• Dear AMS Community!

    There has been great inquiry about the AMS Gifted & Talented Program, also known as Ascent. I aim to clarify as best I can below. 

    As I’ve come into the role as coordinator, I am inspired by the history of the program. Many people have committed to its innovation and evolution over the years. Well done!

    As with any programming, there is often wonder as well as debate about the purpose and structure. Some have also inquired about the name Ascent. 

    I have been listening to and taking to heart the many ideas about how the program may evolve moving forward. I feel fortunate to be part of a community that is impassioned with vision and loyalty to education and collaboration. 

    For now, I will share what we do know about the pulse of the program. 

    What is the purpose of AMS’ Ascent Program?
    All students are entitled to an all-inclusive education that supports their skills, talents and interests. AMS is committed to differentiating instruction in all areas of learning. Ascent supports students who have been identified as having skills and talents that call for extension opportunities for optimal learning. 

    What is the structure of AMS’ Ascent Program?
    In the past, both the push-in model (the coordinator steps into classes to support teachers with extension opportunities and students with goal attainment) and the pull-out model (students come to the Ascent space to experience extension opportunities) have been implemented.  Both are valuable, both are historically successful at AMS and in schools across the globe, and both are supported by the CDE. 

    For the remainder of the 2021-2022 school year, we will predominantly incorporate a push-in model. First, altering the school schedule and student schedules mid-year to accommodate a pull-out model isn’t feasible. Second, to reinforce the program’s purpose defined above, students learning with students of all skills, talents and interests represents and enhances real-world inclusion, differentiation and experiences. 

    “But, the pull-out model is valuable too.”  Yes, it is! To serve this purpose, I will be offering inquiry-based workshops, projects, games and trivia during recess times for students to participate in if they choose. I teach Mondays, students teach Thursdays and we collectively work on trivia, games and projects (Passion Projects and community projects) on Fridays. You can see the list of upcoming Ascent Recess workshops here.  I am really excited about this, and have designed my room to accommodate the abundance of heads and hearts that come through my door. 

    What is the philosophy of Ascent?
    Sometimes in class and in life we find ourselves waiting. We understand - "we get it" - and we find ourselves asking, "What now?" and "What's next?" We may twiddle our thumbs in anticipation that the world will provide for us. It will deliver us exactly what we need and want in that moment. We expect more knowledge, connection, inspiration and innovation. Our momentum mindset is innate. When we balance on the tippy toes of wonder and ask questions like "What's next?", we welcome and embrace the intrigue of how to challenge our heads and hearts. This is the heart of education. 

    As I've been meeting with students and parents, an inspiring point of discussion has been this. "When the world doesn't meet us right at that pivotal intersection regarding pace, skillset, interest, vision, goal, etc., what do we DO?" We seek. We remember that ultimately we are our own best resources, and we go find what knowledge, connection, inspiration and innovation serve us so we can be our best. We listen to, advocate for and grasp the opportunities and resources that will potentiate who we are. 

    I have created the AMS Ascent Extensions doc (be sure to view all the subject tabs at the bottom) as a resource for students, parents and colleagues to collectively access in those moments of "What now?" and "What's next?" This doc will grow with your help. Do you have a link, resource or idea you'd like to add?  Email me and I'll put it on there. 

    Go after what you want in life. The world is there. Sometimes it can't keep up with who we are which is why we need to trust our inner impetus to seek and create what it is we need and want. That is how we evolve. That is how the world evolves. 

    Yippeeee for wonder! Go for it ... in your unique ways!

    What is the justification for keeping the name Ascent?
    Some people have asked, Is it time for a new name?  Perhaps eventually. Ascent is a great name, and perhaps we keep it, or perhaps we shake it up and change the name to reflect the program’s evolution. For now, consider this: Ascent is what the program is referred to as at AES and AHS, and consistency across the district is important.  Also, at the foundation of the program name, whatever it is today or three years from now, it’s about how we explain, celebrate and embed Gifted & Talented programming. GT programs aren’t designed to promote divisiveness and elitism. Just like all extension programming (MTSS, for example) in place for all students in public education, GT programming is meant to inspire all students to be aware of and honor their skills, talents, interests, and how and why they share those with the world. It’s about all students feeling good about themselves, even in the face of adversity, doubt and misplaced self-perceptions. It’s about all students supporting all students. It’s about transparency and community support. “I am really great at that, and not so great at that, and that’s me! No matter what is easy or difficult for me, I am confident about who I am. I am confident my community has my back. I know that, and I can feel that every day. I am growing and learning just like every human being, and I know I’m not supposed to have it all figured out perfectly. What counts is that I believe in myself and others, and that I do my best and help others do their best too.”

    What are the GT qualifications for participating in the program?
    In compliance with the CDE, students who score 95th%ile or above in three or more areas qualify. Typically, this equates to 3-5% of the population. The assessments may include:

    • CogAT (screener 75%ile, full battery 95%ile; Verbal, Quantitative, Non-Verbal)
    • STAR Reading/Math 
    • CMAS 
      • Exceeds Proficiency
        • 5th Gr. 799-850
        • 6th Gr. 790 - 850
        • 7th Gr. 785 - 850
        • 8th Gr. 794 - 850
    • SIGS (GT identifier)
    • TOMA (Test of Mathematical Ability)
    • *class performance and observation

    Just as I’ve shared with students, I am here to answer your questions and to receive your ideas for the Ascent program’s progress and success. We are a vivacious village!

    And a tidbit of trivia for your head and heart: What is the only number that has the same number of letters as its meaning?

    Thank you for your interest in the Ascent program, and may you have an inspiring day ahead!

    Jessica Barnum 
    AMS Ascent Gifted & Talented Coordinator