Avondale Schools to expand ‘Gifted and Talented Education’

District to open dedicated magnet school at start of 2019-20 school year

By: Mary Beth Almond | Rochester Post | Published March 19, 2019

 Avondale Gifted and Talented Education lead teacher Kate Martin, left, and fourth-grader Nevaehlee Crockett, 9, discuss the expository writing topic that Crockett picked, “Life in Colonial America: Pilgrims at Plymouth,” during class at Woodland Elementary School in Troy March 8.

Avondale Gifted and Talented Education lead teacher Kate Martin, left, and fourth-grader Nevaehlee Crockett, 9, discuss the expository writing topic that Crockett picked, “Life in Colonial America: Pilgrims at Plymouth,” during class at Woodland Elementary School in Troy March 8.

Photo by Brandy Baker

Advertisement

ROCHESTER HILLS/AUBURN HILLS/BLOOMFIELD TOWNSHIP — A local school district has set its sights on expanding a program for gifted students.

The Avondale School District launched its GATE, or Gifted and Talented Education, program during the 2017-18 school year, enrolling approximately 31 students in two multiage third- and fourth-grade classrooms at Woodland Elementary School.

“We started the program two years ago as a self-contained magnet program to service truly gifted students, being that there is not one in this area — certainly a public school that services students to that end, in a program specific for that ability,” Avondale Superintendent Jim Schwarz said.

This school year, lead GATE teacher Kate Martin said, the program more than doubled, with 74 students enrolled in four multiage classrooms: two second- and third-grade split classes, and two fourth-and fifth-grade split classes.

“(The program) has received a lot of demand in the last couple of years — with folks not only within the school district, but outside of our school district,” Schwarz said. “So often that is the group that typically does not get the attention of the teacher … and is often the most ignored.”

Avondale’s gifted and talented classrooms, according to Martin, provide an opportunity to add breadth to the depth of student learning through project-based learning and a strategy called design thinking. The GATE program allows students to take curriculum content to the next level at their own pace.

“We value engagement, because when students are not in the right place for them they say, ‘I’m bored,’ or their teacher is just giving them more of the same worksheets,” Martin said. “In this program, we are just giving them access to content that is academically appropriate; they are having a chance to collaborate with like-minded peers and also go into a great depth of knowledge within one topic. The other part of what makes that unique is we do a lot of project-based learning with collaboration.”

To meet the increasing demand for enrollment, Schwarz said, the GATE program will move into a dedicated building, the Avondale Meadows Learning Center in Rochester Hills, next school year — when an anticipated 120 students in grades two through six are expected to enroll. Schwarz said the GATE program will continue to expand, with the addition of seventh grade in the 2020-21 school year and eighth grade in 2021-22.

“Upon eighth grade, the students would then go to high school, where they can then differentiate into a wide variety of honors choices, Advanced Placement, dual enrollment and early college.  We have a number of opportunities to pursue their interests and levels at that point,” Schwarz said.

The GATE program is open to students within the Avondale School District, as well as students outside the district as a school of choice, as space allows. Applications for students within the district are typically due in the fall, and school of choice applications are due in February or early March.

“We often receive many more applications than we have slots for because we’re trying to manage the growth at a level that will not compromise its integrity,” Schwarz said.

To learn more, email Kate Martin at kate.martin@avondale.k12.mi.us.

Advertisement