Honors courses open to wider range of students

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Middle school students in the Alexandria Public School System will have more education choices this year with the increased availability of the Open Enrollment Honors courses for certain concentration of studies.

This will open up this option for other students who were not previously taking courses in the Talented and Gifted area, said Dr. Margaret Walsh, executive director of Secondary Programs. Were trying very hard to make sure every student who could benefit from these classes have an opportunity, she said.

Areas of concentration for these new courses include language arts and social studies. Students currently identified in the Talented and Gifted (TAG) category will automatically be placed in the new classes, but it will be open to other students who have demonstrated some level of aptitude.

Walsh studied all the files for students in grades six through rising 10th graders, and sent out letters, made calls and held conferences on this issue. For those students, the school system is offering a more appropriate education, said Walsh. Families have choices, parents can opt in, she said.

Enrollment option
Beginning this year, the current Talented and Gifted language arts classes for grades 6-8 will now be known as the Honors Language Arts; the current TAG 8th grade social studies course will be changed to the Honors Social Studies; and the honors/TAG social studies curricula will be developed for the sixth and seventh grades and implemented in Fall 2008. This open enrollment option was open to grades nine and 10 in previous years.

Weve studied this issue many times through the years, said Walsh.

The Talented and Gifted Advisory Committee came up with a list of recommendations to the School Board associated with the courses including documentation, the teachers completion of open enrollment courses, an ongoing monitoring procedure, timely program reviews, additional funding, policy adaptation, and a smooth transition. The TAGAC submitted these recommendations on April 4, 2007, and the School Board approved this measure in a meeting on April 12.

Last Spring, teachers received additional training conducted by gifted and talented specialists and curriculum specialists, Walsh said. In June, specialists from William and Mary came to Alexandria and held a two-day training session specifically in social studies and language arts.

We were very fortunate to get them [trainers], said Walsh. Before school starts on Sept. 4, a full day course will be given to teachers, not only focusing on the gifted and talented courses, but general teaching as well. This is really essentially retooling good teaching practices, Walsh said.

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