In Pennsylvania, the provision of services to identified gifted students is governed by Chapter 16 of the Pennsylvania school code. Students must meet eligibility requirements in order to receive Chapter 16 services; specific requirements include being identified with mental giftedness as defined by the Pennsylvania Department of Education and being in need of specially designed instruction.Quaker Valley teachers and staff strive to meet the needs of all learners by providing a challenging, stimulating environment that encourages children to grow and develop their academic, intellectual and creative skills.
At Quaker Valley, ALL academic resources are available to all students, whether identified as gifted or not, who demonstrate a need for differentiated instruction to reach their potential.
Chapter 16 Code
A Critical Attribute of the Quaker Valley Model
There is a fundamental difference between Quaker Valley's model and more typical programs. Most schools FIRST identify and label the students who are eligible for the program, THEN attempt to do the right things for them.
Instead, we FIRST do the right things -
Deliver a solid, rigorous curriculum with high expectations for all students
Collect and use a variety of data in determining instructional needs
Create quality enrichment opportunities
Promote acceleration as a tool for meeting exceptional need
Train and support teachers to recognize and accommodate high-end learners via differentiated instruction
Endorse the use of instructional grouping for efficient and effective instruction
Permit flexibility in decision-making, tailored to individual circumstance
Recognize the role of motivation, maturity and interest in diagnosing and addressing student need
Encourage creativity and responsible risk-taking
Creatively use technology for instruction and opportunity
Promote equity and excellence
THEN, students access services by the needs they exhibit through classroom performance, test results, teacher observation, parent information, interest, and/or motivation. To address these needs, a variety of group and individualized services are offered and organized using the Levels of Service Model.
What does Quaker Valley offer to meet students' individual interests or needs?
STEM Design Challenge
Junior Great Books
Differentiation by need through small group instruction and instructional practices
Differentiation by qualification in Academic Competitions, such as:
Differentiation by choice through extended program offerings such as:
Independent and classroom projects
Acceleration by subject or grade
Open door policy to advanced courses including 19 in-house Advanced Placement courses
Career counseling and college planning (see Office of Collegiate Affairs)
Allegheny Intermediate Unit Apprenticeship Program
Innovative elective courses and arena scheduling (see Program of Studies)
Out-of-level testing to determine instructional needs - all students in grades 9, 10, and 11 take the PSAT to both prepare for the SAT and to provide us with valuable achievement information. College Board
Academic Competitions (varies with student interest)
Mock Trial (via CHS Argument, Communication and Rhetoric course)
Junior Academy of Science (via Honors Research course or SDL)
Odyssey of the Mind
Co-Curricular clubs and activities
The MDE (multi-disciplinary evaluation) Process
Instructional decision-making is guided by student achievement data. Multiple criteria across domains are analyzed to determine how best to meet the learning needs of all students. Standardized tests, curriculum-based assessments, and teacher observations and evaluation are considered. At the beginning of the year, each teaching team analyzes student data. Based on each student’s profile, teachers make programming decisions to best meet their needs. Research and best practice indicate that this can be accomplished through grouping practices and differentiated instruction supported by the academic specialists. Data collection and analysis is ongoing throughout the year. It is our goal to provide every student an educational experience based on demonstrated need. As student needs change throughout the course of the school year, we adjust accordingly.
We have a myriad of support staff including reading specialists, speech and language pathologists, librarians, learning support teachers, technology teachers, and counselors, in addition to the academic specialist in each building. These individuals partner with classroom teachers to monitor student progress, plan and facilitate experiences for all students, collaborate and co-teach with classroom teachers, meet with groups of students inside and outside of the classroom and attend to individual academic, social, and emotional needs.
Additionally, at any time, parents may choose to access their special education rights by requesting a multidisciplinary evaluation of their child. A written request for this service should be directed to the building Principal or to the Director of Student Services, Mike Lewis.
Frequently Asked Questions about Services for High End Learners
My child says she’s bored. What should I do?
