The Gifted Education program provides a continuum of service that is flexible and has the capacity to include students formally identified and those that revolve in for service in a strength area in the pullout portion of programming. In this way, students who demonstrate a need in the general education classroom can participate with formally identified students in Needs-Based Classes.

The continuum of services program model may include pullout programming, collaborative teaching, varied grouping strategies, acceleration, differentiation of curriculum and instruction, dual enrollment, magnet schools, and specialized or self-contained schools.

Elementary cluster classes

Clustering elementary students with similar needs helps students receive instruction that most closely meets their needs. In the spring of each year, as classroom and support teachers plan for student placement in the fall, they consider many factors, including academic strengths, learning styles, need for rigor and repetition, behavior and other factors. Results from grade-level appropriate assessments, teacher recommendations and the special needs of individual students are also included.

Cluster groups allow for flexibility in small groups, large groups and “walk-to” leveled instruction. The combination of grouping for instruction and differentiating the instruction to meet learner needs provides new learning and challenge daily for students at all levels of need, including those entering with mastery.

Focus on Differentiation

Differentiation of instruction means that teachers vary the delivery of curriculum to address the specific needs of learners. State standards and benchmarks tell us what students need to know. Through pre-assessment, the classroom teacher looks at each student’s readiness, interest and learner profile to determine each learner’s needs. 

Level 1 – Support for All Students

Gifted Education staff is present in all elementary buildings. Classroom teachers participate in professional development to understand the characteristics of gifted learners and address their academic needs. Student screening for needs-based pullout instruction is provided beginning in grade two.

Level 2 – Cluster-Based Services

Gifted Education staff collaborates with and supports the classroom teacher. In kindergarten through second grade, the Gifted Education teacher goes into each classroom to focus collaborative instruction on higher-level thinking skills and differentiation. Affective support is provided outside of the classroom for students demonstrating the greatest need for rigor.

In intermediate grade levels, the Gifted Education teacher focuses on differentiating instruction in the cluster classroom with students who have the greatest need for rigor.

Some schools offer before- or after-school on-site academic challenge teams such as Destination Imagination or Future Problem Solving.

Level 3 – Needs-Based Classes

Gifted Education staff provides direct instruction in a pullout model for students identified with the greatest need for rigor. Students may participate in up to four topics per year at each grade level:  Affective, Non-Verbal, Verbal or Quantitative, depending on the site focus.

District 279 Children’s Chorus is part of Level 3 service. Gifted students from all elementary sites in the district have the opportunity to meet weekly to enjoy music, gain choral skills, and prepare for performances in the local and surrounding communities. Audition camps, which combine skill building, fun and auditions, are held in every fall and include participants from every elementary school in Osseo Area Schools.

Level 4 – Grade/Subject Acceleration, Early Admission, Dual Enrollment Programs

Gifted Education staff works directly with individual students to meet specific needs such as early admission, dual enrollment, and/or acceleration. This data-driven process to meet the needs of gifted students frequently includes collaboration between parent, teacher, student and GE teacher.

Acceleration is a way a student can move more quickly through an education program than their same-age peers. The decision to accelerate a student in a single content area or in a full grade level or more involves a team of professionals at the elementary site who review a wide range of data to determine academic readiness. The Gifted Education teacher may facilitate the data collection process.

Early Admission to kindergarten is a component of acceleration through the lens of Gifted Education. This screening opportunity is offered to four-year-olds who are too young to start school, as outlined in state statute, but whose parents/guardians believe the student should be in kindergarten. By School Board policy, the student must turn five by November 1st to be eligible to participate in this process.

The two-stage screening process begins with a classroom experience for prospective students. Students who advance from the first level participate in a second level of screening, which is done by an agency outside the school system. The second level addresses the student’s fine motor, social-emotional and cognitive readiness. Students demonstrating need through these steps are offered the opportunity to enter kindergarten. Parents/guardians are responsible for the outside screening portion (making arrangements and covering the costs).


Jeremy Willey