Gifted and Talented Development
Gifted and talented children are those students with outstanding abilities and capable of higher performance when compared to others of similar age, experience and environment. They have significantly different educational needs from their peers and require educational differentiation as a regular part of their school day to ensure they reach their full potential. District 196 uses multiple criteria to help identify gifted and talented children. For more information, see policy 610 under Board Policy.
Gifted and Talented coordinators work to:
- Communicate with GT students, their parents, administrators and teachers about GT topics;
- Advocate for GT students to meet their academic, organizational and emotional needs;
- Form relationships with GT students and encourage participation in appropriate opportunities;
- Promote rigorous curriculum that exceeds the national, state and district standards; support content area teachers in offering differentiated curriculum;
- Coordinate a variety of enrichments, academic clubs and competitions, and
- Provide a smooth transition between elementary and middle school GT programming.
You can also visit the district GT webpage here.
Gifted and Talented Services Coordinator
Screening and identification process
District 196 conducts universal screening at a district level to find students who are demonstrating outstanding abilities and are capable of higher performance when compared to others of similar age, experience and environment. We use multiple criteria for a strengths-based identification of gifted and talented students.
We screen and identify students annually in grades 2 through 5.
- All second-grade students enrolled in District 196 are universally screened.
- In 2019-20, all third-grade students enrolled in District 196 are universally screened. In 2020-21 and moving forward, all fourth-grade students will be universally screened.
- Students in grades 4 and 5 who are not previously identified but are demonstrating outstanding abilities may be screened by school request with parent permission.
The identification process begins in October and ends in April. There is no screening available outside of this process.
Currently enrolled students
Gifted and Talented identification for currently enrolled District 196 students will consider the following multiple measure criteria:
- Assessment of cognitive abilities (Cognitive Abilities Test- CogAT 8)
- Assessment of academic achievement (MAP)
- HOPE rating scale for second grade
- Information from teachers about classroom performance and assessments
If a student has been identified in another district or state, contact Teri Emery, K-8 GT Lead Teacher, Teri.Emery@district196.org, for information about documentation for identification in District 196.
Gifted and talented children are those students with outstanding abilities and capable of higher performance when compared to others of similar age, experience and environment. They have significantly different educational needs from their peers and require educational differentiation as a regular part of their school day to ensure they reach their full potential.
District 196 Gifted and Talent Development Service Model Goals:
- Enrich, enhance, and extend core classroom curriculum and instruction within the literacy workshop and math workshop blocks. Staff utilize critical and creative thinking strategies, problem-solving and inquiry to help students become independent investigators. (NAGC standards 3.4)
- Engage and empower learners across the full day
- Equip PLC (professional learning community) teams and individual teachers
- Empower collaboration among classroom teachers, GT specialists, coaches, parents, students, and community
Flexible and Fluid Tiered Service Model:
- Tier 1, Core classroom - Core classroom teacher, grade level PLC team, and GT Specialist
- Tier 2, Guided groups - Core classroom teacher, grade level PLC team, and GT Specialist
- Tier 3, 1:1 - Focused on individualized need - Core classroom teacher, and GT Specialist
Students whose needs extend beyond the tiered service model may be referred for single subject and/or grade level acceleration.
Gifted and talented services in District 196 is an inclusive, flexible and fluid model. A student does not need to be formally identified as gifted and talented to receive support for their high academic and learning ability and/or high achievement needs. Gifted services are provided through flexible grouping based on formative and ongoing assessment of student needs in the classroom based on the content and standards being presented at that time.
GT is Gifted and Talent Development. GT services help meet the needs of GT and other high ability students by providing academic and affective opportunities within and beyond the classroom.
Is middle school GT the same as GT in elementary school?
GT in elementary school provides a strong foundation for identified students. They meet with a GT specialist where they learn problem solving, creativity, research, high level thinking, and leadership skills. GT in middle school offers differentiated assignments, enrichment opportunities, flexible grouping, cluster classes, accelerated math courses and individualized services. Sixth grade GT students meet periodically with the GT Coordinator to discuss pertinent topics. In addition, GT students can choose to attend “drop-in” sessions during selected advisory times to play board games, solve logic puzzles or work on homework.
How do I know what classes GT students have?