It is helpful to first probe a little beyond the face value of this statement. Ask your child to tell you what she doesn’t like about the class or assignment at issue. Listen carefully. Sometimes the work is challenging, and the child is unnerved by the unexpected difficulty. Sometimes there is an issue with the topic being studied. Sometimes she’s out of sorts with her group or teacher. But if the work seems like review or your child is frustrated or unhappy, your first call should be to her teacher. Be prepared to offer specific examples in the work or behaviors you see that make you think that your child may require something different. Share information about your child that the teacher may not know – experiences or interests she has, things that she does at home that may offer insight into what opportunities or choices you think may help make school a better fit. Ask for the teacher’s assessment of your child and his classroom observations. Problem-solve together for what steps to take and plan to meet again to discuss how things are working.
Parents may request additional testing at any time by contacting the building principal or the Director of Student Services.
How can I find out what enrichment activities my child can participate in?
Many enrichment opportunities are embedded in the classrooms. The website lists examples of activities offered to all students (Level 1), as well as those available to many students (Level 2) based on specific interest or ability. Often opportunities are announced in the weekly Monday Memo, on Schoology, and through other building communications. Ask your child’s teacher or the Academic Specialist about how to access them. If the opportunity you seek doesn’t exist or can’t be offered at school, the Academic Specialist may be able to suggest outside resources or alternatives you can explore as a family to support your child’s special interest.
My child finishes his homework in minutes. I don’t know if he’s being challenged. What should I do?
The answer to this question will vary depending on the age of the child. Minor amounts of homework may be intentional, and the purpose for homework differs among units of instruction and at different grade levels. Sometimes homework is a review of the day’s lesson and meant to simply reinforce or practice the concept. Other times, it surveys prior knowledge or interest. Some students manage their time well and get started in spare minutes during the day or on the bus. In general, students should not struggle, and homework should not dominate the time outside of school. First look over his work and check for completeness and accuracy. Monitor assessments and other work that comes home for the level of rigor and your child’s degree of success with it. Contact his teacher with homework concerns, but enjoy extra time at home for enrichment and play, as appropriate.
What’s the difference between enrichment and differentiation?
Differentiation is a broad term encompassing a wide variety of instructional methods that customize learning for small groups or individual students whose instructional needs differ from their classmates. Differentiation can occur in the complexity of content or materials students are exposed to, in the different processes they use to learn, in the kinds of products they generate to demonstrate their learning, in the homework they are assigned, in the environment they are placed for learning, such as bright or dimmed lights, music or quiet, etc. and in the learning styles they prefer, such as group or alone tasks, visual, auditory, or hands-on lessons, etc.
Enrichment is one differentiation strategy. Enrichment is lessons, activities, assignments or materials that extend or enhance the curriculum in a way that deepens or challenges understanding, supports personal interest, and/or further engages students in new learning about the topic under study.
How do I know my children are growing?
Your children’s academic growth is assessed often and in a variety of ways throughout the school year. Reviewing standardized data sent home to you in mailings, achievement noted on report cards, and graded assignments should give you a good picture of your child’s progress through the curriculum. If your children come home happy, engaged, tired, and can tell you what they learned each day, chances are they are growing. Growth data, such as PVAAS, exist, but are statistically of limited value in districts that are very small and among our students that are significantly above or below average/ grade level. Any questions about growth can be directed to your child’s teacher, the counselor, the academic specialist or the principal.
What might differentiation look like for my child?
Sometimes differentiation at the classroom level is designed not to be noticed, for example a teacher may give various groups questions or tasks at different levels of complexity, but you see only the materials designed for your own child’s level. Sometimes student choice is the method of differentiation and you learn what choice your child made. Sometimes homework is different for different groups and you see only what has been assigned to your child. In these instances, you may be unaware that teachers are engaging in sophisticated and prescriptive planning for your child. Teachers should communicate with you, however, if your child requires differentiation that indicates your child is working significantly above or below grade level expectations.
