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Examining the evolution of the Transition Program preparing academically gifted students for early entrance… Danylchuk, Daria 2003

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Examining The Evolution of the Transition Program Preparing Academically Gifted Students for Early Entrance to University by DARIA D A N Y L C H U K B.A. (Honors English) University of Saskatchewan, 1969 B.Ed. (With Distinction) University of Saskatchewan, 1971 M.Ed. The University of Connecticut, 1978 A THESIS SUBMITTED IN PARTIAL F U L F I L L M E N T OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF DOCTOR OF EDUCATION in THE F A C U L T Y OF G R A D U A T E STUDIES Department of Educational Studies We accept this thesis as conforming to the required standard. THE UNIVERSITY OF BRITISH C O L U M B I A March 2003 (c) Daria Danylchuk In presenting this thesis in partial fulfilment of the requirements for an advanced degree at the University of British Columbia, I agree that the Library shall make it freely available for reference and study. I further agree that permission for extensive copying of this thesis for scholarly purposes may be granted by the head of my department or by his or her representatives. It is understood that copying or publication of this thesis for financial gain shall not be allowed without my written permission. Department of j^dti.s-ai/r'oha I c S l C / < * ^ 9 The University of British Columbia Vancouver, Canada Date Af^J) l&. 7va<9 ^ DE-6 (2/88) Abstract The V S B / U B C Transition Program is a Ministry of Education Provincial Resource Program for highly academically gifted young adolescents. Unique to British Columbia and Canada since its inception in 1993, the two-year program is currently housed on the U B C campus and affiliated with University Hi l l Secondary School. Despite an extraordinary range of hurdles - which are fully discussed and analyzed in this study - the eventual establishment of an early entrance to university program is seen as a remarkable accomplishment of educational leadership and organizational learning involving institutional partnerships, flexible governance and a shared commitment to academically gifted young people. The study examined the complexities of implementing a unique educational innovation for academically highly gifted young students in a university setting and in a provincial context which has not traditionally favored support for the highly gifted. The study had two phases. An historical narrative traced the development of this innovation and described how the current program model evolved in response to student needs. Documentary evidence based on original documents and interviews with program developers, implementers, and participants provided a multi-faceted perspective of the program's complex history and highlighted factors contributing to program success for students, as well as problems encountered along the way. Building upon this narrative, the second phase surveyed and then analyzed the views and expectations of students, parents, and staff as well as program planners at different stages of the program. These various perspectives were used to advance an understanding of how and why this unique program developed as it did, and how its participants variously responded to a wide range of expectations and needs to arrive at the current delivery model. The study concludes with a discussion of critical issues and documents the strengths and unmet needs of academically gifted students that have emerged over the course of the program's development. It culminates by providing an understanding of key elements related to program success for gifted youth together with recommendations for future program development and a broader array of programs and services for academically gifted students in secondary schools and post-secondary institutions in BC. The study ends by encouraging more support for educational innovations that respond to the developmentally unique needs of all students, and a commitment to on-going short term as well as longitudinal research on the Transition Program and its graduates. TABLE OF CONTENTS Abstract i i Table of Contents i i i List of Tables viii List of Figures x Acknowledgements xi CHAPTER I Introduction 1 1.1 Origin of the Study 1 1.2 Gifted Education Context 2 1.3 Motivation for Program Development 3 1.4 Rationale for the Study of an Innovative Program 4 1.5 The Uniqueness of the Transition Program 5 1.6 Research Design Considerations 6 1.7 Research Methodology 8 1.8 Practitioner as Researcher 8 1.9 Organization of the Study 9 CHAPTER II Review of Current Literature 12 2.1 Conceptions of Giftedness 12 2.2 Cultural Attitudes Toward Giftedness 12 2.3 Definitions of Giftedness 14 2.4 Definition of Giftedness in British Columbia 17 ii i 2.5 Characteristics of Gifted Students 18 2.6 Educational Practices for Gifted Students 23 2.7 Research on Academic Acceleration 25 2.8 Early Entrance to University Programs 29 2.9 Educational Policy and Giftedness 31 Chapter III The Transition Program's Evolution 36 3.1 Critical Elements Supporting Gifted Education Program Development in Vancouver 36 3.2 The Need for a District Early Entrance to University Program . 38 3.3 Exploration of Program Models 40 3.4 Development of an Institutional Partnership 41 3.5 Assumptions Underlying a Program Model 42 3.6 Program Approval in Principle 43 3.7 Negotiating Funding for Program Implementation 45 3.8 Initiating Program Implementation 46 3.9 1993-1994 The Start-Up Year 48 3.10 The Initial Program Design 48 3.11 Liaisoning Between U B C Professors and Transition Program Staff 51 3.12 Developing Professional Knowledge: Gifted Education And Related Student Needs 52 3.13 Transition Program Parents 54 3.14 1994-1997 Struggles of Program Organization and Program Identity 55 3.15 Changes in Program Staff 58 iv 3.16 Provincial Resource Program Status 59 3.17 District Changes and Leadership Challenges for the Transition Program 60 3.18 The Program's Struggle for a Clear Identity 62 3.18 Program Learning Culminates in Reframing of Program Structure 64 3.20 The Conceptual Framework Response Document 67 3.21 Relocation to the U B C Campus 69 3.22 Articulation of Program Delivery Promotes Development of Program Stability 72 3.23 The Challenge of New Staff 75 3.24 Implementation of the Revised Program Structure 83 3.25 The Challenge of Change 85 3.26 Summary 92 Chapter IV Examining the Program From the Inside Out 100 4.1 Data Collection 101 4.2 Survey 101 4.3 Focus Groups 102 Parents 102 Students 102 4.4 Semi-Structured Interviews 106 4.5 Complexities and Limitations of the Data Gathering 109 4.6 Analysis of Survey Data 112 4.7 Discussion of Findings 120 Student Needs 121 Motivation to Apply 121 Interpretation of Student Needs 123 Definitions of Success 128 v Program Improvement 136 4.8 Summary 141 Chapter V Reflections on Program Learning with Recommendations 144 5.1 Program Development as Program Learning 145 5.2 Learning as Part of Program Culture 145 5.3 A Learning Model for Development and Growth in the Transition Program 146 5.4 Learning as a Precursor of Change 148 5.5 Organizational Learning and Program Change 150 5.6 Influences on Program Development 153 5.7 Leadership as Teaching 157 5.8 Teaching as Learning 163 5.9 Policy as Leadership 170 5.10 Emergent Understandings, Issues, and Directions 175 5.11 Recommendations 180 5.12 Concluding Thoughts of Practitioner as Researcher 184 References 185 Appendices 197 A. List of Transition Program Study Abbreviation and Source Documents. . . 