GT students will have the same courses that other sixth graders have. They may be clustered into academic classes based on national standardized test data and previous achievement in the content areas. Cluster classes may include GT and other students. Cluster teachers are experienced in their content area and have worked with high ability students. They will explain their expectations and describe advanced opportunities within their classes. The GT Coordinator may work with students in the classroom at the request of the teacher. If your child is not being challenged, please contact the teacher or GT Coordinator.
My child is concerned because the teacher has not said anything about GT.
Usually teachers do not use those terms when talking to the entire class just as they do not use the terms “special ed” student or “EL” student (English Language Learner). Sometimes a label can cause stress, pressure to attain a certain level or negative feelings. Some students may think they are in the wrong class when they do not hear GT, but all GT students’ schedules are reviewed to make sure they are in the appropriate classes.
What if my child is bored in class?
No student should be bored. Valley has many opportunities available for each student to succeed. If your child would like more rigorous work or curricular extensions, ask the teacher or see the GT Coordinator.
Can students who aren’t GT participate in challenges and enrichment activities?
Absolutely! All students who want challenging activities are encouraged to participate in enrichment opportunities both within and beyond the classroom. Almost all enrichments are open to all motivated students.
How do students find out what is offered through GT? What enrichment experiences are there?
Students should ask classroom teachers about extensions or ask the GT Coordinator about enrichments. Announcements are often in the daily bulletin. Examples of enrichments are listed below.
The Eagle’s Call is an online publication by and for the students of Valley Middle School of STEM. It publishes news articles, feature stories, opinion pieces, comics, as well as creative writing such as fiction and poetry. The Eagle’s Call newsroom is a specialized Advisory available to 7th and 8th graders through an application process; however, all VMSS students, including 6th graders, are encouraged to submit work for publication. vmsseaglescall.org
Thinking Cap is an academic competition where students compete as a team against other teams throughout the country. We meet periodically to practice answering questions using a team approach. Sometimes students hesitate to participate because they don’t know all the answers, but they are encouraged to become part of a team. We need exceptionally high ability students to help continue our tradition of excellence. Nationwide competitions are held in late fall and early spring.
Future City is a long-term academic competition in which teams design a city of the future using SimCity software, compose an essay on a specific topic, build a tabletop model of their city using detailed specifications, write a narrative about why people should come to their city and give a presentation to a group of engineers at the regional competition in mid-January. Although teams meet weekly at school from September-January, most of the work is done outside of school. A teacher and engineer mentor are the coaches.
Scholastic Scrimmage is an after school monthly team academic competition against other district middle schools. Meets are held at Scott Highlands which is centrally located in the district. We take a bus to and from the competitions and return to VMSS about 5:20.
Creative Communication Poetry Contest recognizes student poets. Students are encouraged to write a poem on any topic and submit it. The best poems are submitted to the national competition. Occasionally, a VMSS student’s poem is selected for publication in a national anthology.
VFW Essay Contest offers students an opportunity to express their views on a patriotic topic. It is sponsored by VFW Post 9433 in Rosemount. More information can be found on their website www.vfw.org.
Math Club is for high achieving math students interested in competing against other schools in the Metro area. The advisor holds regular practice sessions. Sixth grade GT students are especially encouraged to attend. Some students compete in Math Masters, Math League and Math COUNTS.
Science Club students work in teams to solve science problems. They also practice for the Science Bowl competition in late winter.
Destination Imagination is a creative problem solving competition in which a small group of students form a team and create a skit on a topic. Each team must have two parents as the team leaders/coaches although the GT Coordinator can help complete the paperwork for the competition. Teams usually meet after school at members’ homes from September to February. Then they present their skit at the regional meet.
We welcome questions and comments about GTYS. Parents are invited to call the GTYS Coordinator at (952) 431-8349.
Thank you for reading the GT webpage. The site includes some information for all students - not only GT students. There are events for EVERYONE. The What’s New column is updated frequently during the school year. Please email me at email@example.com or call 952-431-8349 if you have questions or comments. GT and enrichment opportunities are all part of the GT program.
Due to COVID-19 and possible changes in hybrid and distance learning, the enrichment and announcement sections may not be current at this time.
Virtual Field Trip Opportunities 2020-21
Valley Middle School is offering three virtual field trips to all students through Success Beyond the Classroom, a non-profit organization that partners with schools and the community to bring enrichment opportunities to students. They have redesigned their traditional field trip programming into safe, virtual environments. In the past, we offered field trips to the Young Authors Conference, STEMLink and Creative Con.
