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Article updated: 9/20/2013 11:57 AM

District 25 starting gifted program transition

By Melissa Silverberg

Arlington Heights Elementary District 25 school board members discussed the changes to the district's gifted education program at the Thursday night meeting as a year full of transition and training gets under way.

The district is phasing out its Odyssey program for gifted students after this year and will be instead be giving all students more differentiated instruction in the regular classroom. Some classrooms will be starting a pilot program with a PSI -- problem-solving innovation -- hour implemented for students to work on creative and critical thinking skills, which all teachers will roll out next year.

School board member Rich Olejniczak had questions about how success of the new program will be measured.

"Last year the Odyssey program was changed based in part on the fact that there were no meaningful measures of success, so we're implementing a new program with the same issue at hand," Olejniczak said. "So, how will we gauge if this is successful? How will we measure change or if this is just another program?"

One of the issues is that the new teaching method isn't something that can be measured quantitatively because it will look at students curiosity, question-asking skills and interactions with other students to solve problems.

"What kind of data could we even be looking for?" said board member Charles Williams. "You can't use quantitative data to judge how people think or how good of a question they ask. As long as you can see students are progressing, that's what we're looking for."

Board member Diana Chrissis agreed that the results may come in different forms than heightened scores.

"When you're dealing with engagement of children, that goes above and beyond these tests," she said.

But Olejniczak, who brought up concerns about the changes to the advanced learners program at an earlier meeting, still had questions.

"I want to know how the teacher will know at the end of the year that a student did a great job and developed, how does a parent know that the student has done well or blossomed," Olejniczak said.

Truding said there will be rubrics and written documentation from teachers' observations to measure the progress of the new methods.

"The teachers will be able to see where students begin and where they are," Truding said. "This type of process is very common in education."

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