques of Problem
 NCTM Navigating Through ..
 M2, M3 (K. Gavin et al.)
 William and Mary Unit: Spatial
Math Beyond Base Ten
Everyday Math
NCTM Navigating Through..
 Connected Math
 M3 (Kathy Gavin)
 William and Mary units:
Beyond Base Ten and Spatial
 Transitions Math
 Mathematics, A Human
Endeavor (H. Jacob)
 NCTM Navigating Through..
 William and Mary unit:
Spatial Reasoning
 College of William and Mary
Social Studies Units
 Touchpebbles
 College of William and Mary
Social Studies Units
 MACOS (Man: A Course of
 Voyage of the Mimi
 College of William and
Mary Social Studies Units
 Contemporary Perspectives
(Greenhaven Press)
 Discovering
Geometry: An Induc
tive Approach
 NCTM Navigating
Through…. series
 Twists and Turns
and Tangles in Math
and Physics
 AP/IB Syllabi in
Calculus and
Probability and Statistics
 College of William
and Mary Social
Studies Units
 PBLISS (Gallagher)
 Contemporary
(Greenhaven Press)
AP/IB Syllabi in America
History, Psychology,
Economics, European
History, World History,
Human Geography
 College of William and Mary
Language Arts Units
 College of William and Mary
Navigator Novel Study Guides
 Junior Great Books
 Jacob’s Ladder (W&M)
 College of William and Mary
Language Arts Units
 College of William and Mary
Navigator Novel Study Guides
 Philosophy for Children
 Junior Great Books
 Jacob’s Ladder (W&M)
College of William and Mary Science Units (Clarion)
FOSS (Full Option Science System)
GEMS (Great Explorations in Math and Science)
Insights: A Hands-on Elementary Science Curriculum
Science for Life and Living
 College of William and
Mary Language Arts Units
 College of William and
Mary Navigator Novel Study
 Junior Great Books
 Jacob’s Ladder (VT-B
 College of William
and Mary LA Units
 College of William
and Mary Navigator
Novel Study Guides
 Conversations:
Readings for Writing
 AP/IB Syllabi
 College of William and
Mary Science Units (PBL)
 FAST (Foundational
Approaches in Science
 Middle School Life Science
 BSCS (Biological
Sciences Curriculum
 Modeling
Instruction in Physics
 AP/IB Syllabi