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Derry school district continues to push its high-achieving students

Union Leader Correspondent

June 18. 2013 9:11PM

DERRY — The school district’s programs for gifted and high-achieving students have gone through a number of changes over the years, with the current PACE program paving a successful path for students.

Originally, the program for gifted students was called GATE, for Guided Advanced Instruction to Exceptional Students, according to Serena Levine, the district’s director of supplemental services. That program then evolved into PACE, or the Program for Acceleration and Curriculum Enhancement.

“PACE is a little broader definition of what we do,” said Levine. “We accelerate and enhance the curriculum to meet the needs of the most gifted and high-achieving students.”

The program is not strictly for gifted students, but also for high-achievers who might not be challenged by the standard classroom curriculum, particularly in math and language arts.

At the elementary level, there is one teacher at each of the five district schools and the focus is on math. The PACE students work through three years of the math curriculum in grades four and five, according to Levine.

In the middle schools, there are a math and a language arts teacher at each of the district’s two schools.As in the elementary schools, the focus in the math program is on the accelerated learning of the curriculum.

In the language arts program, there is more of a focus on individualized programs with greater expectations of hitting higher reading and writing levels.

“The students are passionate about reading and writing,” said Levine. “They are ready as a group to tackle abstract concepts in literature together.”

There are about 100 students in the language arts PACE program in the middle schools and about 150 in the middle school math programs, according to Levine. All of the students achieve proficiency in the NECAP testing.

School Board member Dan McKenna asked Levine why there was not an accelerated language arts program at the elementary level.

Levine said there is a less formal approach to accelerated language arts at that level.

“Is there a need?” she asked. “Sometimes I think there is but there are limited resources, and I’m delighted we have the resources that we do.”

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