197 B. Topics for Transition Program Students-Block E (1993-95) 199 C. Transition Program: Space Needs (2000) 200 D. Transition Program Surveys with Cover Letter 201 vi Parent Survey 201 Steering Committee and Administrator Survey 209 Student Survey 218 Teacher Survey 231 U B C Instructing Professor Survey 239 Survey Cover Letter 247 E. Survey: Rating of Program Elements by Program Participants 249 F. Survey: Recommendations for Program Improvement from Students . . . .252 G. Celebrating Diversity - Igniting Potential Graphic 253 Vll Tables 1.0 Needs of Gifted Students 19 2.0 Student Characteristics Related to Student learning Outcomes 20 3.0 Needs of Secondary Gifted Students 24 4.0 An Overview of the Transition Program Framework 1998 70 5.0 In What Ways Is The Transition Program Unique 77 6.0 Transition Program: Articulation of Program Needs 79 7.0 Summary of Needs 80 8.0 Transition Program Development: Milestones 94 9.0 Transition Program Development and Research Activities 100 10.0 Focus Groups: Transition Program Students 103 11.0 Participation in the Data Collection Process 109 12.0 Program Years Represented by Student and Parent Data 110 13.0 Student Enrolment by Age I l l 13.1 Student Enrolment by Grade I l l 14.0 Transition Program Student Enrolment 1993-2002 113 15.0 Years of Transition Program Involvement of Survey Respondents 115 15.1 Survey Respondents Represented by Year and Enrolment 115 15.2 Categories of Student Response to Survey 116 16.0 Differences Across Participant Groups 117 16.1 Differences Across Parent Groups 118 16.2 Differences Across Student Groups 118 17.0 Educational Settings of Students Prior to Enrolment in Transition Program . 128 viii 18.0 Summary of Student Needs From Transition Program Students 127 18.1 Summary of Student Needs From Staff 127 18.2 Summary of Student Needs From Parents 128 19.0 Career Directions of Some Transition Program Graduates: By Faculties . . 134 20.0 Summary of Perceptions of Student Success From Students, Parents, Staff . 136 21.0 Gifted Education Catalyst Ideas Influencing Program Development . . . .155 22.0 Implications of Developmental and Categorical Approaches to Intelligence . 169 ix FIGURES 1.0 Transition Program Design 68 2.0 Students Needs Addressed Within Transition Program According to Students 126 3.0 First Stage of Program Integrity: Congruence 128 4.0 Second Stage of Program Integrity: Success 129 5.0 The S Curve of Development 147 6.0 Four Factors Influencing Transition Program Development 153 7.0 Program Goals and Related Best Practices 168 x Acknowledgements Many thanks to the Vancouver School Board, University of British Columbia, and BC Ministry of Education and specifically, Vancouver's District Advisory Committee for Gifted Education, Vancouver Chapter of the Gifted Children's Association of B C , Transition Program Parents' Association and members of the Transition Program Steering Committee for their support of this study. For kind support and assistance with access to records, documentary and oral history as well as the sharing of expertise, thanks are extended to Dr. Valerie Overgaard, Associate Superintendent of Learning Services, Dr. Shirley McBride and Susan Kennedy from the Ministry of Education, Dr. Stanley Blank, Emeriti Professor and U B C Liaison Coordinator, Dr. David Holm, Emeriti Professor and former Associate Dean of Science and Acting Registrar for U B C , Mary Lynn Baum, Gifted Children's Association of B C and Pat Sparks, Transition Program Parents' Association. For their incisive and multi-faceted perspectives that have added substantively to the meaning and value of the study, a special thanks is extended to the research participants including students and graduates, their parents, program staff and administrators, U B C professors, and Steering Committee members. A warm thank you is extended to the members of the research committee, Dr. Marion Porath and Dr. Kjell Rubenson for their support, insight and wisdom. To the chair of the research committee. Dr. Patricia Vertinsky, a special note of appreciation for her support and encouragement of the study. Her guidance, creative leadership, commitment to excellence, and unfaltering belief in the work and the author have been valued both as gifts and as teaching. Thanks also to Dr. Jean Moore whose unconditional commitment to optimal development of talents and abilities of all people together with her educational vision, integrity, and stewardship first made the Transition Program possible and second, generously supported the study. Her magnanimity of mind and spirit have been a source of inspiration, encouragement and humility. This study is invested with the love of learners and learning epitomized by Rita Spencer, former principal and life mentor, who looked for the giftedness in her staff members and, in nurturing them to full flowering, modeled how to greet the butterfly. Completion of this work was supported in personal ways by family. Dr. Zenovey, Director Marc, beloved Michelle, highly creative Bohdanna, and renowned film-maker Roman—whose love and kindness nurtured a passionate commitment to the work. This work represents both a response to my father, who, as a dedicated physician, queried the nature of my educational work, and a tribute to my mother and her sisters, Tetiana and Mary, honoring their lives of courage and creativity that have been a source of strength for me. Thanks are also due to dear friends who have kept me going and colleagues who have kept me learning, in particular, David Garrity who, in an all too short life, inspired me to believe in pursuing dreams. The study is dedicated to the gifted young people who chose to enroll in the Transition Program in 1993 and in subsequent years. They courageously walked where there was no path and gave our vision life through their efforts, laughter, and love. It is their legacy upon which the program's future has been built. XI C H A P T E R I I N T R O D U C T I O N In 1993 the Vancouver School Board, in partnership with the University of British Columbia, initiated the V S B / U B C Transition Program, an innovative