Elon University's AIG Licensure Program Presents First CHCCS Educator Graduates
One of the district’s most powerful educational partnerships is with Elon University’s School of Education and its AIG licensure program, which has created an opportunity for CHCCS teachers to expand their knowledge to benefit all students. Thanks to this partnership, district teachers and instructional coaches from across all grade levels have enrolled in the AIG licensure program free of charge. With this new insight and training, participants better understand how to differentiate in their classrooms, regardless of the proficiency and exceptionality levels of their students.
Kristin Jackson teaches fourth grade at Frank Porter Graham Bilingue (FPGB), and she and two other Elon AIG participants spoke about the program at the May 21 school board meeting. She described the diversity among her students, saying at least 30% are identified as gifted, 40% are English Language Learners (ELL’s) and nearly 10% are highly gifted readers. Among the areas of exceptionality represented among her students, other than giftedness and emergent bilingualism, Jackson mentioned autism, hearing and speech impairments and ADHD. “A considerable number of my students have exceptionality in more than one area,” she told the school board. However, she had not come to speak in complaint, but in celebration of her recent completion of the AIG licensure program. Jackson told the school board, “I do not have words strong enough to effectively portray the importance of continuing to provide this opportunity to cohorts of current and future teachers.”
Because 35% or more of CHCCS students are identified as AIG (Academically or Intellectually Gifted), gifted education has long been a primary focus for the district, and one of the most prominent targets for growth has been to ensure more teachers and instructional coaches have dual-certification. The first cohort of 20 members began coursework in February 2018, and over 18 months, they completed an internship and three semester courses, including “Curriculum and Instructional Design in Gifted Education” and “Social/Emotional Needs of Gifted Students.” In an additional effort to ease burdens from the program’s demands, the Elon professors met with their CHCCS students at Morris Grove Elementary for most sessions, instead of on Elon’s campus. These “Elon AIG Pioneers” have just completed the final coursework and received licensure in gifted education.
During the past number of years, discussions about classroom differentiation for gifted learners have ebbed and flowed, but the expectation was teachers would develop their knowledge through professional development and professional learning communities. The goal to dramatically increase the number of classroom teachers with gifted certification is relatively new, and it’s one of the initiatives Superintendent Pam Baldwin helped bring about during her first year at CHCCS. Beyond providing more depth and expertise in differentiation, the coursework provides new awareness for recognizing the gifts and talents of students in underserved populations, as well as addressing gifted students’ social and emotional needs.
Jackson said, “In my classroom, I am now constantly aware of how I am differentiating for the gifted learners. Planning extensions have become a consistent part of my curriculum planning routines. I am using the knowledge I gained in this program to transform my teaching practices in relation to my gifted learners by consistently compacting material when mastery is evident according to pre-assessment data. As a result, my students are more animated in their day to day learning in the mathematics classroom, and demonstrate increased levels of engagement and concept acquisition.”
Noa Stuchiner, the instructional math coach at Culbreth Middle School, said at the May 21 board meeting, “In 25 years as an educator, I often found gifted students were not making enough progress, and I would ask myself, ‘What am I missing?’ Until this opportunity!” She admitted she had thought she understood how to design and implement new units, especially in her role as an instructional coach, but the Elon coursework has provided an entirely new lens and model for impacting students. “Our experience needs to go wide and touch every single child,” she said.
In a written reflection, Stuchiner observed, “The experience of designing and implementing the Integrated Curriculum Model unit allowed us to practice and explore a creative structural process that promotes reflection, collaboration, and integration among gifted students. Spending time designing the unit, and searching for appropriate higher order thinking assignments, exposed us to new resources, ideas, and applications that are aligned with the needs of gifted learners, such as precocity, intensity, and complexity. The units will emphasize advanced content knowledge and promote higher order thinking and processing. We will be a voice for the special population of gifted learners who may be under-identified, underserved, or misdiagnosed. We will also continue to advocate for an efficient identification process that incorporates multiple assessments which reflect the gifted student’s interest, learning style, and educational needs.”
Jackson said to the board, “The cascading effect of this program cannot be overestimated regarding its impact on the teaching and learning practices of teachers and learners.”
Coordinator for Gifted Services, Camille House, said “The CHCCS partnership with Elon University demonstrates our district's commitment to building the capacity of our teachers to provide rigorous instruction for all students.”
Currently, there is a second cohort of 20 teachers in progress that started in January 2019, and a third cohort is in the pipeline.
Northside Elementary School
Frank Porter Graham Bilingue
East Chapel Hill High