Opinion

Highly Capable Program A Hidden Gem

In first grade, my now 10-year-old son struggled in school, not because the work was difficult, but because he was bored and unchallenged. He spent his good days coloring pictures because he would finish his work long before his classmates. On bad days, he spent a great deal of time sitting in the hallway or the principal’s office because he would act out from boredom and frustration.

One day he and his first-grade classmates were taking a math test. They were given two numbers and had to determine whether the problem was addition or subtraction and then solve the problem. Again, my son was frustrated. The teacher tried to help. “Can you add 5 plus 9?” she asked my son.

“Yes, that’s 14,” my son replied.

“Okay, good, can you subtract 5 minus 9?’ the teacher asked, hoping to make her point.

“Yes, that’s –4. That’s why you have to tell me if it is addition or subtraction.” my son nearly yelled.

A bit taken back, the teacher responded, “Oh, well, this is first-grade math.”

For children like my son, the elementary Highly Capable Program is one of the hidden gems of the Marysville School District. About 5 percent of our children fall into the category of gifted or highly capable. Highly capable children often have large vocabularies for their age, are able to learn basic skills quickly with little repetition and often read before entering school. They have long attention spans and intense concentration skills, especially with subjects that fascinate them. These students can be extraordinarily insightful and yet socially naive, at the same time. This program appreciates that they just think differently.

In Marysville, HiCap is located at Pinewood Elementary in self-contained classrooms for second through fifth grade. Elementary HiCap offers accelerated curriculum in literacy and mathematics, as well as opportunities for self-directed independent study. When my son began the HiCap program, he was instantly challenged and never bored. He started to enjoy school and has never had behavior issues since beginning this program. He worked in all subjects at least one grade year advanced and had the opportunity to explore inventions, economics, art, science and computers at a high level.

Students explore subjects that fascinate them. My son and several friends in the second-third grade class spent weeks working on the super-duper-horrible-awful-awesome math problem. They created it with addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. It spanned several white boards and after they created it, they solved it. It was fun.

To enter the HiCap Program, parents complete an application and students complete a series of tests to qualify. The application deadline for the Highly Capable Program is Jan. 29, 2010. Applications and additional information are available in school and district offices, as well as the online at the Marysville School District Web site. Openings occur at each level, with the most availability for students entering second grade. HiCap is also available at each of the three middle schools in language arts and social studies.

“Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire,” according to William Butler Yeats. I now have in the HiCap Program in Marysville learning with great success. I am grateful to the Highly Capable teachers and staff who challenge them and continue to fan their flames.

Amy is the mother of three boys and enjoys writing about kids and family issues. She and her husband and family have lived in Marysville since 2002. Comments? Email Amy at ajbazile@hotmail.com.

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