program designed to support academically gifted adolescents prepare for early entrance to university and subsequent successful university study. In 1995 the Transition Program was accepted as a Provincial Resource Program and funded by the Ministry of Education. Increasingly successful, the Transition Program continues to be unique in British Columbia and Canada. Indeed, it has been described as 'the best kept secret in education'. This study is designed to discuss and analyze the development and organization of the Transition Program and examine the complexities of implementing a unique educational innovation for academically highly gifted secondary school age students in a university setting. Origin of the Study As the Transition Program matures, the partnering institutions, program staff, participating students, and their parents are eager to understand how the program has evolved, how it has responded to student needs, and how it can be improved. Given the early stages of implementation of the Transition Program, the institutional partners requested that a formal evaluation of the program be undertaken once the program has been stable in its operation for several years. This study presents a foundation for further research including program evaluation and longitudinal studies by providing a documentation and analysis of the complex issues involved in the Transition Program's design, development and implementation. The study articulates the Transition Program's theoretical foundations and its conceptual framework and documents the "learning journey" which has led to the program's current operating model. Documentary evidence and interviews with program developers, implementers, and participants provide a multi-faceted perspective of the program's history and highlight the factors that constitute program success for students. Data collected from students, parents, and staff about their experiences with the Transition Program provide insights into why students choose and are eager to participate in this educational alternative, why they remain with the program, and how they view their experiences and their goals once they have graduated from the program and enrolled in university. The results of this study will provide new understandings and promote dialogue with respect to early entrance to university program development, Transition Program improvement, program replication, and future research on education for highly gifted learners. Gifted Education Context The Transition Program as an identifiable program for academically highly gifted adolescents represents a lighthouse project for gifted education in British Columbia and Canada. Historically, school districts have found it extremely difficult to create programs for this student population despite the articulation of gifted education as part of Special Education policy in all provinces of Canada. In earlier decades, British Columbia explored the introduction of full-time classes for gifted students (Gibbon, 1981; Hunter j 1981; Kettle, 1985). These classes have been historically referred to as "major works programs". However unlike Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, and London, Ontario, where such programs were initiated in the 1930s and continue to the present day, full-time classes were discontinued in British Columbia in the late 1960s. Beginning in the mid-1980s, a more open climate for gifted education developed in Vancouver as a result of the combined influence of the parents' organization, The Gifted Children's Association of B C , the work of the members of Vancouver's Representative District Advisory Committee for Gifted Education, including a small number of enrichment teachers and school administrators, and the support of a number of school trustees and senior management officials in the Vancouver School Board. These factors, together with exceptional leadership, contributed to the inception of Vancouver's current gifted education initiatives including the Transition Program. For example, Vancouver's Elementary Gifted Enrichment Education model was approved by the Vancouver School Board one year after the establishment of the Transition Program and currently serves over 1500 elementary students annually. Nonetheless, gifted education remains a politically contentious issue, one which critics describe as elitist. This claim is supported by the assumption that these students neither need nor deserve society's support or assistance. Whether it is the smallness of this student population, the lack of training and knowledge about students with gifted abilities within teacher training programs, education systems and the general public, or the invisible nature of the needs of these students, programs for gifted students are not a high priority for school districts. Current educational philosophies of inclusion and neighborhood schools are often interpreted unilaterally without acknowledging that the least restrictive environment for the gifted learner is rarely the regular classroom. Common sense dictates that the more "academically developmentally advanced" (Keating, 1991, p.70) the individual student, the greater the extent to which the individual's educational needs require differentiated curriculum and instruction. The delivery system for mass education is severely tested by children who enter kindergarten reading six or more grades above their age peers (Gifted Education Primary Referral, 2001). Often there is a reluctance to recognize that these children have advanced their academic skills and understandings through their own efforts and as a result of a curiosity fueled by the ease and speed with which they can process new and increasingly more complex information. While it is the articulated role of the education system to provide an appropriate and on-going response to each child's developmental learning needs, in the reality of schools and classrooms it continues to be difficult to identify and respond to learning needs that are atypical, often invisible and not readily met within standardized age-grade curriculums. The most common practice is to provide gifted students with some enrichment opportunities, which are added to, and often an extension of the delivery of the regular curriculum in the classroom as time and opportunity permit. Funding for gifted education is critical to the development of appropriate programs for this student population. As it is for all areas of special needs students, funding is targeted to learning 2 needs, which cannot be met in the regular classroom setting. When the understanding of gifted student needs and the creative responses appropriate to these needs are not matched with the political wil l to address them, the result is limited support and therefore limited funding for gifted education programs and services. It is, therefore, very