Discovery Programming-Meeting the Needs of High Ability Learners
Over the past three years, the Wyckoff School District has been researching best practices in meeting the needs of high ability students. In 2013-14, a Steering Committee was formed made up of Board of Education members, administrators, teachers and parents. In June 2014, the committee presented its findings and recommendations to the Board of Education. During the 2014-15 school year, programming was expanded beyond the existing pullout WEL program in grades 3 - 5. At the elementary schools, an additional teacher was hired to support meeting the needs of high ability students in grades K-2. In grades 6 and 7, a full year WEL course was replaced with a trimester course so identified students could benefit from additional electives such as Robotics and Digital Publishing.Beginning in 2015-2016, Discovery Programming encompassed the continuum of services that the district provides for all high ability learners. These services will include the curricular adaptations and modifications provided in the regular classroom as well as the small group programs offered to identified students. One teacher will support grade K-2 teachers in meeting the needs of high ability learners while another teacher will support grade 3-5 teachers. Both provide a weekly pullout program to students identified through a combination of CogAT (a Cognitive Ability Assessment administered to all 3rd and 5th graders, and Kindergarten, 1st and 2nd graders, as needed), standardized tests, academic achievement and teacher nominations. Several Eisenhower Middle School teachers will continue to offer a Wyckoff Extended Learning course for identified students in grades 6-8.Discovery Programming for high ability students is based on research and curriculum development by leading experts in the field of gifted education. It provides opportunities for students to explore their intellectual, creative and artistic gifts and talents within the classroom and with beyond-the-classroom experiences. It is our responsibility to provide students with educational alternatives that teach, challenge, and expand their knowledge, while stressing the development of independent and self-directed learners who continuously generate questions, analyze, synthesize, and evaluate information and ideas.The Wyckoff Discovery Programming fosters a love of learning where a student's passion can be explored. Students are not labeled as gifted or not gifted, but their academic abilities, needs, and interests are identified in order to provide appropriate opportunities to help them develop into lifelong learners. Wyckoff Discovery Programming is committed to a model that values differentiated instruction where classroom teachers work to modify instruction, content, and assessment to match student ability level. To that end, the gifted specialists work with classroom teachers to provide additional support for students with high-abilities. In addition, Discovery Programming provides enrichment opportunities that go beyond the classroom for all students to explore their interests.
Discovery Programming also addresses the unique social and emotional needs of gifted children by promoting self-understanding, awareness of needs and cognitive and affective growth. Students may work in groups outside of class to further this growth as determined by their interests, abilities and needs. The intent of all Discovery programming is to honor the "whole child, every child" in developing student competencies that forge lifelong learners.