How can my child work on things she’s interested in?
Classroom instruction often involves activities, projects, games, and other strategies that students find very engaging. Teachers provide students with a variety of choices in how and where and with whom they complete their various assignments throughout the day. Their schedules are often so packed that there is little “extra” time to indulge personal interests, however, when students finish their work earlier than others or pre-test out of some instruction, minutes can be gained and spent in a variety of ways that vary by classroom, age, maturity level, and need. From personalized book selections, learning centers and computer applications, to long term independent projects, classrooms are full of opportunities for students to explore their interests. Contact your child’s teacher or the academic specialist for more information about these options.
Why are so many people around the table for meetings about my child?
Quaker Valley is proud of the professional teaming between classroom teachers and the myriad of support staff in each building. To make meetings about students more efficient, to have more minds around the table contributing to the thinking and decision-making, to be more comprehensive in the delivery of whatever is needed, and for the convenience and respect of our parents who may need to leave a workplace of their own during the day, we endeavor to have “all hands on deck” whenever possible. We are dedicated to serving the whole child, thus academic, counseling, learning specialists and administrators are present with parents to consider all aspects of the child’s needs.
What can I do if I disagree with my child’s placement?
Teachers and administrators use many data points, classroom observations and other factors to create class rosters that will optimize the experiences of all students, while working within the parameters of schedules, class sizes, and special needs. The elementary schools use a cluster grouping system where students with similar needs are deliberately placed together and benefit from working together in an otherwise heterogeneous classroom that has been structured to lessen the extremes of need in any single room. Middle and High School placements in leveled classes are a function of assessment data, grades, and teacher recommendations. Careful consideration is given to each placement decision; however, extenuating circumstances may occasionally necessitate changes. Contact the building principal or counselor if you’d like to discuss your concerns or questions.
How does the Levels of Service Model work during the day?
Level 1 services, which are offered to all students, are embedded in the classrooms where all students participate and benefit from the educational value of the opportunity. Curriculum extensions and enrichment are available in each classroom for use as needed. Building or grade level trips, assemblies, projects, and other Level 1 experiences occur throughout the year.
Level 2 services are available to students by academic need, interest or ability. Teachers differentiate instructional strategies for small groups to accommodate diverse learning needs. For some activities, interested students participate in qualifying rounds in the classroom or are pulled to complete the preliminaries for the chance to compete against other schools. Some activities, such as Odyssey of the Mind, are outside of the school day.
Level 3 services are available to individual or small groups of students through assessed need and include learning contracts, curriculum compacting and other more targeted interventions.
Level 4 services are usually highly individualized to accommodate more extreme need and generally include subject or grade acceleration.
Services are delivered by a variety of teachers (classroom, specialists, special area teachers) and in a variety of places, including classrooms, the large group instruction room, the library, the playground, etc. dependent upon the activity and its duration.
Why are gifted services available to students without formal identification?
Gifted children are labeled in most schools as a prerequisite to services, meaning that services such as acceleration, participation in competitions, enrichment programs and other specially designed instruction are available only to students labeled as gifted. Children in the Quaker Valley Schools, however, do not require the gifted label to receive these services. Instead, their gifted needs are identified and accommodated without the need for qualifying scores that do not measure strong interest, previous experience, maturation, or motivation. All services are open and available to any child who has the need for them. Needs are identified based on achievement data, classroom performance, and behavioral data, but services can be created and implemented without the intensive testing, lengthy timelines, and delayed implementation required by formal identification. See the Critical Attribute explanation above.
There may be instances, however, when you and your child’s team believe additional testing would be helpful for planning, at which time that process can be used. Please feel free to request an evaluation and the team will be happy to meet with you.
What are examples of specific gifted services that might be offered in other districts with a more typical gifted program?
