TAG is a magnet school for identified gifted and talented students. TAG provides appropriate learning experiences to meet the academic, emotional, and social needs of these students. TAG is a school within a school. It is housed at Central Grade School. There are three classrooms in the TAG program, consisting of two fourth grades, and one fifth grade class.
For Whom is TAG Designed?
TAG is designed for students whose intellectual capacity and aptitudes, rate of learning, and potential for creative contributions require experiences apart from the regular program.
How Did TAG Begin?
The Talented and Gifted program began at the West Junior High School about twenty-six years ago. It began in the 7th grade with classes in math, geography, and language arts. With the success of that program, it became evident that the same needs existed at the elementary level. In the early 1980's, a district committee recommended the implementation of the TAG program. Initially, it housed about sixty students in a multi-aged setting. As the District began separating into an east and a west side, the Talented and Gifted Steering Committee proposed that TAG be expanded as well. The current TAG program has approximately 75 students.
While there are many rewards associated with teaching and working with a talented and gifted program, there are many challenges as well. There is a wide range of student ability and an even wider range of student achievement. TAG is a high profile program. The expectations placed on students, teachers, and parents can often be overwhelming. Teachers must generate much of their own material, provide an accelerated pace, and explore topics in greater depth. At the same time, staff is given more creative license; necessary when working with students at higher reasoning levels. Teachers will say that students make connections more quickly or that the "light" goes on more often.
The program is fortunate to have six highly talented teachers. The teachers are:
4th Grade Annette Cole
5th Grade Julie Clark and Ann McDonough
Coordinator: Jame McCall
Principal: Bob Peters
Secretary: Jan Havens
The curriculum at TAG is the Traverse City Area Public Schools’ curriculum. There is acceleration of about one year in the mathematics program, allowing students to enter middle school in algebra. The general curricular emphasis however is one of a broader exploration of all topics. There is heavy emphasis on developing writing skills and reading at levels appropriate for TAG students. Where integration of subjects occurs naturally, it is facilitated.
More of the TAG student work is project oriented. TAG students often come into the program without much experience in planning longer-term projects. They are used to getting assignments done quickly. One of the most difficult tasks for students new to the program is learning to effectively budget time for larger projects. Teachers will work with students and parents in this endeavor.
Who Gets Into TAG?
Each year, 3rd grade teachers and parents make recommendations for students to be tested for the TAG program. The district tests about 150 third graders each spring. The test given is the Cognitive Abilities Test (COGAT), which tests reasoning abilities in the verbal, quantitative and nonverbal areas.
Based on the results of this battery of tests, teacher referral forms and student writing samples, fifty students are selected for participation in the 4th grade TAG program. This represents about 7% of the student population of the Traverse City Area Public Schools and is consistent with state recommendations for gifted funding and screening. If students are invited, but choose not to participate, another student will be invited in his/her place.
Students who join the TAG program and stay in it for both years will be recommended for middle school programs based on their performance over the two year period. They may be recommended for all, some, or none of the middle school programs.
What Is A TAG Student Like?
While stereotypes should be avoided, there are characteristics, which can often be associated with gifted students. Students identified for the TAG program have innate reasoning abilities. They can reason more quickly than normal students their age. This can, and should lead to higher levels of learning combined with the ability to make connections others may not make. They may demonstrate unusual commitment to tasks that they enjoy. They may exhibit precocious senses of humor, advanced vocabulary, or concerns for more global issues than their peers. Difficulty sleeping, boredom, questioning authority, and emotional swings may be behaviors exhibited by these students. Emotions may vary wildly as they learn to assimilate a mind and thought process that is developing faster than others of similar age.
It is the challenge of the TAG program to address the social and emotional needs of these children at the time as their academic needs are being met.
Parenting the TAG Student
When a parent first realizes his/her child has been labeled as gifted, there is understandable joy and pride. There are, however, issues for which a parent may need to be prepared. Expectations may become unrealistic. Doing well on the COGAT test does not guarantee or even imply academic success. It is important to remember that admission to TAG is an opportunity to help develop a child's potential.
The students are still young children. The move to TAG is a significant one for them. Parents often see a maturing as they make the move and the accompanying adjustments. It can be difficult to balance the focus among the academics and the social and emotional issues. Students need to know that even if they get a low grade their self-worth has not diminished. They may need a better organizational plan and it is up to students, parents, and teachers to work as a team in that effort.
These students also need some "down time." They may be participating in soccer, piano, dance, football, church groups, or any multitude of activities. Providing these opportunities is an excellent way of developing a well-rounded student. Taking them to plays, musicals, or the public library helps build cultural awareness and appreciation for the arts. There is, however, a fine line between over-stimulation and under-stimulation. Even gifted kids need some down time just to be kids. Developing strategies for what to do with unstructured time is a valuable developmental skill. If they are over-programmed, they never learn that skill.
Finally, helping your child learn to deal with occasional failure is paramount in his/her success. Much can be learned from difficulty and struggle. Many great discoveries have come from failures to discover something else. We want our brightest young people to feel free to be "risk takers". This is something that begins to develop at a young age. If they bring a low grade home, or "just can't figure something out," serve as their guide towards improving the experience. Parents should avoid the temptation to do the work for them.
This is a great opportunity and you should be proud of your child's invitation to the program. However, it needs to be a family decision. All of Traverse City Area Public Schools’ elementary schools are excellent. If your family chooses to remain at the home school, teachers and staff will work hard to provide an appropriate educational experience.
The fact that your child has been invited to TAG implies that we as a TAG staff feel it is the appropriate place for him/her to be. We think your student will be successful. The TAG program cannot be emulated in the regular classroom. We hope you choose to become part of it.