Gifted and Talented Manual
Union City Board of Education
Department of Student Services
Gifted and Talented Education Manual
Silvia T. Abbato, Superintendent of Schools
3912 Bergen Turnpike
Union City, New Jersey 07087
TABLE OF CONTENTS
- Introduction: Gifted and Talented Education in Union City
- Identification Procedures
- Continuum of Services
- Considerations for English Language Learners and students with IEP’s/504 Plans
- Programming Standards
- Teacher Preparation and Training
- Complaint Procedures
NJ Administrative code 6A:8-3.1 defines students who are gifted and talented as those who possess or demonstrate high levels of ability in one or more content areas when compared to their chronological peers in the local district and who require modification of their educational program if they are to achieve in accordance with their capabilities. The Union City Board of Education has demonstrated a long-time commitment to the education of gifted and talented learners dating back to 1978 when an entire elementary school was created for this purpose. Over the years, the program has grown and changed with the times, and has blossomed into a two-time, nationally recognized Blue Ribbon School with more than double the original enrollment. In 2019 the district took measures to expand gifted and talented programming to the secondary level with the creation of a specialized STEM focused high school, and to English Language Learners through a district-wide program called D.A.L.E., which promotes the values of discovery, aspiration, leadership and excellence. All D.A.L.E. programs are conducted in Spanish, which is the native language for a large number of Union City students and their families. To support the growth of diverse GT programs, the Union City Board of Education will continue to provide relevant, high quality professional development to staff to enhance their delivery of instruction. In addition, training will continue to be provided to parents so they can best support their children at home.
The Union City Board of Education begins to identify students for the gifted and talented program when they are in kindergarten. The process begins in March, and all district schools are invited to nominate candidates who demonstrate qualities and characteristics of giftedness as outlined by the National Association of Gifted Students. Teachers, school administrators and parents may make the nomination and apply on behalf of the child. Multiple measures of assessment are used to determine appropriate placements. Historical educational data is also furnished by the school including, when appropriate to the grade level, report cards, district assessment results, diagnostic reading scores, standardized test results and a teacher observation checklist. The Teacher Observation Checklist is completed by the current year teacher who checks off the qualities and characteristics of giftedness the child most frequently displays in the classroom setting. A committee of trained, experienced gifted and talented instructors reviews the applications and conducts interviews with the students. During the interview, students engage in activities in which they demonstrate their reading, mathematical and critical thinking skills. In addition, they present a portfolio of their best work which includes a written introduction about who they are, writing samples, artwork and any other personal selections they feel most proud to share. If a student possesses a special talent, the interview period provides them with an opportunity to showcase their talents before the committee. Points are awarded for each individual component of the application process including: Academic Performance, Letters of Recommendation, Teacher Observation Checklist, Student Interview and Student Portfolio.
Continuum of Services
Students scoring above 80% in all areas and who show giftedness in more than one area are further considered for admission to Sara M. Gilmore Academy, the full-day, district-wide gifted and talented program. Students who show giftedness in at least one area who are not selected for admission to Sara M. Gilmore Academy may participate in specialized honors courses in their home schools. In the elementary grades, identified students follow an enriched version of the regular district curriculum as well as attend specialized elective courses called Multiple Intelligence Arts Domains (MIADS) to foster creativity and critical thinking. At the Middle School Level, these students move on to rigorous honors sections of grade-level courses which prepare them with pre-high school experiences. Admission to Jose Marti STEM Academy follows a similar application and interview process, however, students who have been previously identified through their middle schools for gifted and talented programming are typically selected provided they demonstrate a pattern of continued success in their placement. Students who are not admitted to Jose Marti STEM Academy but demonstrate giftedness in a particular subject area are considered for placement in Honors or Advanced Placement courses in Union City High School.
To supplement GT services that are provided during the regular school day, multiple additional enrichment opportunities are available for high achieving students. The district engages in partnerships with local colleges and universities so that students can enroll in pre-college programs, oftentimes earning college credits while in high school. Summer programs and weekend programs supplement the general curriculum, while offering valuable, hands-on research based learning experiences.
