A Magnet School?

Any time you’re building a program the question always emerges “Where do we go from here?” In the past year I have spent a lot of time exploring the best direction to go in light of our province’s dedication to inclusion. This process has included gathering research, conducting surveys, looking at growth projections and reflecting on how the systems we already have in place are currently serving our gifted population. When you look at the research as well as designing PD for teachers of gifted students, the magnet model appeared to be the most likely to provide effective programming.  When I shared this research with the Gifted Advisory Committee and later our school trustees, we decided to ask our students and parents whether they would like a magnet school. On May 30, 2012, from 7-9pm, we will be holding an Open House at Montrose Junior High School, to find out whether this is what our gifted students want. 

As I will be in Tennessee from May 22-27 to attend Global Finals with a group of students from the gifted program, it may be difficult to get in touch with me! I am hoping that I can answer some of the pertinent questions here and if you still have questions…please send me an email at susan.picard@gppsd.ab.ca and I will try to answer them. Or come to the Open House on the 30th where you can meet with other parents, students and school district staff for questions.

1. How does a magnet school fit in with the idea of inclusive education? The very word inclusion seems to preclude the question of a magnet school option, but a careful read would suggest that this not necessarily so. Here’s what I found: “Inclusive education in Alberta means a value-based approach to accepting responsibility for all students. It also means that all students will have equitable opportunity to be included in the typical learning environment or program of choice.” -2009. Setting the Direction Framework. Edmonton, AB: Alberta Education. Many gifted students will want to stay in their home schools and we will continue to support that option.  But for those wanting another option, we will offer a magnet school.

2. What grade groups will be included in the gifted magnet school? Keeping in line with the composition of Montrose Junior High as of Fall 2012, we will begin with grades 6-9. We hope to expand this over time.

3. Will students who are not in grades 6-9, or those who choose not to transfer schools still receive programming? YES! We will continue with the pull-in program which would move over to Montrose if there is enough interest for a magnet school.

4. How would a magnet school be different from the support gifted children receive in their current schools?  One of the things that research recognizes is that gifted students need daily challenges in their specific areas of talent. If we gather our gifted students together, we can concentrate our professional development and instructional coaching to that specific location. We can more easily and consistently incorporate various forms of acceleration as well as address some of the social/emotional needs from a gifted perspective. The students will have opportunities to work with other like-ability students which the research also supports. In a nutshell, the gifted students would be gathered together to work on core subjects and complete their option courses with all of the other Montrose students. It will also give them a jump start on meeting and working with some of their high school peers.

5. If I come to the magnet school, will I still be able to do Destination ImagiNation or the independent projects/retreats that I signed up for? YES!

6. Will there be a lot of pressure on us to perform at a certain level? We recognize that every gifted student is different and that expecting the same thing from every student would not serve them well. We plan to offer a program where the unique talents and needs of students are recognized, supported and incorporated wherever possible. We also recognize that learning isn’t simply about getting good grades.

7. Doesn’t this happen at every school? Yes and no. What we must remember is that gifted students have some very distinct learning needs that aren’t often understood simply because they are a small group of learners that generally blend in very well.

8. Will you still follow the Alberta curriculum? Absolutely. It is our responsibility to do this.

9. How do I know if my child is gifted? By clicking on this link you can find information packages for parents that will include checklists that highlight some of the gifted traits. If you are finding your child has several of the traits to a high degree and you are interested in having them screened for our program, complete the checklists and consent forms and bring them to the Open House on May 30th or send them to attention of the Gifted Education Program at Alexander Forbes School. 7240 Poplar Drive, Grande Prairie, T8V 5A6.

10. What if I am unable to attend on May 30, 2012?   If you are interested in finding out more about the program, please send me an email and I will make sure to answer all of your questions!

11. How many students will you need for the magnet school to move ahead this coming fall? We need 25 students from grades 6-9 to move ahead.

I hope I see you on the 30th. These are exciting times for gifted education in our district. I don’t promise it will be easy or perfect, but the best learning for all of us always includes challenges!



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