Unlike the one-day field trip experiences in the past, the newly formatted virtual field trips span the entire school year! We are excited for our families to learn more about these enrichments.
How to Register for a Virtual Field Trip:
- Students may register any time. There is no deadline. You will be able to access all of the content from earlier months beginning in October so you will not miss anything.
- Use “My Payments Plus Account” - On Valley’s website, click on FAMILIES, then MyPaymentsPlus. Parents need to register for each trip separately.
- The cost of each field trip is $30 for the entire school year’s programming
- Passcodes to begin the Virtual Field Trip experiences will be emailed to families within two weeks after you register.
Questions about the trips: Email Gifted and Talented Coordinator, Mary Spychalla at firstname.lastname@example.org
Are you reading the GT site?
We would like to know how many people read the Valley GT website. Please e-mail email@example.com if you read this page. You are also invited to give ideas about how to improve it.
Battle of the Books- Students form teams, read specific books and compete in the districtwide competition in the spring. In 2018 one of our teams WON the district competition. Mrs. Martin is the advisor.
Chess Club meets each Monday after school from lat October through April. Mr. Persons is the coach. In addition to Chess Club, our goal is for ALL students to learn how to play chess before they leave Valley. Checkmate Challenge during homeroom is for ALL students and teachers.
Creative Poetry Contest
Are you a poet? If you would like to enter your poem in a nationwide competition, listen for the details from Mrs. Spychalla in October. Check the websitewww.poeticpower.com
Declam/Speech begins in early December. Apple Valley High School students often win competitions. You are encouraged to start declam in grade 6 so you will be an expert within a few years. Check back later this fall to see who the coaches are this year.
Students who would like to form a DI team should see the advisor, Ms. Caldron, the first week in September. Teams need a parent to help with this creative problem solving event. Check out www.destinationimagination.org
Yes, drop-in is considered an enrichment for GT students because you get to come into a quiet area and play board games, do homework or visit during advisory. Drop-in is offered when other enrichments do not conflict. Mrs. Spychalla will come in to advisories to get GT students for drop-in.
Eagle’s Call - this is the school newspaper. See Ms. Erickson or Mr. Welter for more information.
FAB Lab Extended Day
Students may sign up for the FAB lab after school on dates to be determined. What will you create? See Mr. Podmers or Mr. Martin for details.
Future City is a five month, engineering competition which begins in early September. It incorporates STEM strategies where teams of 3 - 6 students construct a table top size model city to scale, write an essay describing the attributes of their city and discussing the year's essay topic, and present to a group of engineers at the state competition in January. The 2019-2020 theme will be listed soon. Usually one or more of Valley's teams earns an award. In 2017 and 2018, a first year team won a special recognition. Check out the website at www.successbeyond.org or www.futurecity.org. Mrs. Gedlinske is the coach. This is a fantastic long term engineering activity.
Geography Bee begins in November. All students participate in Round 1. The school winner may advance to the state bee in April. Mrs. Spychalla is the advisor.
Girls in Aviation field trip - Open to any girl and their parent. Mrs.Spychalla is the facilitator and is checking into whether the event will be offered this September.
A video describing the activities in the Maker Space is found on the VMSS website. Any student can sign up to participate in these activities which are held before and after school on selected days. Check out Makey Makeys, Ozobots, Duct Tape, Legos, and Squishy Circuits. There are pictures of students teaching teachers about these activities on a tri-fold poster in the GT area. Check with Mrs. Martin in the media center for more information.
Math Club is for all students who want high level math practice. Math Club meets every Monday morning from 7:00 -7:35 AM. Students who participate in Math Club may be chosen for the MN Junior High Math League or Math Counts. Mr. Spiegelberg is the advisor.
Math League Test
Students in advanced math classes participate in the state Math League competition in February. Mrs. Spychalla is the facilitator.
Selection for the Math Masters teams consists of a test and teacher input. Students are chosen in December and practice often during WIN to prepare for the competition in early March. Problems cover the following areas: numerical, geometry, time, money, decimals, fractions, percents, charts, statistics, probability, and pre-algebra. Last year's teams competed in March. We celebrated with a lunch at Dairy Queen and McDonalds. Mrs. Spychalla is the advisor.