District-developed STEM Camps and Arts Electives provide GT electives to meet the wide range of interests and talents of students. Arts- partnerships with organizations such as Ballet Hispanico, Carnegie Hall, Dancing Classrooms and the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center help to cultivate creativity and critical thinking through a focused, arts-integrated approach to the delivery of instruction at the elementary level.
At the secondary level, partnerships with The American Chemical Society and other prestigious organizations prepare students for college and career while stimulating their higher order thinking skills through authentic research studies.
At all levels, the district continues to evolve its GT Programming to expose students to important current issues and innovative learning opportunities. Administrators consistently reflect on the strengths and challenges of existing plans, and modify partnerships and programs to best suit the needs and interests of students.
Considerations for English Language Learners and Students with IEP’s/504’s
The Union City School District is home to over 4,000 students who are designated as “English Language Learners.” Often, these students arrive in our country and our schools mid-year, so the same information that is readily available for our other students is not in place for these students to help guide the identification process. To ensure that we are providing appropriate GT opportunities for our English Language Learners, a program called D.A.L.E. was started in 2019. Through D.A.L.E., the Bilingual Coordinators at each school work with department supervisors and administrators from the Gifted and Talented program to identify English Language Learners who exhibit qualities and characteristics of giftedness using the Teacher Observation Checklist. The school level coordinators provide additional enrichment and support for these students who then go on to participate in district-level convocations and learning experiences with similarly identified students from other schools. All content of these activities is presented in Spanish. From 2019 to 2020, the program was able to expand to include 30% more students.
Students with Special Needs or 504 Assistance Plans who exhibit characteristics of giftedness in one or more areas are eligible to apply for admission to Sara M. Gilmore Academy and Jose Marti STEM Academy. Certified Special Education instructors are on staff to support the goals/objectives outlined in students’ IEP’s and assistance plans. In addition, a CST Case Manager is on-site part-time to follow-up on implementation of plans. All related services such as speech therapy, occupational therapy and counseling are made available on-site as prescribed in IEP’s.
The enriched educational program for gifted and talented pupils may consist of additional classroom studies and assignments, specialized electives and summer programs, information provided for in the curriculum framework developed by the New Jersey Department of Education, and programs of study offered through partnerships with the Hudson County Gifted and Talented Consortium, colleges and universities, and a host of professional arts and science organizations.
Learning and Development are enhanced through ongoing efforts to promote self-understanding and affective growth. Teachers help students to identify their unique gifts and talents, engage them in activities that foster these skills, and accommodate preferred approaches to learning to maximize instructional experiences. (GT Program Standard 1)
Educators in the gifted and talented program establish challenging learning environments utilizing multiple forms of assessment data to monitor student growth and progress. Curriculum and instruction are differentiated based on student’s interests, talents and learning styles, and a variety of assessment tools are utilized, including performance-based assessments, product-based assessments, self-assessments, and portfolios. The members of the School Improvement Panel at each school regularly monitor and evaluate the effectiveness of the program and make data-informed recommendations for improvement. (GT Program Standard 2)
The district adheres to a comprehensive curriculum that is aligned to the NJSLS. All district curriculum is developed to include conceptually challenging, in-depth, distinctive and complex content for gifted and talented learners. Educators in GT programs use critical thinking, creative-thinking and problem solving to engage learners and meet their unique needs. The general curriculum is supplemented with high quality, above-level resources to stimulate learning. (GT Standard 3)
Union City gifted and talented programs thrive in learning environments that foster emotional well-being, positive social interaction, and a deep respect and appreciation for diversity. Educators provide opportunities for self-exploration and pursuit of interests using state-of-the-art science laboratories and arts facilities. Understanding that gifted learners need opportunities for both solitude and social interaction, workspaces are designed to support these differences. Social emotional learning is embedded in the delivery of the general curriculum. Students have multiple opportunities to learn outside of the general classroom setting, participating in convocations and specialized electives with mixed aged groups. (GT Standard 4)
Multiple programming options are in place for students exhibiting unique gifts and talents. Exceptional learners have access to high-quality enrichment opportunities including specialized electives, honors courses, and after school clubs and activities. Carefully planned in-school residencies with professional arts organizations give students creative outlets in which to more deeply explore and comprehend complex societal themes. STEM focused activities at the secondary level cultivate students’ critical thinking and problem-solving abilities, aligning these processes to distinct career pathways. (GT Standard 5)
Each year, specific professional development needs of staff is reassessed to ensure targeted professional learning opportunities that will best impact teaching and learning. In addition to providing for training that will enhance content area knowledge and thinking practices, the district ensures that staff is continuously trained in strategies and techniques to support the social and emotional needs of gifted learners. (GT Standard 6)
Sara M. Gilmore Academy is committed to an instructional approach that supports arts integration across content area curriculum. Through arts partnerships and specialized elective programs, teachers are able to allow for in-depth learning on student-selected topics, developing research skills and methods as well as pupils’ independent and self-directed study skills. Encouraging higher-level thinking skills through the district curriculum, teachers are able to present material that is related to broad-based issues, themes or problems.
