The Carroll County School System has unified its gifted program curriculum. Teachers have placed an increased emphasis on Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) learning for students participating in the district's gifted program.
"In the past, we really did not have a concrete curriculum for our gifted program," said Jennifer Shirley, director of elementary and middle grades education. "What was being taught in the classrooms was largely being determined by administrators at each school."
Shirley said teachers reviewed the standards for each grade level, and looked at the data from the most recent Georgia Milestones testing to determine what could could be done do to push more gifted students into the test's distinguished learner category.
"We worked on giving them more structure, more support and enrichment in those areas," said Shirley. "We then zeroed in on some specific areas that would help us achieve that goal. As a gifted teacher, we didn't have a lot of shared resources before now, and to be able to do that now has been great."
Shirley said that every gifted classroom in each of Carroll County's schools now has a similarly structured curriculum with solidarity in topics of discussion, as well as lessons that are taught in the classroom.
Christina Gillam, a gifted program teacher at Sand Hill Elementary, said the new curriculum challenges students to develop real-world solutions to commonly encountered problems in STEM related industries. She has worked with Shirley to help establish a stronger emphasis on STEM learning.
"I have a passion for teaching gifted students, and I also have a passion for STEM," said Gillam. "I went to a gifted conference a while ago, and I felt like our students were missing something. I realized that they needed to be learning more about STEM-related topics to better prepare them for the jobs that are out there today."
Gillam said an increase in STEM-focused learning could help Carroll County as a whole due to the existence of Southwire Company, one of the largest wire and cable manufacturers in the world, being based in Carrollton.
"We have a unique perspective on engineering and technology based jobs in Carroll County because we have Southwire, which needs engineers desperately," said Gillam. "Our kids can graduate from high school, and go to West Georgia Technical College, or to Georgia Tech and get those engineering degrees and come back to Carrollton and work here in our community."
"Right now, our second graders are learning about all of the different kinds of engineers," said Gillam. "At the end of the lesson, they will pick one of those kinds of engineers and solve a problem related to that field of engineering. It's really pushed our kids to think on a higher level and use some knowledge that they wouldn't have gained before. The feedback from students and parents has been great. They all love it."