Midwest Talent Search
The ACT or SAT is available to qualified students. Information is sent to those students in October. Students take the same exam that is given in high school. See Mrs. Spychalla for information.
National Junior Honor Society
VMSS is the only district middle school that offers NJHS. Sixth and seventh graders who meet the criteria for applying are mailed a letter in mid-March with an application form. Check out the details on the school website. Mr. Roseen is the advisor.
Physics Force at the University of Minnesota is for 6th and 7th graders who are selected by math and science teachers. Mrs. Spychalla is the facilitator.
Do you love to read? Would you like to learn about books that have been purchased recently and be among the first to check them out? Do you like to participate in team book competitions? If you answered, "Yes," then you should enjoy READ club which meets during advisory each month. See Mrs. Martin or Mrs. Kemp in the media center for more information.
VMSS offers two types of robotics leagues - Lego Robotics and the First Tech Challenge(FTC). This year there are seven robotics teams including an all girl team. The season runs from early September through January. Mr. Martin is the advisor.
Scholastic Scrimmage is a rigorous team academic competition for the highest level of gifted students who have a wealth of knowledge. We travel to Scott Highlands each month to play against other district schools. Students must turn in a parent permission each year in order to participate. See Mrs. Spychalla for details.
Science Bowl meets each Thursday morning at 7:00 AM. If you enjoy science, try out this club. Students who participate will participate in a Science Fair and may be invited to compete in the Science Bowl in the winter. Ms. Morgan is the advisor. Check out www.bowl.mnmas.org
This schoolwide competition will be held in May. Mrs. Spychalla is the facilitator.
STEMsdays Homeroom Activities
Sometimes homeroom is extended so students and teachers can collaborate on STEM inquiry activities. Thanks to the Society of American Military Engineers (SAME) for providing the funding for STEMsdays projects. For more information, contact math teacher, Mr. Dudley.
Sixth graders may participate in the winter/spring game which runs from January to April. Seventh and eighth graders may play the yearlong game. Last year one of our teams earned SECOND place out of over 300 teams in the Metro area. In 2037-18 another team won FIRST PLACE. Both teams attended a stockbrokers luncheon in Minneapolis. Mrs. Spychalla is the advisor.
Summer Academy for Academically Talented Students
This week long academy is for talented incoming 6th, 7th, and 8th graders in the entire district and is held each July at Falcon Ridge Middle School which is centrally located in the district. You do NOT need to be a GT student to register. Registration begins in April and closes in mid May. See Mrs. Spychalla.
Thinking Cap - grade 6, 7, 8
Teams of advanced students practice for this rigorous, fast-paced academic grade level competition during advisory for several months and then compete in two nationwide meets - one in the fall and the other in the spring. Working as a team enables students to answer most questions although many are slightly above their skill level. They earn points based on accuracy and speed. Last year we had seven teams. Mrs. Spychalla is the advisor.
The Rosemount VFW Post sponsors this essay event each September. Each year the topic changes. The essays are submitted to the Rosemount Post for evaluation and a recognition ceremony is held for those who write outstanding essays. Mrs. Spychalla is the facilitator.
GT 6th graders are participating in an advanced vocabulary and analogy study this year in their English language arts class. Mrs. Spychalla meets with GT students to practice for the event. Check out www.wordmasterschallenge.com. Seventh and eighth graders may also choose to do Word Masters.
Young Authors Conference
Each March the Young Authors Conference is held at Bethel College and offers students who have a passion for reading and writing an opportunity to work with authors, poets, illustrators and other adults who will share their love of literature. This year, Ms. Rogers is the facilitator. Over 50 students attended last year. Check out www.successbeyond.org
Do you know…
Academy for Academically Talented Students
The district wide Summer Academy for Academically Talented Students is held for a week in July at Falcon Ridge because it is centrally located. In 2019 over 200 students participated. Sessions offered included: Chess, Digital Photography, Hit of the Stage, Coding, Physics Quest, Mock Trial, Robotics, and Whodunit: The Science of Crime Scenes. Registration for 2020 opens in early April.
Cluster Classes for GT students
GT students are usually clustered in English Language Arts, science and social studies. Cluster teachers have experience working with high achieving students. They are also placed in appropriate math courses.