important to have exemplars available to highlight the needs of gifted students and to demonstrate the most effective ways in which they can be supported in the education system. Just as seven year old Justin Chapman, described as having successfully participated in first year university coursework, raises interesting questions when he makes a presentation to educators on age discrimination at the National Association for Gifted Children Conference (Chapman & Silverman, 2000), the Transition Program stands as an important example of the type of educational practices that can support academically highly gifted adolescents. Through its existence, the Transition Program encourages the practice of academic acceleration, enrichment, curriculum compacting with differentiated instructional strategies and grouping of similarly developmentally advanced peers to optimize learning for this student population. It also affirms the usefulness of a well-organized identification of the exceptional abilities and talents of all secondary students in Vancouver, as well as surrounding school districts. Transition Program graduates, through their choices of career paths, inform us about the range of contributions they will be able to offer society in their future roles as citizens and leaders. Concerns that gifted education is for the privileged and that it will increase the socio-economic inequalities in our society are eased by the integrity and commitment to learning and helping others displayed by many of these students who represent a range of cultural, ethnic and socio-economic groups within our society. By embodying the standards for gifted education programs developed by The Association for the Gifted (1989) the Transition Program is important, not only for the service it provides for students, but also for the model of best practices for gifted students that it exemplifies for secondary schools in British Columbia and Canada. Motivation for Program Development Examining the Transition Program from the perspective of why it was developed is important. Answers to the why question can contribute to our efforts to understand the decisions that have guided the program's evolution. These understandings are also helpful when considering how the Transition Program functions within the context of educational programs within the school system. According to Shadish, Cook and Leviton (1991) educational programs are social interventions within a larger social problem-solving context. From this perspective it is possible to ask the following question. For what social need or problem is the Transition Program a solution? The answers to this question help to describe the Transition Program within the school system as well as within educational policy-making. To begin to address this question it is necessary to clarify current understandings of the concept of giftedness and specifically to articulate the educational needs of academically gifted adolescents. The ways in which the needs of this student population are understood should be reflected in the program's structure and functioning. The priority society places on addressing the needs of these students should be evident in how the program is valued, developed and supported, whether by its students, their parents, the staff, professional associations, 3 management, institutional representatives or members of the community. The program's struggles to develop and improve services for students reveal both a process of social change and the ways in which this program may influence how this student population will be nurtured through future education program development. The above question also suggests that the program's integrity should be measured by the coherence of its elements with respect to student needs. This coherence should be evident throughout the program's structures, for example, identification system, goals, curriculum, recognition and rewards. In addition to orienting the program's structures, the understanding of student needs should be apparent in how the program delivers instruction, support, counseling and evaluation and how it communicates with students and parents. It is through this lens of students' needs that a deeper understanding of the Transition Program and the complex challenges inherent in its delivery, improvement, and evolution can be brought to the surface and made available for discussion. It is hoped that this study can contribute to on-going dialogue among staff, current and alumni students and their parents as well as program management and institutional partners in order to encourage development of a "communiversify" (Marland, 1971). Community articulation of new challenges can stimulate the generation of more creative responses to increasingly more interesting and more complex questions about learning and the development of talent and abilities of young people. Rationale for the Study of an Innovative Program The establishment of an early entrance to university program for academically gifted adolescents can be seen as a unique accomplishment of educational leadership involving institutional partnerships, flexible governance and a shared commitment to academically gifted young people. The story of the program's development and implementation represents an intense and demanding learning journey for its students, parents, staff, planners and administration. As an educational innovation it has moved from conception through various phases of implementation in response to the demands and understandings generated by the pioneering efforts of participants. These efforts have provided the program with a rich legacy of tales of extraordinary perseverance and sensitive problem management. It is also a narrative of organizational learning wherein individuals examine educational philosophies and long standing practices in the face of both new challenges and evolving understandings. This study examines why this educational innovation developed and how it has both challenged and contributed to the education "conversation" where parents and students and educators variously act as policy makers, policy interpreters, program implementers and consumers. Throughout the program's history, the voices of students and their parents, staff, administration and program planners have played an important role in demanding improvements that have transformed the program's structure and clarified its goals. 