Buying Time to Enrich Learning

A gifted education teacher struggles to convince a reluctant colleague of the merits of curriculum compacting for gifted students.

Carol’s frustration with a teacher’s reluctance to send high achieving students to the resource room grows.

Carol Maxwell is the high achiever education specialist at the 600 student Springstown Elementary School. As the full-time resource room teacher in a Total Talent Development Program, Carol spends an hour each week with small, grade-level groups, working on research skills, creative thinking, independent study skills, and lifelong learning. She reserves three days of the week for classroom training, support of in-depth investigations, and consultations on curriculum compacting.

See a description of the Total Talent Development Model below:

Joanie is ahead of her class.

Carol tries to meet her Talent Pool students when their curriculum has been compacted and it’s convenient for their teachers. But that hasn’t been working with John Guthrie, the new fifth grade teacher. He has six Talent Pool students in his classroom, including one of the brightest fifth graders in the school, Joanie Sutton. The two other fifth grade teachers have four Talent Pool students each. Carol meets the group every Friday, but John’s students are either late—or don’t show up at all.

See a description of curriculum compacting below: 

See examples of curriculum compacting below:

Related Web Sites:

Supplemental Resources:

Reis, S., & Renzulli, J. (1992). Using curriculum compacting to challenge the above average. Educational Leadership 50(2), 51-57.

This Friday it’s no different. Carol immediately heads to John’s room. His students need to be there for Talent Development time.

Carol confronts John.

John is new to Springstown Elementary, and sometimes regrets the move. He misses his old school, where teachers spent most of the day with their homeroom students. He misses knowing his students’ strengths and abilities in all subjects, and he misses having a heterogeneous mix to draw upon through out the day. Most of the teachers at Springstown Elementary compact the curriculum for Talent Pool students. John has missed the after-school in-services on the subject since he coaches the middle school track team.

It’s hard for him to justify the disruption of pull-out programs. Bright students have always done well in John’s classes. Besides, his Talent Pool students are the best role-models in the room; they really help elevate discussions and behavior norms. Sure, it’s a nice reward for them to go to Talent Development, but it’s a pain for him to have to re-teach missed material. County policy states that students can not be pulled out during tests or quizzes. So far, he hasn’t planned around Talent Development—except to make sure he has the occasional quiz during that time.

John’s students take a math test.

John has just finished passing out a math quiz when the door opens and in marches Carol.

“Mr. Guthrie,” starts Carol, “I don’t mean to disturb you but I’m afraid that the time has gotten away from you. Your Talent Pool students are late. I’d like to take them now so I can salvage some of the remaining time with all of my fifth graders.”

“Mrs. Maxwell,” John replies, equally formally, “I’m afraid the students won’t be able to leave class now. As you can see, they’ve just started taking a quiz.”

The entire class is watching. Carol exhales slowly and leaves without saying anything more. She manages not to slam the door on the way out.

John returns from track practice and tackles next week’s earth science lessons. The teachers begin with one lesson in a concept-based unit.

The middle school where John coaches is just down the road, so after practice, he heads back to school to finish grading and planning.

He collects the mail and papers from his box, and eyes the packet from this afternoon’s in-service on curriculum compacting. His teammates dutifully deposit these whenever John misses a session, and he usually tries to make sense of what’s there before adding them to the compacting folder he keeps on his desk.

Returning to his classroom, John pops in his favorite CD and settles down to plan his upcoming earth science unit. He finds the Quality Core Curriculum (QCC) online and spreads out the compacting materials he’s just gotten to see if he can find a fit.

Georgia’s earth science Quality Core Curriculum and related resources

The preassessment Strategies list from the in-service session

Bloom’s Taxonomy Question Construction Wheel from the in-service session

John decides to skip the preassessment step and focus on adapting last year’s plans using Bloom’s wheel. He makes notes about having his students use drama and cartoons to illustrate the physical geology concepts. Hopefully this will spark their interest and help broaden their understanding.

Carol creates a plan supporting the Talent Development Program.

Carol has met resistance before. During her 10 years at Springstown Elementary School she has worked to convince teachers to support the resource room and the Talent Development Program. There have been a few people hard to sell, but none as reluctant as John Guthrie.

Most teachers release their students to the Talent Development Program because the regular curriculum is compacted, which creates the time and shows the need for something beyond the standard curriculum. Carol has tried to align curriculum compacting and resource room schedules to best address students’ needs. Many teachers say they now appreciate the resource room time, because it gives them the chance to work more closely with students who haven’t mastered the material.

Carol needs to get John on board. So far, he’s not compacting the curriculum. She puts some examples of what curriculum compacting looks like in John’s mailbox.

See the steps in the curriculum compacting process below:

Carol focuses on one student to illustrate how curriculum compacting might work.

It has taken two months, but Carol has finally convinced John to experiment with curriculum compacting—at least with one student, Joanie. Carol begins with a “strength-a-lyzer” for Joanie. This tool documents students’ current strengths, interests, and performance levels.

Joanie’s mother has said that Joanie is good in math and that she sometimes gets bored in school. Carol knows she needs to get John to compact the math curriculum first, but she wants him to consider other subject areas as well.

Joanie’s completed strength-a-lyzer

As John walks into their Thursday morning meeting, he shakes his head at Carol’s persistence. She’s been dogging him about this for months!

After exchanging pleasantries, the two teachers turn the discussion to addressing the needs of high achieving students. “I’ve got quite a few bright ones in my room,” John begins. “They’re smart, but they don’t learn by osmosis.”

Carol shifts in her chair and changes the subject. “What are you covering next in math?”

“Long division,” John grins. “Always a favorite!”

“If you’ll let me have Joanie this week during our scheduled resource room time, I’ll give her a pre-assessment and then we can look at her results and see what she needs.”

John shrugs. “Sure.”

A week later, Carol has gone over the pre-assessment results and is ready to talk to John. What can she suggest that John do as a result of studying Joanie’s strength-a-lyzer and the pre-assessment results? What does this mean for his teaching of the rest of the long division unit? Other units? She must have a plan before they meet in order to truly win him over. What about the other content areas? What impact does this information have on future curriculum planning?

Joanie’s pre-assessment results