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How To Serve Rural Gifted Students Better

One rural Oregon superintendent says most gifted students in rural settings are failing to receive an education that's on par with their abilities, and he says he has four inexpensive ways schools can improve those services.

Donald Kordosky wrote a guest column, "Attending to the Gifted in Rural Schools," that appears in the September issue of The School Administrator, the monthly magazine published by the American Association of School Administrators.

Kordosky is superintendent of Oakridge School District in Oakridge, Ore., and author of "Rural Gifted Students: Victims of Public Education." His 600-student, three-school district is in the central Cascade Mountains of Oregon, about an hour from the closest urban area.

Instead of being appropriately challenged, Kordosky says gifted students in rural schools receive more of the same kind of work that's given to average students, or they are expected to act as helpers for low-achieving students. He offers schools four tips for better meeting gifted students' needs.

• Make gifted education programs a focus of improvement. Increasing awareness of gifted students' needs is a first step to better addressing them, Kordosky writes.

• Clarify identification and exiting procedures. Schools should create clear methods to identify and include gifted students in their programs as well as exclude those who are not. Many non-gifted students are in gifted programs, and Korodosky says he knows of some gifted programs made mostly of district employees' children. Having clear rules ensures gifted students are served.

• Attend to the heterogeneous classroom. Most gifted services provided in rural schools are going to happen in classrooms where students have a range of abilities, so differentiation is key. Schools should make that a priority, and Kordosky recommends training teachers in the Summer Institute on Academic Diversity offered by Carol Ann Tomlinson of the University of Virginia. His district participated in the program for what he called a modest cost.

• Create individualized education plans for gifted students. Kordosky suggested these plans could be similar to those made for students in special education. A team of a school administrator, a gifted-and-talented coordinator, and a student's parents and teacher could meet annually to develop those guidelines. Every student identified as gifted in Kordosky's district participates in two of those meetings each year, and he said more information about the process they use is posted on the district's Web site.

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