Gifted learners are "children and youth with outstanding talent who perform or show the potential for performing at remarkably high levels of accomplishment when compared with others of their age, experience, or environment." (U.S. Department of Education, 1993)
AJUSD shapes its Gifted Education curriculum to enhance the potential and achievements of students who have special needs due to their exceptional, high performance abilities. These students are best addressed through differentiated learning opportunities such as:
- Cluster grouping
- Faster pace instruction
- choosing content that allows for more complex investigation
Identification and Placement
Students may be nominated for testing by parents, teachers, principals or any other member of the school staff. Information for nominations and testing are available at each school.
Once a student has been nominated, parents will sign a "Permission to Test" form, and return it to the Gifted Facilitator prior to the testing of their child.
The Apache Junction Unified School District primarily uses the Cognitive Abilities Test (CogAT) to identify gifted students, however, other state approved assessments can be used.
Students in AJUSD qualify for gifted services by scoring in the 97th percentile or above on any one one, or combination of, the Verbal, Quantitative, or Nonverbal sections of the state approved test. Students scoring at the 95th or 96th percentile are considered "Talent Pool" and are accepted into the gifted program.
Elementary Gifted Services
Students identified as Gifted are placed into gifted cluster classrooms with teachers who have been designated by their school principals. The teachers are supported by the Gifted Coordinator. The Gifted Coordinator assists Gifted Cluster Teachers with scheduling, professional development, pedagogy, and facilitating the planning and implementation of differentiated curriculum and instruction. Curriculum and instruction for Gifted Students includes a Differentiated Education Plan (DEP). This plan provides students with a high interest, accelerated, and enriching project each semester. The DEP is aligned to the students area of giftedness and is completed by the student independently with the support and guidance of the classroom teacher.
In the Schoolwide Cluster Grouping Model (SCGM), identified gifted students are clustered into a mixed-ability classrooms at each classrooms at each grade level. The teacher has had training in understanding, planning for, and instructing gifted students. If there are more than eight gifted students in the grade level, two or more clusters may be formed.
High-average students are placed into classrooms without the gifted clusters to create a balance of ability/achievement levels in classes across the grade level. Because all classes maintain a slightly narrowed range of performance and abilities, this method of grouping students does not represent a tracking system.
Classroom compositions are carefully structured with two main goals: to ensure that there is balance throughout the grade level, and to reduce the learning range found in any given classroom. This system provides opportunities for teachers to more readily respond to the needs of all their students.
Gifted cluster teachers plan appropriately challenging instruction for their gifted students. This may involve acceleration, enrichment, and various extending learning opportunities targeted to develop the following skills through learning in the content areas:
- Logical thinking
- Reasoning skills
- Critical and creative thinking
- Problem solving
Gifted students receive instruction that is differentiated in content, process, product, learning environment and assessment:
- Content - Complex, abstract ideas presented in a variety of disciplines, including interdisciplinary curriculum
- Process - Higher-level thinking through Bloom's Taxonomy, Multiple Intelligences, and Webb's Depth of Knowledge
- Products - Alternative methods of demonstrating mastery with a range of complexity
- Learning environment - Student-centered, flexible grouping based on readiness, interests and abilities
- Assessments - Pre-assessment and testing out-of-grade level curriculum
Secondary Gifted Services
Junior High and High School Gifted/Talent Pool students have the opportunity to participate in higher level classes at Cactus Canyon Junior High or Apache Junction High School.