4 The Uniqueness of the Transition Program The V S B / U B C Transition Program is unique in a number of ways. It is the first program of its kind in British Columbia and Canada. Secondly, it was designed to meet the needs of a specific group of students within a statistically rare and commonly misunderstood population, namely, the academically developmentally advanced adolescent. These are academically gifted students who choose to seek early entrance to university. Thirdly, the program has evolved within a tri-institutional partnership involving the Vancouver School Board, the University of British Columbia, and the British Columbia Ministry of Education. The program is also noteworthy in that collaborative efforts among educators, students and their parents have profoundly influenced the flexibility of the program and its responsiveness to specific student needs. The student clients of this program, the academically highly gifted adolescents who are ready for advanced levels of study and who are motivated by the desire to achieve early entrance to university, have been described as intellectually underserved (Gross, 2000; Keating, 1991). A l l secondary schools are responsible for providing programs that meet the educational needs of their students. Many schools have programs or accommodations that address the enrichment needs of motivated and highly able but not specifically gifted students. For example, a range of enriched and honors courses, Advanced Placement (Grade 12) courses, academic competitions, electives and extra-curricular activities is commonly available in B C secondary schools. Acceleration has been informally available within disciplines on a case by case basis (e.g., mathematics, languages). Some secondary schools offer specific alternate programs at the junior grades (8, 9, 10) in which the curriculum is enriched and in some instances is presented so that three years of study within a discipline can be completed in two years. Some schools offer mini-schools which operate as a school within a school, where one class per grade affords a smaller school setting and the traditional academic focus is augmented by community service, citizenship activities, enrichment, and extensive field trips. The International Baccalaureate Program (IB) which consists of a preparatory year in Grade 10 and a two-year program of challenging courses in Grade 11 and 12 offers an internationally developed curriculum for age/grade appropriate students. While these programs and opportunities attract gifted students they are not specifically designed to address the developmental and educational needs of academically gifted students or to support their goals of early entrance to university. Their program coordinators typically look for a diverse group of applicants that demonstrate above average achievement and are age/grade appropriate but not specifically gifted (Specified District Alternative Head Teacher Meeting, November, 2000). While discussions with program coordinators about the needs of gifted students are ongoing, it remains up to the individual student to negotiate accommodations within courses and programs. There appear to be no other programs in Canada that have been developed specifically for this student population who share a commitment to the goal of early entrance to university. In practice, the Transition Program is assisting a group of students who are the most intellectually underserved within the secondary schools of the province. Critical to the Transition Program's development and implementation has been the need to develop a better understanding of the nature and needs of the participating student population, and to translate these understandings into practices that enable gifted adolescents to achieve their goals of early entrance to university. Discussions with representatives of participating stakeholders elucidate why this program of intensive study is attractive to these students and why 5 the opportunity to enter university early is so compelling. Students offer insights into how they make sense of their experiences, how they reflect upon their choices in making further decisions about study and careers, and how they wish to live meaningful lives. Out of respect for the motivation, courage, and efforts of these students, the program design and delivery has remained open to improvements that support the various ways in which students learn, both as a group of exceptional ability students and as individuals with both unique strengths that need development and other areas that require special assistance and support. The development of effective teaching and learning practices has demanded a conscientious examination of the different ways in which these students learn and develop and change. Understandings related to these questions have been explored through gifted education literature as well as best practices. Both theoretical studies and current practice recognize that the development and implementation of effective teaching-learning practices for this student population are not readily available within mainstream education. Special educational practices for gifted students have often been stigmatized by labels of elitism or dismissed as radical, challenging, as they do, many traditional views of teaching and learning. Teaching to, and learning with, gifted students requires more than the modification of current educational practices; what seems to be required is the introduction of practices that more closely match the different ways in which each student learns and develops. This study speaks to the uniquely different needs of the academically developmentally advanced or gifted adolescent and discusses how these needs can be understood and addressed in general education practice. Research Design Considerations The research process is designed to be sensitive to the goal of the study, to the voices of participants, particularly the student population who participated in the developmental journey of the program, and the field of gifted education. The goal of the study is to develop a deeper understanding of the complexity of the implementation issues of the Transition Program and to illustrate the problem framing and problem solving which modified it over the course of its nine years of operation. Identification and articulation of the issues impacting program development require an understanding of the program events, including perspectives of people involved in the program experiences, and how related program decisions have been made. Listening to the voices of participants involved in a program that is focused on meeting the needs of a statistically rare population (recognized as special needs learners within the policies of the British Columbia Ministry of Education) requires a methodology that appropriately represents the range, diversity and different needs of the students. The depth of understanding that is important for the purposes of this study as well as future research and program evaluation and replication is facilitated by multiple data gathering methods. Turner, Hartman, Nielsen and Lombana (1988) suggest that multiple data gathering methods afford closer communication with program participants, build trust in the findings, and allow