BGPS Aspire Program Benefits Highly Capable Students
November 14, 2015
aspire verb \ə-ˈspī(-ə)r\
: to want to have or achieve something
Three third grade boys focused on the monitor of the Chromebook computer in front of them. One boy placed his hands on the keyboard and deftly typed a few words. Together, the third graders worked to revise "The Animal Defense Convention," a script jointly written by third and fourth graders in Captain Strong Primary's Aspire magnet program for highly capable students. Upon the script's completion, the students would present it as part of a Readers Theater project to their parents and other students.
The BGPS Aspire Program provides accelerated learning opportunities in an intellectually stimulating environment that strives to explore academic subjects at an advanced level to meet students' learning needs. Highly capable students are identified as the top 3 to 5 percent of the student population based on testing that looks for kids who intuitively jump to the correct answer with very little instruction.
Battle Ground Public Schools offers Aspire Program testing to students once each year. For the first time, the testing will be available to all grades (K-12). This year's deadline to nominate students for the testing is approaching: Nov. 18 for kindergartners and Dec. 5 for first through 12th graders. The testing takes place in December for kindergartners and January and February for other grades. Parents can nominate their children for testing, and teachers can recommend students for testing; however, parents must give their permission to have their children tested.
The BGPS Aspire Program is critical to the well-being of highly capable students. "The myth is that the gifted students can take care of themselves because they are smart," said Jill Smith, Battle Ground Public Schools' executive director of federal programs and instructional support services. "They have needs. They can get bored and frustrated. Most of them come into class already knowing 40 percent of the content at their grade level." Some students can be gifted and still have learning or other disabilities. Many have alternative learning styles that are not met in a regular classroom experience.
State law requires districts to provide highly capable services, and BGPS receives state funding to provide some of these services to the top 2.78 percent of students. Other funds that pay for highly capable services come from levy dollars, grants, and state-provided basic education funds. BGPS currently has 617 students enrolled in its Aspire Program.
BGPS has two Aspire Program options. The magnet option for third through eighth graders brings Aspire students from all over the district to Captain Strong Primary and Chief Umtuch Middle schools, where the students are in classes comprised of highly capable students at the same grade level and with teachers who specialize in the education of gifted students. The cluster option is available for kindergarten through 12th grade at every school, where groups of highly capable students are placed in regular classrooms, also with trained teachers.
About half of the students who test into Aspire choose the magnet option, and the other half stay in the cluster option at their home school. It's also possible for a student to be gifted in one area of learning, such as math, but not another. These students usually choose the cluster option where it is easier for the teacher to provide learning opportunities specific to students' needs in one subject area.
The benefits of the Aspire Program are many. Not only are students grouped with like-minded peers, but their learning is accelerated and individualized. The acceleration often occurs because teachers can eliminate concepts the students already know and avoid unnecessary repetition, providing more time to introduce other concepts and add levels of complexity to what students are taught.
More information, including the Aspire assessment process, program options, and nomination materials, are on the district website at http://www.battlegroundps.org/district/aspire-advanced-placement.
Aspire Testing Nomination Deadline Approaches
Parents must nominate students to be tested for the Aspire Program in Battle Ground Public Schools. A nomination packet is available online or from school offices. Parents must turn in nomination packets by Nov. 18 for kindergartners and by Dec. 5 for first through 12th graders. All nominated students are tested, and students can be tested the next year if they don't initially test into the program. Testing begins Dec. 1 for kindergartners, in January for first and second graders, and in February for third through 12th graders. Testing is administered over two mornings. The CogAT cognitive abilities test assesses verbal and non-verbal reasoning skills. The IOWA Assessment evaluates students' reading and math skills.