Valley teachers strive to provide curriculum that meets the needs of each student. Teachers receive on-going training in using inquiry to engage students to reach high levels of learning. In addition, English language arts, social studies, science and math teachers have shared ideas for differentiated curriculum as they participate in the curriculum cycle process. Valley has two literacy coaches who work with all teachers to incorporate literacy throughout the curriculum.
Electives for 7th and 8th graders
Coding, Advanced Coding, Music Technology, Multi-Media Technology, STEM Wellness and Fitness, and Leadership are available to students as well as band, choir and Spanish. Basic Engineering is a required course for all 8th graders.
Gifted and Talented Advisory Council
This group of parents, students, principals, teachers, and district staff meets quarterly to discuss issues related to gifted education. See the district website for detailed information about the purpose, members and minutes of this council. Mary Spychalla was the co-facilitator of this group for many years.
Gifted and Talented Coordinator
Mary Spychalla has been Valley's GT coordinator for many years. In 2008, she was hired as the district's middle school GT Teacher on Special Assignment in addition to the part time GT position at Valley. When the middle school district position was combined with the elementary position in 2014, she continued as GT coordinator at Valley. Although retired, much of her time is spent at Valley. Elementary YS students are part of the GT program. Refer to the GT page on the district website for information about YS students.
GT Groups - 6th grade
GT students will meet periodically to meet with Mrs. Spychalla. Discussion topics center around academic and affective needs of GT students.
GT Services Provided by GT coordinator
The Gifted and Talented coordinator works to: communicate with GT students, their parents, administrators and teachers about GT topics; advocate for GT students to meet their academic, organizational and emotional needs; form relationships with GT students and encourage participation in appropriate opportunities; promote rigorous curriculum that exceeds the national, state and district standards; support content area teachers in offering differentiated curriculum; coordinate a variety of enrichments, academic clubs and competitions; provide a smooth transition between elementary and middle school.
GT Students and Parents Communication
Do you have a question about any aspect of GT? Please contact Mary Spychalla. We want to help all students be successful. Mrs. Spychalla emails parents of GT 6th graders periodically throughout the year to update them on topics of interest.
Math Acceleration 6th grade
All current fifth are screened in the spring for appropriate 6th grade math placement. Criteria includes data from the 5th grade CogAT (Cognitive Abilities Test), math MAP (Measures of Academic Progress), Algebra Prognosis Assessment, Benchmark Assessment, Teacher Observation Checklist, and MCA (Minnesota Comprehensive Assessment). Students who are math accelerated in 6th grade skip TWO years of math and may enroll in Accelerated Algebra I. This course is for our highest tier of incoming 6th graders who meet stringent criteria. Students who are close to meeting the criteria for math acceleration may participate in a summer independent study option and then be assessed again. Contact Mary Spychalla for information.
Math Acceleration - 7th grade
All 6th graders are screened in the spring for appropriate math placement the following year. Students who are math accelerated in 7th grade skip one entire year of math and are placed in Accelerated Algebra I. Letters are mailed to parents of these students in May.
MN Council for the Gifted and Talented Conference
Minnesota Council for the Gifted and Talented (MCGT) holds an Annual Conference each November for parents and youth (K-7th grade) usually at the University of St. Thomas. Go to www.mcgt.net for further information.
MN Institute for Talented Youth Summer Programs
Many summer enrichment courses are available through MITY. Visit mity.org for course descriptions and staff information. All courses are on the campus of Macalester College in St. Paul. One student remarked, "Where else can you be spitting watermelon seeds one minute and studying astrophysics the next?"
Parents of 6th grade GT students
Parents of 6th grade GT students meet with the GT coordinator in September to learn about Valley's GT programming. In addition, letters explaining GT services at Valley are mailed to parents of GT students in the spring of students' 5th grade year and the fall of 6th grade. Parents of GT 6th graders also receive periodic updates about GT services.
Summer Gifted and Talented Institute
South of the River Metro schools have joined together to provide summer camps that stretch students' mind, body and imagination. Last year the classes were held at Harriet Bishop Elementary School in Savage.
Highly gifted math 6th and 7th graders may register with the University of Minnesota to take a qualifying exam which will determine if they are invited to participate in an accelerated math program at the University. The deadline for registering is usually January.
What does GT look like in the middle school?
Parents or students who would like information about any aspect of GT should contact Mary Spychalla. An overview of the levels of service can be found in the "download" section of the GT website.