the researcher to engage with participants in different ways, which increases an understanding of the project and the questions under discussion. Data from a variety of approaches also allow for the voices of more of the participants to be encountered, recognized and valued. These different opinions complement one another as the study describes the 6 program's effects and ensures that issues of stakeholders influence recommendations for future study and improved practice (Silky & Readling, 1992). Researchers in gifted education also point out that programs for gifted students present a number of unique and specific challenges. Program goals are often complex and individualized, standardized measures are ineffective, and behavioral objectives have been too vague, narrow and otherwise inappropriate for this population (Tomlinson, Bland, & Moon, 1993). Tomlinson (1993) cautions that there is a tendency to view program success in terms of student attainment of higher test scores and to focus on short-term goals, failing to recognize the long-term goals of the program. Although quantitative designs can provide information about outcomes of the program—such as students' GPA, scholarships, and academic careers within university settings-it is important also to use qualitative measures. This is especially significant in a program that has undergone massive reorganization and is still considered to be in the implementation stage of its development. Outcome data are more commonly associated with program evaluation, which focuses on decisions based on a program's worth or merit. Qualitative approaches "assist in understanding the processes in which gifted learners and their teachers are involved, help in establishing meaningful hypotheses for further study, and avoid the error of oversimplification of complex settings and procedures" (Tomlinson, Bland, & Moon, 1993, p.181). For example, Janesick (1989) recommends collecting three kinds of data: baseline data about the research setting, process data which describe what happens, and values data which yield information about stakeholders' perceptions regarding what is important. The use of multiple data gathering methods including, in this case, document analysis, surveys, focus groups, and interviews with various groups and individuals representing current students and program graduates and their parents, staff, administration, program planners and members of the Transition Program Steering Committee, provides access to the complex range of perspectives and understandings of participants involved in programs for gifted adolescents. A related consideration of the research design is gifted education's marginal position in relation to the field of education and educational policy-making. Borland (1996) has described gifted education as a field of practice that traditionally depends on the disciplines of psychology and the other social sciences to generate knowledge to inform the practice of working with able students. He also points out that as a field, gifted education is not well represented in mainstream educational literature. Research on gifted education programs has been limited, and critical concepts have not penetrated society's conversations about education. In addition, gifted education has typically challenged traditional education structures and embedded beliefs about how schooling is organized and delivered, how students learn and what they are ready to learn. Contributing to this marginal status of gifted education are popular understandings of giftedness, which are often misinformed and based on myths and stereotypes. The misinformation and myths of the popular culture are often linked to perceptions that programs for gifted students are elitist. It is important, therefore, that the research on the Transition Program's development includes the perspectives of those affected by their participation in the program to demonstrate how the program meets the needs of this particular population, and show that these needs are significantly different from typical students and hence cannot be addressed in a regular classroom. 7 Research Methodology In light of these research design considerations a variety of research methodologies was used. First a narrative of the program's evolution was constructed. Using historical documents from the program's records, including notes, memos, meeting minutes, enhanced by information obtained through interviews with the range of program decision-makers and participants, the story is told of how the program came to be established and how the perceptions and issues surrounding the program emerged over time. Secondly a combination of survey, focus groups and interviews was designed to examine how program students, parents, staff and administration as well as program planners and developers have viewed the program from their various experiences and perspectives. An initial survey was sent to current students and program graduates, and their parents as well as to staff and administration and Steering Committee members. Focus groups and special meetings and interviews were used to follow up with representatives from these groups and to obtain in greater detail their perspectives on their experiences with the Transition Program. The combination of these aspects of the research design extends understanding of the Transition Program's framework, current operation and future potential. Elements critical to program improvement are identified through patterns of struggles and successes which emerge as the record of the program's operation unfolds. The examination of the program from the various perspectives of those who have lived the program experience is facilitated through surveys, focus groups, and interviews. Both aspects of the research design complement one another and together provide an understanding of the Transition Program which can serve stakeholder groups who are committed to program improvement and future development as well as the development of alternative programs and services for this particular student population. Practitioner as Researcher A n added contribution to this study is information about the role of practitioner as researcher. While this duality of roles highlights issues of objectivity, administrative confidence, autonomy, balance and potential for utilization, it also brings to the research activity the benefit of a familiarity and understanding of the program concept, setting, and development. Interactions between the processes of research and practice decrease concerns about objectivity and facilitate administrative confidence in the authenticity of the story as presented in the study. Combining the stance of researcher and the stance of practitioner has increased problem sensing. Usher, Bryant, and Johnston (1997) describe reflection in action as "a practice of