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Seventh-grade gifted program to begin next fall

The gifted program in the Mercer Island School District continues to expand, with current sixth-graders moving up next fall for the first seventh-grade gifted program.

As the expansion continues, district administrators and staff are assessing whether to continue the middle-school trend started last year of allowing students to enter the gifted program for one subject area, even if they don’t qualify in other areas.

They don’t have any concrete answers yet, except that all the sixth-graders enrolled in the gifted program will be again next year.

“Some kids are doing very well, obviously, but we haven’t really gotten enough information yet to see how that’s going,” said Michael Power, district director of instruction and assessment. “It’s just too early to say.”

Overall, however, administrators report positive feedback on the program in its third year.

Patti Weber, director of curriculum, said parents are happy to see their children challenged in ways they never were previously.

“One of the benefits for students being in the program is they get used to being challenged on a regular basis versus in a regular classroom where the work comes rather easy for them, and maybe get a false idea of what it means to be a scholar,” Weber said.

As of last week, 154 students were nominated for the program for next year. Last year, 44 out of 208 nominees, or about 21 percent, were accepted, according to Power.

Forty-three students will move from the sixth to the seventh grade in the gifted program.

Expanding the middle school program is also a precursor to developing a high school program, something staff are keeping in mind as they approach gifted planning, Weber said.

“We currently are increasing the number of challenge courses that we offer at the high school,” she said. “Part of the high school work is to be prepared for the gifted students when they get to the high school... We haven’t had those conversations on what that’s going to look like, we’re trying to get the IMS program established. We are having conversations, though, with the high school if we think any curricular decisions have impact on their curriculum.”

While it’s still too early to fully assess the middle school program or predict changes for next year, Weber said, she’s generally optimistic as it grows.

“I think it’s gone very well,” she said. “The students seem to be happy, I think the parents are pleased with the program, the teachers are enjoying the students.”

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