The District 181 Board of Education this week approved the recommendation by Superintendant Dr. Renee Schuster and district administration of an outside consultant to evaluate the district's gifted program.
Assistant superintendant for curriculum Dr. Janet Stutz announced that Dr. Tonya Moon and her team from the University of Virginia were selected out of a pool of four candidates.
"Her team has expertise in the area of differentiation of instruction, assessment, and mathematics instruction," Stutz said.
Assistant superintendant for business Dr. Troy Whalen said Moon will be offered a two-year contract worth a total of nearly $43,000.
The board voted 5-0 to approve the administration's recommendation at its Monday meeting at . Marty Turek was absent and Yvonne Mayer abstained.
The consultant will be asked to evaluate how the district's advanced students are selected and instructed.
The gifted program, which includes the Affective and Cognitive Enrichment (ACE) program, has evolved much since it was started in the 1980s and has been a source of concern for parent groups “on and off” throughout its existence, Schuster said after the Aug. 8 meeting of the board.
Issues some parents have with the gifted program include its selection process and whether advancing students beyond their grade level in certain subjects is beneficial, Schuster said. The superintendent said some even question whether a gifted program should exist at all.
“So by having an outside person come in and look at everything we do … they could give us an objective perspective upon which to make the decisions,” Schuster said.
According to the District 181 website, students are first assessed for the gifted program during the spring of second grade. Evaluations are based on several standardized tests as well as teacher observation.
The ACE program is a self-contained program where selected students from all the district’s elementary schools meet one day a week at a school with a gifted specialist. There are also advanced math and language arts programs in each building for students who excel in those subjects.
Schuster said she believes the district must focus on individual student learning and gifted programs are an important part of that.
"It's critical that kids do not have to wait to learn," she said.