generating theory, which speaks back to and revises action" (p. 145). The opportunity to use theory to inform and to alter thinking about practice, to explain practice through the lenses afforded by theory and to see the limitations of theory and the variability of practice within these contexts has significantly influenced the program's development. As a practitioner researcher, I have been involved in the development and implementation of the Transition Program since its inception. In addition I am a member of the first cohort of an innovative doctoral program in educational leadership and policy at The University of British 8 Columbia where I am simultaneously completing this study and working for the Vancouver School Board with responsibilities for gifted education (K-12) as well as the early entrance to university program. I am therefore uniquely positioned to discuss the dynamic interplay between theory and practice as issues and concerns for the Transition Program have arisen and been resolved during the course of both programs. Doing research in action and on action has enriched my experience of program development and stimulated the research process that seeks to understand the phenomenon. Similarities between the intensive learning experiences of the Transition Program students and my own combined study and work program are also acknowledged. To limit potential researcher practitioner bias the historical narrative of the Transition Program has been reviewed by three educators involved in the program's administration and management over the course of its development. The integrity of the program's story has also been strengthened by having three members of the Transition Program's Representational Steering Committee including a Transition Program parent, a university professor and a representative from the Gifted Children's Association of British Columbia review the written discussion. Organization of the Study From its original conception as part of a secondary school operation, the Transition Program has been reframed as a pre-university program and relocated to the U B C campus. The process by which the program's conceptual framework and infrastructure have been modified is illustrated through the narrative describing the program's evolution and is referenced through literature on early entrance to university programs and the research on the nature and learning needs of gifted students. Throughout the implementation of the Transition Program, decisions at three levels, namely, policy interpretation, program leadership and teaching practices, have resulted in changes that have significantly influenced the program's development and stakeholders' experiences. The focus of this study is to enhance an understanding of the program's development according to its mandate, which seeks to address the needs of a unique student population as effectively, comprehensively, and flexibly as possible. The study has two phases. The first phase is an historical narrative of the Transition Program's development and a detailed description of its implementation. Based on original documents, interviews and personal notes, the historical narrative traces the development of this innovation and describes how the current program model has articulated and responded to student needs. Building upon this narrative, the second phase surveys and reports the views and expectations of students, parents, and staff. These various perspectives are used to enhance an understanding of how and why the program developed as it did, and how its participants variously responded to a wide range of expectations and needs to arrive at the current delivery model. The discussion of the study examines what has been learned from the experiences within the Transition Program and how these understandings can contribute to program improvements, more sensitive educational policies for the highly gifted and further development of intra-institutional multi-level programs. The historical narrative is preceded in Chapter Two by a review of recent literature about the concept of giftedness. Current research is examined which speaks to the definitions of academic giftedness and the educational and developmental needs of academically gifted adolescents interested in early entrance to university. Research on best practices with respect to addressing the needs of a gifted student population is followed by a review of studies on early entrance to university programs. This section also includes a discussion of educational policy-making in British Columbia as it relates particularly to gifted education. Chapter 3 describes the evolution of the Transition Program, including its phases of development and political origins based on historical documents and interviews with key participants. It articulates the program's structure, including governance and funding. It describes the struggles of staff and administration as they sought to discern how gifted students learn and to refine program elements so that they might better serve student needs and program goals. The narrative illustrates the increasing clarity and coherence that gradually developed with respect to the program's conceptual framework and program delivery practices. It describes how the unique aspects of the program emerged and how the program has built on these unique elements to support on-going improvements. Program development is discussed in terms of critical ideas and catalytic events that influence the implementation of this innovative program particularly in the areas of policy, leadership and teaching decisions. Chapter 4 examines the perspectives of participants who experienced the program at different stages and from different roles and responsibilities. The voices of participants provide perspectives that complement the program narrative by looking at the program experience from the inside out. The chapter summarizes the data collected through the questionnaires, focus groups and interviews that took place during the course of the study. The survey was designed to elicit information about how student needs were originally conceived, and how these needs were subsequently addressed in the program. It included questions about the perceived effects of the program, its critical elements, what constituted success for students in the program and how the program might be improved. The survey was sent to all students who had spent a minimum of one full year in the program as of November 1999 (n=l 14). It was also sent to parents, members of the original planning committee, the current Steering Committee, program staff and liaison university professors. Following the survey, two focus groups of current program parents and one focus group of program graduates were conducted to elicit more detailed and in-depth responses to some of the questions presented