Henrico’s Gifted Local Plan expires in June 2021. The plan will undergo a comprehensive review by our stakeholders and a rewrite of selected sections by our staff. To frame that work, HCPS Gifted Programs will continue to align work outlined in our Destination 2025 strategic plan to ensure measurable goals and metrics are implemented throughout the five year term of the new HCPS Gifted Education Local Plan.
In the creation of 2021-26 Gifted Local Plan, VDOE’s report, “Navigating EdEquity, Virginia’s Roadmap to Equity” will be used. This framework establishes education equity priorities and provides tools and resources to local school divisions to dismantle inequity in Virginia’s public education system, including advanced academic programs. The five keys to ensuring equity in gifted and advanced programs include:
- Identifying barriers.
- Establishing goals.
- Expanding opportunities.
- Expanding eligibility.
- Supporting student success.
These equity keys, HCPS Equity Audit recommendations, VDOE technical review feedback, stakeholder feedback, and current HCPS student data will steer Henrico’s Gifted Local Plan in the refinement of goals and objectives as we shape our gifted program to reflect the values and demographics of Henrico County.
This year, clear and consistent communication has been one of our top priorities as we reach out to staff, parents and community members with gifted programming information. A division messaging approach and platform has greatly improved outreach to our families. That partnered with a centrally designed consistent timeline was the driving force in a noticeable decrease in missed program and service deadlines in 2020-21.
Online Parent FAQ documents, virtual information night sessions for gifted programming, Bridge Builders Academy sessions, recorded videos on advanced academic programs, gifted identification timelines, and continual updates to the HCPS gifted website information were undertaken to support communications to families.
Professional learning for gifted resource teachers, school leaders, and instructional staff will be aligned with the book, “Seeing and Serving Underserved Gifted Students,” a book study topic for gifted programs staff. Educators will learn to recognize the strengths of underserved gifted learners; become aware of their implicit biases and the effects on their teaching; create a culturally responsive learning environment; provide high quality, challenging instruction; advocate for underserved gifted students at the school and division levels; and understand the academic, social and emotional needs of underserved gifted students. The foundational principles within the book are critical for the development of our local plan.
Another component of Henrico’s gifted program that has been aligned with the school year is curriculum. Starting with a summer curriculum checklist aligned with that of the HCPS Teaching, Learning and Innovation Department, elementary gifted resource teachers have constructed a viable curriculum over the course of past six months that is being implemented throughout Henrico’s 46 elementary schools.
Gifted Programs staff recognized that they needed to ensure equity and quality of instruction in all HCPS buildings. As result, a common curriculum template was designed for gifted instruction which was reflective of HCPS’ gifted instructional goals. Rigorous thematic units by grade level were in turn coordinated and constructed by teams of elementary gifted resource teachers.
During the summer of 2020, the Gifted Young Scholars Academy staff, along with coordinators, began a concept-based curriculum writing mission for gifted middle school students. These crosscurricular units included best practices for gifted learners, unique content experiences, and real world connections and discussion, as well as the integration of social and emotional learning.
While gifted education typically focuses on the “all-around gifted” student, not all high ability students are gifted in every subject. HCPS does identify students in specific aptitudes, knowing that students have specific areas of strength in which their ability is significantly above the norm for their age, but other areas where they are may not be as strong.
Talent development focuses on developing students’ specific areas of talent. Talent development enables schools to cast a wider net and provide services to more students who have needs beyond the general curriculum.
Part of the work we will do as a staff and community is reexamine our own advanced academic pathways and consider new ways to reach students and build our talent pool. A pre-K talent development model is one possible way to add enrichment services for our youngest students, to develop their academic identities, and support our students with potential.
A working group of Henrico educators and parents met as a focus group to discuss the possibilities of pre-K enrichment and an exploratory launch was planned in fall 2021 for selected classrooms. Our goal is to expand these talent development options and services to additional pre-K classrooms in coming years.
The premise of response lessons is to elicit student responses to critical and creative thinking lesson activities. Lessons are for all students and may be taught by the classroom teacher or gifted resource teacher, or both in a co-teaching model. We are excited to use these as job-embedded coaching for our teachers to help better understand and identify giftedness in our students.
The first round of lessons were recently shared with staff this quarter in an exploratory launch. Schools have the option of using these amazing lessons and giving gifted department staff feedback. The goal of this new initiative is to one day provide all students with a level of gifted service and enrichment. Lessons include: detailed plans for the teacher, “look for’s” for students with potential and characteristics of underrepresented students including African American, English learners, and twice-exceptional students.
Lessons also include student response templates, single-point rubrics, and slideshow/Seesaw media for the lesson itself. Critical and creative thinking strategies are featured in each lesson that are rooted in HCPS’ Deeper Learning model that extends and enriches the HCPS curriculum for all learners. Student responses to the lessons may also be used to collect work sample evidence of advanced academic potential in order to ensure equity and increase access to advanced academic programs and the gifted identification process.