More typical programs may offer a time, generally up to a few hours per week, where labeled students are pulled from their regular classrooms and provided with enrichment materials, projects, competitions, and field trips that are generally outside the boundaries of the regular curriculum. Classes are limited to 20 students at a time, and gifted support teachers have a maximum of 65 students on their caseload rosters. Additionally, students attending these programs are often viewed as having similar needs when in fact they could differ substantially in interest, ability, and achievement. Individualizing services to meet the academic and creative needs across all content areas in a limited space and for a limited time is problematic in pull-out models. When students return to their classrooms where they spend the majority of their time, they often must make up what they’ve missed because the classroom teacher cannot be certain that the scheduled time for their gifted class is at the best time for them to miss the instruction taking place in their absence. Because a single gifted support teacher usually services multiple grades and sometimes multiple buildings, the students are pulled according to the support teacher’s availability rather than the students’ needs.
Very little research supports gifted models of this nature since assessment of the enrichment provided is not a part of any testing program. Schools vary widely in the quality and quantity of services available to gifted (and non-gifted) students. In more traditional programs, some students thrive, but some are troubled by the disruption to their schedule and the burden of “extra” work, and some are unfairly excluded from experiences that would be beneficial to them.
Quaker Valley makes all the services we offer available to students based on need or interest, without the requirement of a qualifying label. Students do not have to wait for a designated time each week for services. Instead, services are embedded in the regular program more consistently and comprehensively. We have a dedicated Academic Specialist in each building who aids in the planning, programming, and ultimately the transition of students between buildings. (See the Levels of Service model for additional details).
Isn’t being labeled gifted an advantage for college?
No. No college application contains a check box or space for the inclusion of a student’s gifted status. College admissions offices focus solely on transcripts, recommendations, test scores, activities, experiences, and other more standard markers of excellence and achievement.
Because in the United States gifted education exists only in some states, but not all, and in some districts and at some grade levels, colleges do not seek this information. Local gifted programs vary widely in eligibility criteria, quality, and substance, thus a student’s inclusion in or exclusion from them has no meaning or consideration in the college selection process.
Why doesn’t QV use IQ screening tests for all children?
The primary purpose of such tests is to identify and serve only those children who score above a certain cutoff point. In very large schools where such screening is needed by the sheer number of students who may require specialized instruction, the test is efficient, if not optimal, in narrowing the pool of students eligible for further testing. It is also used in schools where seats in gifted programs are limited. At QV, neither situation is the case. In grades K-6, students are screened individually three times each year with achievement tools that clearly identify outliers (students with scores significantly above or below grade level expectations) who may then be further tested should the need arise for additional information to inform programming decisions.
In addition to mandatory yearly state testing, we test all students in grades 8, 9, 10, and 11 using the College Board's PSAT tests, which can alert us to "late bloomers" or students working beyond grade-level curriculum. These tests include helpful benchmark scores to measure student readiness for college or career.
Group IQ tests are regarded as less accurate than individually administered tests, and would require additional time away from instruction, which is already at a premium. We find that other sources of data, along with parent or teacher information, are often sufficient for identifying needs and programming to meet them.
Parents may request additional testing at any time, however, by contacting the building principal or the Director of Student Services.
What is the difference between ability and achievement testing?
Ability or cognitive testing normally involves an IQ (Intelligence Quotient) test of some kind and measures the functioning efficiency, speed and accuracy of the thinking brain compared to others of the same age. These tests are independent of any particular curriculum or academic training and involve cognitive functions such as problem solving, comprehension, working memory, and reasoning. IQ is commonly viewed as the capacity to learn quickly and efficiently.
Standardized achievement testing measures academic skills relative to grade level expectations. Most achievement tests are aligned to the Common Core Standards and measure students’ mastery of them. They are commonly viewed as measuring what has been learned and can be applied.
While each kind of test offers different information about students, for the purposes of skill development and schooling, i.e. accurate placement in and the pacing of curriculum, achievement data have more immediate impact and utility.
