Gifted program returns to Normandy elementary schools | St. Louis Public Radio

Gifted program returns to Normandy elementary schools

Mar 12, 2018

Discontinued during the turmoil of unaccreditation and reincorporation, a gifted learning program has returned to Normandy’s elementary schools.

At Washington Elementary, about a dozen students who tested two grade levels higher on an intelligence aptitude test are in the program. The students, ranging from third to sixth grade, gather twice a week to work on special projects in what was once an unused classroom.

“My students, the gifted students, are a unique and peculiar bunch. They have so much to offer,” said their teacher, Sonja Brewer.

Last week, the students at Washington were finishing up presentations they’ll give to their parents on the type of learners they are and what sparks their learning.

“When these learners are among each other, they tend to excel. They have the opportunity to explore their own interest and dig deep, rather than go wide,” said Brewer, who travels to the three other elementary schools in the Normandy Schools Collaborative to work with gifted students there.

The gifted program was dropped in 2014 during a low point for the Normandy school system. Having lost its academic standing, the Normandy School District dissolved and emerged as the Normandy Schools Collaborative. A few months later, the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education took direct control of the district. The gifted program was nixed as the district focused resources elsewhere.

Sonja Brewer, center, works with a gifted learning student last week at Washington Elementary School in Normandy. The gifted program was restored this school year.
Credit Ryan Delaney | St. Louis Public Radio

Karen Collins, coordinator of special services at Normandy, began screening students in second grade and up last school year. She hired Brewer from the Hazelwood School District and relaunched the gifted program this past fall, a few months before the State Board of Education elevated Normandy’s academic status to provisional accreditation.

“We can show that our students have the capability, the intellectual capacity, the need and the drive to be able to do more,” Collins said, “and we’re giving them that opportunity to do so.”

There are 37 elementary students in the gifted program. The program will be made available to second graders next year and first graders the year after that, Collins said. The screening will also be widened. Historically, minority students are underrepresented in gifted programs, but universal screening has been shown to shrink the disparity.

Normandy still has work to do in improving its overall academics, as most students still score low on annual assessments.

Khmaiyah Ros, 11, is a fifth-grader in the gifted program at Washington Elementary. A teacher recommended she get screened after reading an essay about Thailand.

She said she’s enjoyed learning about how her mind works and having extra time to study a passion: Greek mythology.

Follow Ryan on Twitter: @rpatrickdelaney