SCHOOLS: Middle School to Implement Cluster Concept for "Gifted, Talented Students"
Middle School Principal Steven Silverman updated the School Committee on implementing a Cluster Grouping concept which was part of a pilot program in the seventh grade this year. Silverman's report was presented at the April 24 School Committee meeting.
Cluster Grouping refers to grouping students together who are identified as "gifted and talented." Students who are grouped together in this manner are then placed in a regular classroom with other students where there is a wide-range of abilities.
This pilot program will be expanded next year to include the fifth grade and Silverman noted that eventually all four grades at the Middle School will have clustered grouping. Approximately 200 fourth grade students already have been tested and approximately 13 have been identified as qualifying for placement in a gifted and talented cluster.
Silverman said the seventh grade pilot program was going well so far and that a complete report will be prepared at the end of the school year. He noted that teachers have found the program to be very beneficial and staff are planning to meet with parents of children in the cluster group to obtain their feedback.
The test given to incoming fifth graders is called Naglieri Non-Verbal Ability Test (NNAT) and according to staff involved in the cluster grouping, it can determine if a student is gifted and talented. The test is a matrix-reasoning test composed of diagrams and shapes that form patterns. In implementing the cluster grouping program, teachers who will have cluster classroom have attended workshops on coordinating varying curriculums for such a classroom.
School Committee members had several questions in regards to the program. Member Leslie Lathrop asked if there was any push-back from parents whose children didn't score high enough to qualify for placement in a cluster group. Lathrop also asked if the administration plans to talk with parents of children not in cluster grouping to get their feedback on the program.
School Committee member Jon Sjoberg said while the curriculum for cluster grouped students is aimed at challenging the student - is there a similar effort made to challenge the non-cluster group of students. Silverman assured the Committee that the curriculum will challenge all students and noted that non-cluster students also benefit from cluster grouping of students.
School Committee member John Giger wanted to know if students who didn't score high enough on the test to qualify would be able to take it again the following year.
Silverman responded that the test is given only once and it was a, "One shot deal." Superintendent of Schools Anthony Bent said the program is something the District will monitor as it moves forward.