By Adam Young 

A Gifted and Talented (GATE) program will be piloted at David E. Norman Elementary School during the second semester of the 2016-2017 school year.  Students will have opportunities to stretch their learning in math, reading, writing and music.

Dedicated parents along with DEN principal Cammie Briggs are responsible for organizing the opportunities.  The district has received a small amount of funds for gifted students and plans on using them to pilot these programs as school personnel gear up for a full program in coming years.

“Staff at DEN and McGill have worked tirelessly for years to meet the needs of struggling students.  But as much as we want to be known for being supportive and ‘going the extra mile,’ we also want to be known for providing challenges and opportunities for students who excel in various areas and need to be stretched,” said Briggs, the Nevada Association of School Boards School Administrator of the Year in 2016.

Briggs, along with other administrators and teachers in the district, are part of the Great Teachers and Leaders project, which is responsible for charting the organization’s course for the next five years.  One of the struggles the group has tackled is the need for more programs that challenge and enrich district students.

“Students at the early ages must learn the basics of reading, writing, and mathematics.  But they must have other opportunities as well,” said district superintendent Adam Young.  “With our severe budget shortfalls in recent years, it has been difficult to maintain or expand these opportunities.  We are committed to exploring every possible option to provide the outstanding students of this community with the chance to grow and stretch in academics as well as other areas.”

Briggs noted that gifted and talented students come in many varieties.  “These students can be identified through MAP and other academic testing. But the research of Howard Gardner, noted educational psychologist, posits that students can also be gifted and talented in many other areas besides academics.

“For this year, we are choosing to focus on music because of the overwhelming research not only from Gardner but institutions like John Hopkins University and Kansas University, which conclude that students who have opportunities to excel in music have a tangential positive effect in their academic studies as well.”

So, in other words, focusing on students who are gifted in music is one way to raise achievement not only in music but in academic areas as well.

Specifically, researchers at Kansas University found, “Analysis showed that students engaged in music programs outperformed their peers on every indicator: grade-point average, graduation rate, ACT scores, attendance and discipline referrals. Overall, the study demonstrated that the more a student participates in music, the more positive these benefits become” (news.ku.edu from a study conducted in 2014 and published by the Music Research Institute).  The study examined students beginning in fourth grade and followed them all the way through high school graduation.

Students in kindergarten through fifth grade were selected using a specific assessment tool for the academic GATE program.  They will meet several times per week for special instruction above and beyond what they receive in their regular classrooms.  Students who are interested in the GATE music programs will learn basics of music theory and singing.  Students in fifth grade already have the opportunity to learn instrumental music through the district’s director of bands Ali Hall.

“This is a small step.  But it’s an important one.  As the pilot progresses, we will monitor and evaluate how to bring it to full scale implementation district wide in subsequent years,” said Young.

Parents with questions or who would like to help can contact Briggs at 289-4846,