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KCSD revamps SEAGUL program

Posted: April 11, 2013 7:20 p.m.
Updated: April 12, 2013 5:00 a.m.

The Kershaw County School District will offer more classes for eighth-grade SEAGUL students as part of the Kershaw County Board of School Trustees’ five-year gifted education plan. Trustees expressed hope the new curriculum for SEAGUL -- Special Education Activities Geared for Unique Learning -- will maintain student interest to keep them from dropping out of the program during the school year.

During the board’s meeting Tuesday night, KCSD Executive Director of Instructional Support Programs Alisa Goodman said eighth-grade is the only one from which students drop out of the program during the school year. This year, SEAGUL started out with 105 eighth-grade students but has ended up with about 96, Goodman said.

The district’s goal is to get the eighth-grade to move away from the “pullout” program and add new curriculum for students by 2016. The district is looking to add a foreign language by 2014 or 2015; advanced science in 2015; and advanced social studies in 2016. SEAGUL added English I and algebra I in 2012.

The eighth-grade SEAGUL group has lost students during the course of the year each of the last three years. According to Goodman, parents said regular class demands in addition to algebra I and English I are “too great” for some students to miss one day of class. She said teachers have said the quality of work of many of the students does not support their participation in the program and that many drop out of SEAGUL following a trip to Washington each year.

It was noted, however, that eighth-grade parents also submitted the least amount of feedback.

Trustees have looked at various ways to revamp the program since last year. They chose various ways to make changes throughout the year and Goodman guided the board through a review of the five-year plan Tuesday night.

All of the grade levels’ units will be adjusted to prepare students to accommodate Common Core standards. During the next five years, the district would like to see SEAGUL students score a 90 percent exemplary rating on state standardized tests. The Common Core standards are tougher than those currently used, KCSD Superintendent Dr. Frank Morgan said, so the district needs to begin preparing students now. In spring 2012, SEAGUL students earned an average of 85 percent in PASS testing.

The board will also have to decide whether SEAGUL classes will be offered at every school, whether teachers will travel from school to school, or whether to stick with the program’s current set-up. Currently, students in the western part of the county travel to Lugoff-Elgin Middle School for SEAGUL while students on the east side of the county travel to Camden Middle School. Seventy percent of parents prefer SEAGUL at home schools, Goodman said. There are currently 10 SEAGUL teachers. Morgan said there have always been scheduling conflicts with SEAGUL class time no matter what day and time they take place. The total time some students spend riding buses to on SEAGUL days adds up to a week of school, Morgan said.

There will also be a revision of SEAGUL units. New fifth-grade units can include environmental awareness, immigration and a unit on roller coasters. The new units will include standards from across various disciplines; “support and extend with more complexity and depth” what SEAGUL students learn in their regular classes; introduce non-fiction literature; include more “analysis, interpretation and argument justification” in science; and “quantitative reasoning and viable arguments” in math.

The district launched SEAGUL in 1974 for “intellectually gifted” children in grades three through eight. SEAGUL students meet one day each week to address skills that may not be addressed in the regular classroom setting.

In other news:

• KCSB will introduce the board members to Apple’s Facetime if they are unable to attend a Facilities/Finance Committee meeting.

• The first public budget meeting was held Thursday at North Central High School. The next meeting will be at Lugoff- Elgin High School on April 16 at 4 and 6:30 p.m.

• The annual Upchurch and Jowers banquet will be held Monday.

• The district’s annual Special Olympics will be held today at Camden Military Academy.

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