When students present with unusual or discrepant behaviors (i.e. strong vocabulary but poor word attack skills) or inconsistent data (i.e. strong test scores but poor classwork) or organizational, work completion, or attention concerns and we suspect that something is interfering with achievement, we pursue ability measures to give us a more complete picture of a student’s capabilities and learning needs.
Parents may request additional testing at any time by contacting the building principal or the Director of Student Services.
What is benchmark assessment?
Benchmark assessments are short assessments or writing prompts that are given to all students at a grade level to determine each student’s performance against the grade-level expectations. These “snapshots” give information about how students are progressing toward state goals for their grade level. The results are most often used to guide instruction and determine curriculum effectiveness.
What are National and Local Norms?
Statistical “norms” are data that compare your child to others of the same age, such as the PSAT scores in middle and high school. They are designed to give parents a snapshot of their child relative to others of the same age across the nation. They are normally best understood as percentiles - not percents. A child who scores in the 81st percentile scored the same or better than 81% of the students of the same age who took the same test. National norms compare our students to all US students who took the same test at the same time. In contrast, local norms compare our students only to each other. In general, our students’ scores are much higher when compared to a national population and are more discriminating when compared to each other. Local norms are most useful in helping educators place students in the most appropriate instructional groupings.
When is acceleration considered for a child?
Acceleration is an intervention strategy that is highly supported by a wealth of research. When a student consistently performs well beyond grade level expectations or beyond any grade level cohort of students or by achievement, out-performs the differentiated curriculum, acceleration is warranted. Acceleration can be implemented in a single subject or a full grade level, or in extreme cases, multiple grade levels. Typical forms of acceleration include, but are not limited to: early entrance to Kindergarten, subject acceleration, grade acceleration, completing middle school in two years, dual enrollment in high school and college, College in HS courses, Advanced Placement (AP) course enrollment, and early graduation.
What is the policy on accessing Advanced Placement classes?
Quaker Valley HS currently offers more than a dozen AP courses taught by our teachers in-house, with additional courses available on-line. We practice open enrollment, and all enrolled students are required to take the associated exam, at the district's expense. With approval, advanced students may choose to take exams in courses they've studied independently.
What is the complaint process if my child’s needs are not being met?
All concerns about your child should first be directed toward a member of your child’s team: begin with the classroom teacher or the school counselor, followed by the principal, who will involve any other support staff as appropriate. Complaints directed toward District Office administration will often be redirected to the building level if the building staff has not been involved first. See Board policy 902.
How does Quaker Valley recognize and support students with dual-exceptionality (twice-exceptional or 2E)?
Dual exceptionalities, for example, students with strong ability and Autism Spectrum disorder or a specific learning disability, require sophisticated diagnostic and prescriptive instruction that is highly individualized to work through strength areas while developing compensatory strategies for learning challenges. These students often require that we collect more extensive and individualized test data. We use a team approach in analyzing the data and determining what adjustments and modifications will work best with this very unique set of learning parameters.
Some students with dual exceptionalities or those who under- or selectively achieve are placed in classes at their instructional level, even when their work completion or grades are at odds with their abilities and potential.
Our open access to and nimble delivery of enrichment and other high-end learner services makes accommodating twice-exceptional students a routine occurrence.
I read that gifted students have unique emotional characteristics. How are these needs met?
Each building is staffed with highly skilled counselors, in addition to the academic specialists who are familiar with these needs and are well equipped to address them in the context of the school day. Careful placement ensures a cohort of similar students for friendships and support. For more in-depth needs, our school psychologist can be consulted and can conduct further assessment of the concerns and make recommendations for services.