At the secondary level, Jose Marti Stem Academy expands upon gifted and talented programming at the Middle School by offering innovative, STEM-focused learning experiences. Advanced placement courses, research initiatives and unique partnerships with renowned universities and science organizations propel students into prestigious career pathways.
Student placement in gifted and talented programs is assessed annually for continued appropriateness. Students may be withdrawn from the gifted and talented program if their academic records indicate a decline in performance, or if the student or parent requests withdrawal from the program.
Teacher Preparation and Training
Professional Development is provided annually for all teachers who work with gifted and talented learners both to support curriculum and instruction and to focus on social emotional learning and student mental health.
Professional Development topics for the 2021-2022 school year included:
- Social Emotional Support for Gifted and Talented Learners
- Routes to Resilience
- Gifted Student Identification Practices
- Cultivating a Growth Mindset
- The Twice Exceptional Learner
- Addressing Gifted and Talented Students: Pandemic Issues and Situations
- Culturally Responsive Teaching: The Impact of Culture, Literature and Discussion
Professional Development topics for the 2022-2023 school year will include:
- Responding to the Social Emotional Needs of the Gifted Learner
- Strategies for Addressing the Twice Exceptional Student
- Building Resilience in the Face of Stress
- Quality Feedback to Drive Student Improvement
- Developing Self-Awareness and Self-Management Skills
- Raising the Bar: Challenging the GT Learner
- Differentiating Instruction for GT Students
Complaint Procedures/Appeals Process
To appeal an admissions or placement decision, parents must submit a written request for reconsideration to the building principal. This request should include an explanation of why their child’s current placement does not meet their needs. The principal will acknowledge receipt of the request within five business days, and additional information may be gathered to either support or modify the placement decision. Appeals will be reviewed by a committee composed of GT Administrators, GT Teachers, and guidance staff in consultation with the Assistant Superintendent of Student Services. A final decision will be rendered within 20 business days from the time the appeal was received. Formal, written notification of this decision will be provided to both the parents and the office of the Superintendent of Schools.
GT Program Placement Appeal
Student Name _________________________ Date ____________
School _________________________ Grade ____________
Parent/Guardian _______________________ Phone# ____________
Please explain why your child’s current placement does not meet his/her current educational needs and why you believe an alternative placement is needed:
Please list or attach any additional information you feel would be necessary for the Appeals Committee to review to have a better understanding of your child’s academic needs and abilities:
Please submit to your building principal for further consideration.
Union City Board of Education
Ydalia Genao, President
Carlos Vallejo, Vice President
Emma Gonzalez, Trustee
Joseph Isola, Trustee
Aro Nathan, Trustee
Kennedy Ng, Trustee
Alejandro Velazquez, Trustee
Silvia T. Abbato
Superintendent of Schools
John Bennetti, Assistant Superintendent
Geraldine Perez, Assistant Superintendent
Justin Mercado, Board Secretary/Director of Facilities
Anthony Dragona, Business Administrator
Diane Capizzi, Assistant to the Superintendent
Mercedes Joaquin, Director of Community Relations