Charlottesville City Schools are trying to make their gifted learning program work for every student, despite challenges of virtual learning

CCS Gifted Program making changes as school stays virtual

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - Last year, Charlottesville City Schools (CCS) decided to change the format of its gifted learning program by bringing specialists into all classrooms instead of taking selected students out. Now, just a little over a year since it started, the program is having to adjust to online learning.

“All of last year, they were working directly in classrooms, so they were going into classrooms to work with students instead of pulling students out," said CCS Instruction Coordinator Beverly Catlin.

Catlin says even though there is no concrete data proving the new format is wielding positive results in the classroom, she has seen the program’s effectiveness first-hand.

“Last year when we were working with all the students in classrooms, we saw those talents being developed. We saw students that we might not have noticed in prior years so that’s very exciting and that’s the work that we want to continue to do," Catlin said.

While the program was still in its beginning stages, the pandemic hit. Teachers were forced to make some changes when school went 100% virtual.

“Our gifted resource teachers are going into those classrooms, still in this virtual environment, and they are offering lessons to all the students in the class, or they may be rotating around to students if they are in breakout rooms or different kinds of groups," Catlin said.

The program, like other classes, is facing two big challenges. Making sure children have internet access is the first big hurdle.

“We’ve had some face to face contact, parents have come to schools, we’ve gone to houses. Every student has a device, families are working hard to make sure internet access is accessible," Catlin said.

Following internet access problems, keeping students engaged also proves challenging. Some children may thrive with the program being all-virtual, while others may struggle.

“For the student who may have finished things, then our job is to give them other experiences, some extension, some enrichment that will engage them to want to think farther and go farther with it. For the student who is not quite as engaged, we gotta find that piece that gets them started. How do we hook them into whatever that experience may be?" Catlin said.

Despite moving online, Catlin says it could help older learners understand what works best for them in an almost 100% virtual learning environment.

“I wonder if this experience is helping each learner have a better understanding of how they learn…and what mode of learning works best for me?”

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