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Published: Tuesday, 8/24/2004

$2.5M grant will identify, assist gifted 4th graders

BY RYAN E. SMITH
BLADE STAFF WRITER

The University of Toledo has been awarded a federal grant worth $2.5 million over the next five years to identify and assist gifted but economically disadvantaged elementary school students.

At the heart of the project will be fourth graders from yet-to-be-determined Toledo Public Schools, whom the project will follow for five years and provide with more advanced math and science opportunities.

The program will be replicated by Miami University with Dayton City Schools under the same grant, the U.S. Department of Education's Jacob K. Javits Gifted and Talented Students Education Program.

The idea is to find talented students who often go overlooked, said Laurence Coleman, the Judith Daso Herb Professor of Gifted Studies at UT and principal investigator behind the grant.

"Historically, we have not done a good job of identifying potential in children who come from less advantaged circumstances," he said. "The problem is the traditional standardized instruments we use. We overlook the signs of strength and focus more on what kids can't do."

As part of the project, officials will develop tools that will look for potential and are based more on the curriculum to which the students are exposed, he said.

W. Thomas Southern, a former Bowling Green State University faculty member who is now program coordinator of special education at Miami, said he hopes to enlist teachers and community agencies to look for clear indicators of talent as part of the process.

The next step would be for officials to work with teachers to provide an appropriate and more challenging instruction for the children. UT will provide Saturday enrichment experiences for the Toledo students in the spring and a two-week residential summer experience.

The grant should help about 100 students each in Toledo and Dayton, Mr. Coleman said.

"By replicating the project in two places, what we do is increase its potential for use in other settings if we're successful," he said.

John Foley, assistant superintendent of school improvement and reform for TPS, said the grant provides an opportunity to reach some students who might not fit the traditional definition of gifted. Of particular note, he said, is that it will include students with great potential from under-represented groups, such as minorities and children with disabilities. "That's kind of exciting that we recognize that kids have talents in unique ways and this gives us an opportunity to tap some of those."

Contact Ryan E. Smith at:

ryansmith@theblade.com

or 419-724-6074.



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