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Idaho Code 33-2003 requires districts to identify students who may qualify for Gifted and Talented Programs in five specific talent areas including specific academic, intellectual promise, creativity, leadership, and visual/performing arts. This paper will review Gem Prep Online 3-Year Gifted and Talented Plan and will analyze how its program aligns and differs in comparison with West Ada’s district G/T program. Gem Prep Online (GPO), is a statewide K-12 online public charter school serving students who are identified as to be gifted and talented.

Gem Prep’s G/T program’s last review was conducted on October 1, 2019. The first step to identifying a student to be gifted and talented is to receive a parent, teacher, or student’s referral form with evidence that indicates the child is performing highly in one of the five specific talented areas. After referral and parent consent are received a variety of assessments will be conducted utilizing the Idaho G/T program manual as a guide. After a child has been identified, a contact teacher will be assigned and the Response to Intervention Team will begin with the development of an individualized plan which will be monitored and adjusted regularly.

Students participate in the program through a variety of online options that allows them to work at their own pace. Students can be placed in elective online/distance coursework, online instruction, differentiated instruction, dual enrollment, dual credit, and single subject, but GPO’s focus is to provide college preparatory instruction.

An area that Gem Prep has struggled to provide services for is leadership, music, art, and drama. One of the barriers online school faces is having student from all locations and not being able to have a central location to offer opportunities in those areas instead students will receive instruction through different local instructors, individual lessons, or small group lessons.

There are similarities and differences between the gifted and talented programs that GPO and West Ada offer to students. Gem Prep starts testing in Kindergarten while West Ada starts testing in first grade. West Ada offers two different programs beginning in third grade which are weekly pull-out and self-contained classrooms. West Ada offers a self-contained program rather than acceleration.

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As I stated earlier, GPO’s focus is to provide college preparatory instruction. They focus on the areas of math, science, language arts, and social studies. West Ada G/T program in the middle school has the same focus. Both programs differ only in that the program at West Ada doesn’t have a G/T option in math other than offering an honor math course. This math course is an accelerated course and leads eighth graders to earn high school credits like the GPO accelerated program. The high school program in both settings is similar. Students enter high school with the opportunity to choose between a regular curriculum or enrolling in a professional or career technical education while earning college credits.

Gem Prep G/T 3-year plan aligns and meets the requirements and procedures outlined in The Best Practices Manual for Gifted and Talented Programs in Idaho. The information required to be included when developing the G/T plan follows step by step the Gifted 3-Year Plan Template and addressed all the questions by answering them with detailed information. One of the weaknesses I can identify in the plan is not having a music or art program in a central location due to being an online school. Having students spread out throughout the state, give them the opportunity to learn in a one-on-one setting with local instructors which is a more individualized learning experience that is a strength and could benefit the student academically.

The Gifted and Talented Primary-age Task Force has created a booklet to provide schools with recommendations for the identification of gifted and talented individuals. According to Hardman (2002), high abilities in young children can be identified during their second year of life (p. 411). The Idaho G/T task force (2002) stated that research indicates that children’s brains are sensitive to new experiences through age five (p. 2). The G/T task force recommends that districts start their identification process when children enter Kindergarten. Early intervention is recommended and supported by both, Hardman (2002) and the Idaho G/T task force (2002). Another important factor to consider during the screening and identification process is parental involvement (Hardman, 2002, p. 411). Districts shall provide parents with resources and education about how to identify common behaviors in gifted and talented children.

In their G/T plan, Gem Prep implements their screening process early when children enter Kindergarten which follows the recommendation of the Idaho G/T task force (2002). On the contrary, West Ada begins to identify students when they enter first grade. Gem Prep begins the process early, but one of its greatest needs is to have funding for staff who could be dedicated only to the G/T program.

As a former early childhood educator, I would agree that beginning the screening process when children enter Kindergarten would increase their academic success as we can enhance academic programs early on and we could address areas of need more effectively.

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