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Charting the course for high-ability students in the Marshalltown school district

December 14, 2011
By Jason Staker , Times-Republican

The Marshalltown Community School District has produced many academically outstanding students including national Merit scholars, History Day national champions, nationally recognized American mathematics competitors, national Quiz Bowl qualifiers, and several World Food Prize Youth interns. Students have also won state championships in First in Math, Science Olympiads, Letters About Literature, FIRST LEGO League, Sixth Grade math Bee and multiple Envirothons.

These academic achievers reflect the fulfillment of MCSD's mission which challenges students to become life-long learners and productive, critical thinkers who strive for self-understanding and demonstrate responsible, global citizenship. Realizing that the regular classroom curriculum must be augmented for high-ability students, the Extended Learning Program (ELP) supports and provides qualitatively differentiated learning, helping these students reach their academic potential.

The elementary ELP teachers, Jill Brockman and Marcia Plett, provide service to the district's six elementary buildings. At this level the majority of high-ability student needs are met through classroom differentiation supported by the ELP teacher, but a small percentage of these students require individualized enrichment services in a pull-out setting. Students who demonstrate strengths in specific content areas may receive individual or small group instruction from an ELP teacher including extensions in math, science, reading, and thinking skills. Students may also participate in competitions such as First in Math, Word Master Challenge, or engage in individualized research projects.

The 5-8 grade programs provide learning experiences that are student-centered and need-driven. Students are able to select activities within their strength areas that build their academic and interpersonal skills, challenge their ability to work independently and as a team member, and promote a desire for life-long learning. ELP facilitators Karen Roessler and Lacinda Gillen coach academic teams and facilitate independent research projects as well as facilitate or teach compacted and advanced classes.

The high school program focuses on meeting the individual needs of students as they prepare for life after high school. To enrich students in both their academic and social needs, ELP program facilitator Susan Fritzell meets with students in ELP class during the school day and with academic teams after school hours. ELP classes focus on helping students understand themselves and how they relate to others as they prepare for the future through an investigation of career and college options. Additionally, many students opt to enroll in independent study courses. These include Independent Advanced Math Problem Solving, Independent Research in History, Independent Research in Science, and several Advanced Placement courses offered online or with a mentor teacher.

Susan Fritzell, Lacinda Gillen, Karen Roessler, Marcia Plett and Jill Brockman facilitate the Extended Learning Program in the Marshalltown Community School District.



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