Glossary of Terms
alternative course - any pre-approved course taken outside of Quaker Valley for the purpose of enrichment, acceleration, progress toward graduation or concurrent enrollment. Students are awarded credit but no grade is calculated in the GPA.
apprenticeship - a short term experience between an expert and student during which the student has the opportunity to learn and have work evaluated by a practicing professional in an area of interest. The AIU sponsors numerous apprenticeships for high school students in a variety of fields.
cluster grouping - placing students with similar interests or needs together with a teacher who differentiates instruction for this small group within a larger instructional group. This grouping can be temporary or long-term depending on need and agreement among teachers and administration.
concurrent or dual enrollment - a student attends classes in two grade levels, two buildings or in high school and college during an academic term.
creative scheduling - any deviation from the norm in building a student’s day. Examples include scheduling two courses in the same time period, (alternating attendance and earning a grade and full credit for both) and taking more courses than the number of periods in the day, usually via technology. These circumstances are highly individualized and require input from counselors, teachers and parents with approval from administration.
curriculum-based assessments – school developed tests or activities to determine specific instructional level within our curriculum, to identify the place where new instruction should begin and or to measure mastery of the taught curriculum . Results are item-analyzed and instruction or placement is adjusted accordingly.
curriculum compacting - process of pretesting for prior mastery, prescribing what remaining curriculum is yet to be mastered and providing the student with new material or enrichment to be completed, usually by contract in the time gained. At the secondary level, compacting involves “packaging” the major readings, materials, writings, projects and other course requirements in such a way that a motivated and capable student can complete them without direct instruction, usually to "buy time" for additional pursuits an areas of personal interest.
customized options (in class attendance, homework, etc.) - these are highly individualized situations negotiated as needs dictate. For example, a student may opt to attend class only on days deemed necessary (tests, labs, or the introduction of new or particularly difficult concepts). Students negotiate an agreement outlining the expectations and are held accountable for contracted assignments and all concepts. Another example is excusing exceptional math students from “showing all their work” with the understanding that no partial credit, then, is available for wrong answers. Such customized arrangements offer students additional choices and independence along with increased responsibility and appropriate accountability.
demonstration of proficiency (testing out) - student proves mastery of a course or grade level subject by passing an assessment, most often a final exam and/or culminating project. The student is awarded credit for the class and may enroll in another course or begin study at the next level.
enrichment - enhancements to the curriculum that present new ideas, extensions or concepts in greater depth to further challenge learners and/or to satisfy an intense interest.
guided study - students are provided with a teacher-designed roadmap for a course not currently offered in the master schedule.
instructional grouping - flexible groups (Elem), level 3000-4000 (MS), honors/AP (HS) classes are administrative groupings to accommodate learning readiness and are usually determined by previous performance in the subject and by curriculum-based assessments and other appropriate data. Instructional grouping fosters efficient and effective instruction by placing students with similar needs together. For very ready learners, curriculum is presented in greater depth and/or at a more rapid pace. While placement can be for the duration of the course or academic year, performance is closely monitored and constantly reassessed so that students may move as needed.
learning contracts - negotiated agreements between a teacher and student for the completion of work, usually at a faster pace than the norm.
out-of-level testing - any assessment given to students younger than those for which it was originally designed. The purpose is to assess student needs beyond the current grade level and to make appropriate adjustments to the curriculum, the student's placement or course selection.
self-pacing - facilitating the coverage of curriculum at a student’s rate of acquisition through the use of compacting, tiered assignments, guided study, learning contracts, etc. This is a key component in accommodating high-end learners who may not possess prior mastery of the curriculum but can learn and retain new material faster than grade level peers. It requires a high level of motivation and some degree of independence to work ahead of peers.
waiver – agreement signed by high school parents and students to permit enrollment in a course for which the high school student lacks the prerequisite grades, teacher recommendation, and/or prerequisite course. The waiver process involves in-depth discussion and clearly identifies the potential consequences of inadequate preparation, but acknowledges the role strong motivation can play and encourages students to “rise to the occasion” if they so desire.
National Association for Gifted Children
Council for Exceptional Children
Allegheny Intermediate Unit Apprenticeship Program
National Research Center for Gifted and Talented Education
Hoagies Gifted Education Page
Institute for Research and Policy on Acceleration