The Best and the Brightest: Paterson School Creating New Program for Gifted Students


PATERSON, NJ – The city’s best students will be placed in a new gifted and talented program starting in September, Paterson education officials announced during a meeting on Tuesday.

The district plans to offer the program to students from kindergarten through 12th grade, although at first the gifted classes may be limited to several grades, officials said.

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Details of how the program would work are still being ironed out, but officials said they may create a magnet school dedicated just for gifted and talented classes. Another possibility would be to set aside special classed for the best students in various schools around the city.

“Every school may not have gifted classes, but certainly they will be in close proximity to every school,’’ said state-appointed superintended Donnie Evans. Students in schools that do not have gifted classed would still be eligible for the program, but simply would be sent to a different school to attend the program, officials said.

The goal is to enroll 10 percent of Paterson students in classes geared towards students who are gifted and talented, said assistant superintendent Susana Person, during a presentation on the program. Students will be picked by committees that will review their scores on standardized test, their performance on cognitive evaluations and their work in their regular classrooms, officials said.

“With gifted youngsters, you have to cast a broad net,’’’ Evans said.

City education officials hope the gifted program will provide Paterson’s brightest youths an opportunity to blossom academically in a more rigorous learning environment. By starting students in gifted classes at a young age, they hope more Paterson students will be ready to take honors and advanced places courses when they reach high school age.

In addition to selecting students, the district must now start the process of picking teachers for the program, Peron said. The teachers would have to take four college courses to quality for gifted certification under state regulations, officials. The plan is for the teachers to take the first two courses during the summers and the other two in the fall, Peron said.

Paterson Schools Commissioner Pedro Rodriguez, who has been a champion of creating a gifted program, expressed concerns that the district might lose teachers from the gifted and talented program if layoffs were necessary in future years. But Evans said the special certification needed for the program would make them “unique” and shield them from layoffs.

The district is planning to assign 18 to 20 teachers to the program, officials said. The district has set up special criteria for picking teachers for the program, such as those who have shown flexibility in their past performance, Peron said.

“They have to be very special teachers,’’ said Board of Education President Willa Mae Taylor. “They have to think outside the box. They have to be ready and willing.’’

Parents of children in the gifted program will be asked to attend six orientation and training sessions, Person said.

“This is going to be a new experience for families, for staff and for our students,’’ she said.

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