Gifted and talented cluster closing at this Lexington school. Is there more to come?

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Tates Creek Elementary Principal Carrie Paul recently emailed parents that this will be the last year for the Gifted and Talented Accelerated Cluster program at her school

Fayette County Public Schools has accelerated clusters — self-contained classrooms for gifted students — at Ashland, Meadowthorpe and Tates Creek elementary schools, and Winburn and Tates Creek middle schools.

Students who qualify for the accelerated cluster are offered placement in those schools according to where they live.

“We are sad to see the program leave our school, but look forward to finishing strong with this class,“ Paul said. “ Per state regulations we will, of course, continue to provide gifted and talented services, just not through the cluster mode.”

Fayette district spokeswoman Lisa Deffendall said the closure at Tates Creek Elementary is not a signal that the district is de-emphasizing its gifted and talented program or closing other clusters. She said it’s a sign that more parents want their children to receive services for accelerated students at the schools assigned to their home instead of going to a special cluster.

Eight of the district’s 36 elementary schools are included in the Tates Creek Elementary feeder system: Glendover, Julius Marks, Lansdowne, Millcreek, Southern, Squires, Tates Creek, and Veterans Park, Deffendall said

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Carrie Paul

In 2017, approximately 3,200 third-grade students districtwide participated in testing to help schools determine what services to provide and “to assist in determining gifted eligibility”, Deffendall said.

To qualify for services at one of the three elementary schools, a student must be gifted in general intellectual ability, math and language arts.

Of the students who qualified at those eight schools that feed into Tates Creek Elementary, only 14 students accepted the 4th grade placement at Tates Creek Elementary, which is too small a number to qualify for a teacher, Deffendall said.

Families of the students were contacted directly to explain the situation and were instead offered the option of participating in the accelerated cluster at Ashland Elementary and offered transportation. Nine of the 14 who accepted initial placement at Tates Creek Elementary agreed to attend Ashland, she said.

“The others elected to stay at their home schools, and the district will provide services to meet their unique needs, interests and abilities at these locations,” Deffendall

Deffendall said the Meadowthorpe and the Ashland cluster will not be eliminated and neither will other accelerated clusters at Tates Creek Middle School, Winburn Middle School, or Henry Clay High School where students who were in the middle school program can continue into Henry Clay’s Liberal Arts Academy.

The Fayette County Public Schools’ website said approximately $90,000 of state grant funding is allocated to the Gifted Office, and the Fayette County Board of Education allocates more than $1 million for gifted resources and Gifted Accelerated Program teachers through the general budget, which provides services for nearly 8,000 gifted students.

Michael Dailey, who oversaw the district’s gifted and talented programs until he retired in June , said at the June planning meeting that the 2016-17 school year was the last year that 3rd graders could be in the gifted and talented cluster as a result of state regulations. In that year, 387 offers were made for students to attend clusters. 134 were accepted and 253 declined.

In 2017-18, after third grade students were taken out of the clusters, 87 offers were made — 41 accepted, 46 declined. For 2018-19, 167 offers were made, 89 accepted, 70 declined.

Why are fewer families accepting invitations into the clusters?

“You all charged us with creating a comprehensive gifted and talented program across the district,” Dailey told school board members. “And our schools have answered that call. Parents are saying, ‘Our childrens’ needs are being met where they are. They are going to school with their friends ... but they are also being challenged.’”

Dailey said Edythe J Hayes Middle School created an accelerated pathway, Rosa Parks Elementary has had an accelerated pathway in their school for 15 or 20 years. Leestown Middle School has revitalized its pre-engineering program. LTMS is redefining itself and is one of the middle schools in Lexington along with Bryan Station Middle School’s Spanish Immersion program that is pursuing a gifted program.

Dailey said at the regular board meeting in May that more black, hispanic and students of two races had been identified as gifted and talented. He said there were increases in previously underserved students who were generally intellectually gifted, specifically gifted in math, and talented in dance, visual arts, drama and music.

Dailey said in May that William Wells Brown previously had 12 gifted and talented students and that had increased to 72. He said Booker T. Washington Elementary previously had four gifted and talented students, which had increased to 36.

In Lexington Family Magazine in May, Fayette Superintendent Manny Caulk said the 2018-19 budget included an additional $540,000 “investment in teachers so that we can continue this expansion of services into our middle schools and ensure that every elementary school has a G/T teacher at least two or three days a week.”

Superintendent Emmanuel Caulk holds Lexington's second annual State of Schools Address to review over the past 2017-2018 Fayette County's school year and what to plan for going into 2018-2019.