By Johanna Jaramillo

The University of Connecticut’s Neag School of Education was awarded two grants worth $7.5 million from the U.S Department of Education in efforts to support gifted students.

A $2.5 million grant will fund Project SPARK, an initiative designed to bring more students from underrepresented groups into talented and gifted programs.

“We fear we’re losing a lot of talent by not responding to high potential in those populations,” said Dr. Catherine Little, who will lead Project SPARK.

“We know that high potential exist across all population all groups and we just have not always, in gifted education, been able to find and identify high potential across all those populations,” Little said.

Little and her team will be working with schools around Connecticut and in Massachusetts to help find students with potential.

“One of the things we trying to do in project SPARK is to go into classrooms at grades kindergartens, first and second grade and work with the teachers in those classrooms to help the teachers recognize some of the behaviors that might indicate high potential, and also to do some lessons that are specifically designed to bring out some of those behaviors that indicate high potential,” Little said.

Little says they will then conduct assessments, classroom supports and other programming that will help the students.

Neag was also rewarded with a $2 million grant to support its National Center for Research on Gifted Education.

“We have a problem in gifted education. That problem is there are a lot of kids from diverse populations who don’t make it into gifted programs, and as a result of that they don’t reach their potential in life.”

That was Professor Del Siegle, director of the National Center for Research on Gifted Education.

The federal government wants Siegele and his team to identify programs that are being provided in schools and figure out which ones help to maximize achievement in children.

“We are collecting all the achievement data for every student in grades 3 to 5 in the states of Florida, North Carolina, and Colorado. We selected those dates because all of those states have a mandate to identify gifted kids and a mandate to serve them,” Siegle said.

If successful in identifying what programs work for students, Siegle’s project will get an additional $3 million, which will be used to test these programs and see if they actually work.

“If we expect our country to achieve it’s potential we have to insure that every student in school achieve his or her maximum potential,” Siegle said.

Photo credit: woodleywonderworks via photopin cc

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