Special master says New London school district has a chance at gifted and talented funding

New London - The city is in the running to become one of three school districts in the state to replicate a highly successful gifted and talented academy model located in Hartford, the district's special master said on Thursday.

As part of the district's Strategic Operating Plan, the Board of Education has set a goal of creating a regional system of high performing, effective schools. Included in that goal is a strategy to develop and implement a grade 4-12 program for academically gifted students as a district charter school.

The Dr. Joseph S. Renzulli Gifted and Talented Academy, founded by Joseph S. Renzulli, received a $500,000 grant by the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation last November to replicate its renowned education model in three other school districts, and the district's special master, Steven Adamowski, believes New London has a chance.

Joseph S. Renzulli is professor of Educational Psychology at the University of Connecticut, where he also serves as director of the National Research Center on the Gifted and Talented.

"If that (replication) were to occur, we'd have all the resources of the University of Connecticut and Renzoulli behind it," Adamowski said. He said Renzulli and his University of Connecticut colleague Sally Reis are considered "the two leading experts on gifted and talented educational programs in the United States.

Superintendent of Schools Nicholas A. Fischer said that Renzulli is working closely with the leadership of the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation and suggested that New London be entered into the pool of candidates.

"The primary priority for the New London students who fall into this category is to be able to have the opportunity to be challenged," Fischer said, stating that potential charter school enrollment would focus on serving the students of New London.

He said there isn't an expected date for a formal announcement of the winners.

In what Adamowski called an "unusual finding," there is a large number of students in the third and fourth grades achieving a higher performance level on the Connecticut Mastery Test than their peers throughout the state. However, he said their level of achievement tends to fall as they progress through each grade level.

"Their needs are not being met because you don't have a program for the gifted and talented kids," Adamowski said.

A gifted and talented program was in place at the district's elementary schools but was eliminated in the 2012-13 budget. Fischer said this opportunity would be one way to bring that program back to the students of New London.

At the beginning of this school year, the board began work on the Strategic Operating Plan, which is a condition of the state's intervention.

The plan, which will serve as a road map of the district's ways to improve student achievement, will be submitted to the state by February.

Adamowski said Thursday that there are 30 strategies, six goals and more than 100 implementation steps contained in the Strategic Operating Plan, which will take effect at the start of the 2013-14 school year.

The next regular meeting of the Board of Education is scheduled for Jan. 24 at 7 p.m. in the Science and Technology Magnet High School.

j.hanckel@theday.com

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