Project ELEVATE helps diversify gifted classes at Seminole County schools

Teacher says program boosts students' self-esteem, confidence


SANFORD, Fla. – A more diverse group of gifted and talented students is being identified in Seminole County thanks to Project ELEVATE.

After receiving a special $2.4 million dollar federal grant two years ago, Seminole County Public Schools implemented the program to identify a broader group to participate in gifted studies.

Idyllwilde Elementary School is one of five schools in the district featuring Project ELEVATE. During gifted class time, students work in teams on projects like building miniature obstacle courses to increase their critical thinking and problem capacities.

Teacher Jessica Goff said the program boosts students' self-esteem, confidence and overall achievements, including how well they work as a team with other classmates and how well they test.

"A lot of what we do here in gifted has to do with critical and creative thinking, really developing those processing skills to help them better understand what they're learning," Goff said.

Project director Jeanette Lukens said it's a multi-pronged approach that goes beyond the gifted class to include parent workshops, teacher training and talent development opportunities for all students.

"We are trying to increase the underrepresentation in our gifted program. We want to increase diversity in all of our schools and our gifted and talented development programs. In particular, we want to focus on students learning English as a second language as well as students who are from economically disadvantaged homes," Lukens said.

Lukens said the initiative is working well in Seminole County where more kids are being screened and identified as gifted, including those from traditionally underrepresented demographics. Overall across the district, she said there's been a 34 percent increase in students identified for the gifted program.

Project ELEVATE is growing in the coming years. The district plans to add the program into the curriculum at five more elementary schools as well as two middle schools.

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