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Schools offer variety of services for gifted

Finding the best ways to identify and teach gifted learners often has kept educators challenged. In the end, whether a child receives the label isn't as important as making sure they are moving forward academically, said Ann Duchscher, coordinato...

Finding the best ways to identify and teach gifted learners often has kept educators challenged.

In the end, whether a child receives the label isn't as important as making sure they are moving forward academically, said Ann Duchscher, coordinator of gifted and talented services in Fargo.

"Our goal is how can we get high-ability kids to achieve," she said. "Parents care that their children are being challenged. They're not so worried if they're labeled 'gifted'."

As a result, high-achieving students are typically identified for specific services after teachers assess a student's ability to learn, creativity level and commitment or motivation.

Typically, 10 percent of elementary students show a need for extra services, teachers of the gifted and talented say.

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Moorhead's gifted and talented program is a combination of pulling out students for more challenging work and offering activities like Destination Imagination, a team event that stresses critical thinking skills, said Lynne Kovash, assistant superintendent.

As students enter middle school and high school, they can take accelerated classes and participate in extracurricular activities that emphasize academics, she said.

Districts like West Fargo offer several levels of services for students of varying abilities.

For example, the practice of differentiation, where teachers design individual lessons, benefits all students in a classroom.

At the next level, some students choose to participate in enrichment programs and activities such as Junior Great Books, a reading program, and contests, such as a spelling bee. During the school day, West Fargo also offers short pull-out units for first- and second-graders who have a strength or interest in a subject area.

In grades three through five, students who are identified by teachers and parents can take part in an 11-week unit to study a topic in-depth. These students are pulled out of their regular classroom for a half-day per week.

In these courses, students are encouraged to produce something original, said Jolene Beckman, a teacher for the gifted and talented in West Fargo. For one activity, students had to invent a game during a unit on probability.

"We help them use their talents and strengths to come up with new ideas," she said. "We want to help kids become independent learners."

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The final level is for a handful of students who may be moved up a grade or allowed to take advanced courses in a subject.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Erin Hemme Froslie at (701) 241-5534

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