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Marshalltown Extended Learning Program: On the right track

Think about the Bobcat track team. There are sprinters, hurdlers, throwers and long distance runners. Would you expect that the track coach would provide the same workouts for a shot putter as a distance runner? Of course not! Each athlete is given the appropriate workout to maximize their individual gifts. In education, we strive to do the same. We personalize programming to maximize intellectual gifts and remediate intellectual deficits. Students are placed in special education classes, English language learner classes or in the Extended Learning Program based upon their individual needs. Just like the track coaches, we strive to work with students at their ability levels in order to raise the achievement levels of all team members.

Identification for Extended Learning Program (XLP) services is a process that involves many data pieces, including Iowa Assessment scores, Cognitive Ability Testing and classroom teacher recommendations. Teachers and administrators who take part in the identification process do so blindly, looking at data only after all student names have been removed. Students are screened and receive enrichment at the elementary levels and are first identified at fifth grade. Additionally, all MCSD students are re-screened for XLP eligibility annually and the XLP teachers do their best to identify students for XLP from diverse backgrounds. Approximately the top 5 percent will be identified.

Programming for XLP students is designed to meet not only Common Core standards, but also the standards set forth by National Association of Gifted Children. On the surface, pictures of XLP activities on social media can be quite misleading. A Facebook post showing XLP students on a fun field trip to the theatre doesn’t show the classwork that has taken place before the trip. Students prepare for such activities by reading above grade level texts, writing reviews or discussing text features in Socratic Seminars. Like other teachers, XLP teachers strive to provide engaging lessons, but we also ensure that the lessons are appropriately rigorous for the students we serve. Additionally, XLP teachers provide resources and consult with classroom teachers to help differentiate for high ability students. Just as gifted athletes need special programming to meet their full athletic potential, gifted students need special programming to meet their full academic potential.

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Susan Fritzell is the Extended Learning Program teacher at Marshalltown High School.