BERNARDS TOWNSHIP, NJ -- Bernards Township school staffers have recommended changes to bring more challenging and creative programs to all students and enhance opportunities to those identified as gifted and talented.

Kristin Fox, the assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction, and teachers in the renamed QUEST program detailed changes for grades K-5 described the program to the Board of Education on Feb. 25.

QUEST is an acronym for Question, Understand, Explore, Seek and Think.

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The committee recommendations reflect the findings of an elementary school G&T review committee of parents, teachers, administrators and board members.

A few years ago, some parents requested the revitalization of the gifted and talented program at the elementary school level because they said their students needed more challenging work than they were getting in classrooms. Other parents said they felt that if students were not initially included in the gifted program, they could lose out on the opportunity to receive some of the same learning as the students progressing in gifted and talented from year to year.

Five years ago, the district began to explore opportunities to expand programming, starting with math, to a wider range of students across a broader range of disciplines.

The committee recommended opportunities for all students in the form of special topics or enrichment seminars arranged by the QUEST teacher in each elementary school. Students will be invited to participate based on interest and teacher referral.

The committee recommended creative experiences within the classroom and grade-level curriculum to develop thinking and creativity skills in all students.

The QUEST lead teacher in each elementary school will work to support the classroom teacher in delivering in-depth investigations for students working independently, with small groups or as a whole class.

For identified students…

Grades 4 and 5 students identified for Accelerated Mathematics will work with a QUEST teacher and classroom teacher to learn the standards of fourth through sixth grade mathematics during their fourth and fifth grade school years.

Identified students may be given opportunities to participate in higher-level-thinking activities with academic peers outside of the regular classroom. Students may be placed in these groups based on ability, talent, and interests as determined by the selection committee and QUEST teacher.

Fox said New Jersey schools are responsible for identifying gifted and talented students in grades K-12 and providing them with appropriate instruction. Identification should be ongoing, using multiple measures.

“Giftedness” is generally described as having above-average abilities, high levels of task commitment and creativity.

Ten percent of district students have been in the program. Over the last five years, there have been more boys than girls enrolled, by at least a 60-40 ratio.

Students can be nominated by teachers, parents and test scores. Nominations will be requested formally in the fall each year for Grades K-2 and in the spring for Grades 3-5 .

Permission for further testing will be sent to the parents for completion. A selection committee will meet to evaluate assessments of each nominated student.

Identification process will be ongoing and annual, Fox said, using multiple measures.

Parents or students may appeal the selection committee’s decision. Final decisions are made by the administration.