in the survey. Specific issues included what the program experience contributed to the lives of the students, the decision-making related to entering, continuing, or not continuing in the program, and how both students and their parents defined success and what they anticipated would be gained from the program experience. Interviews were also held with individual parents, administrators, current students and program graduates to clarify their perspectives on particular aspects of the program. The information from the survey, focus groups and interviews extended understanding of students' needs and provided more detail with respect to the struggles that characterized efforts to address these needs. The diversity of various student and parent perspectives has shed more light on the complexity of issues and needs that have influenced program development. The perceptions of students, parents, and staff who have experienced the program at different stages of its implementation are discussed in relationship to the program's evolution. The final chapter discusses the learning process within the Transition Program and what has been learned about the program from the perspective of three critical elements: leadership, teaching and policy. The link between innovative practice and educational policy-making is discussed in reference to the program's development and the larger question of the purpose of education. 10 These reflections underscore that it is the values embedded in the principles that guide educational policy-making which need to be held up to the light of our collective understanding. As educators concerned with the future of our society, we can use this understanding to refine our educational practices so that they more clearly demonstrate our respect for the needs of all learners, including the highly academically gifted learners. This respect for the needs of all learners suggests that we are responsible for the kind of action advocated by Hannah Ahrendt (1958), an action described as moral decision-making. Our moral agency requires that we weave the fabric of educational change in service of a future global community characterized by shared peace and well-being. As this pattern of change manifests respect for the unique needs of individual learners it will generate flexible program designs that encourage the expression of the diversity of gifts and talents of our youth regardless of age, gender, race, ethnicity or socio-economic backgrounds. Not only does the Transition Program substantiate student outcomes characterized by advanced achievement levels, higher motivation and interest in learning, and long term educational and career attainments, but it also suggests that "effective attention to developmental diversity could then well become a model for education for all children, not just for the developmentally advanced" (Keating, 1991, p. 81). The study concludes with a discussion of critical issues and the pattern of strengths and unmet needs of academically gifted students that have emerged over the course of the program's development. Recommendations for current and future developers of programs for academically gifted students follow from this discussion. These recommendations relate to Transition Program improvement and replication with suggestions for a broader array of programs and services for academically gifted students in secondary schools and post-secondary institutions in BC. Future program initiatives to serve the needs of the academically gifted learners within the Transition Program as well as the larger community of secondary schools are also highlighted. The study ends by encouraging more support for educational innovations that respond to the developmentally unique needs of all students, and a commitment to on-going short term as well as longitudinal research on the Transition Program and its graduates. u C H A P T E R II R E V I E W O F C U R R E N T L I T E R A T U R E "Giftedness is arguably the most precious natural resource a civilization can have." R. J. Sternberg "Talent is elusive, fragile, manifold, scintillating—like aurora borealis on a cool September evening. " J. Hersey "Why aren't you asking the really important question: what does it mean to be gifted?" Transition Program Graduate Comment on the Survey Conceptions of Giftedness The term gifted is commonly used to describe students with exceptional abilities. However, the term has also been criticized because it implies that exceptional abilities or aptitudes are given from some source. In some respects it is the sense of something being given to some but not all that has contributed to negative attitudes toward those who possess exceptional abilities. Related to this perspective is the assumption that the achievements of such individuals have resulted from having innate ability as opposed to having applied intensive effort. This idea is especially prevalent with academic abilities where the talent is not readily visible, its development is not well understood and there is little understanding of the personal challenges faced by the individual who is ultimately responsible for expressing his or her exceptional abilities. It is therefore important to address the understanding of the term gifted from a broader perspective so that its use may be de-mystified and become less problematic and so that attention can be usefully focused on the educational developmental needs of this student population. Cultural Attitudes Toward Giftedness Hunsaker (1995) has suggested that many of the problems that face educators who are providing education for the gifted are the result of cultural attitudes towards individuals who display exceptional ability, and not the result of the educational implications of the term. From his review of cultural attitudes toward exceptional individuals from early civilizations including Sub-Saharan Africa, Egypt, the Middle East, China, Meso-America, Greece, Rome, and Renaissance Europe, he identifies five themes for examination: (1) diversity of gifts (2) sources of giftedness (3) development of gifts (4) distribution of gifts and (5) attitudes toward giftedness. 12 In relation to the diversity of gifts, Hunsaker (1995) postulates that "what is considered as gifted behavior is culturally embedded and is usually linked to what a society sees as necessary for its survival" (p. 262). Noting how Tannenbaum (1983) categorized human abilities into four types specifically related to society's perceived survival needs: scarcity talents essential for future survival (e.g. leadership); quota talents for day-to-day survival (e.g. medical skills); surplus talents which beautify (e.g. artistic abilities); and, anomalous talents that entertain us, Hunsaker concludes that each society must take responsibility for how it defines the exceptional abilities that it needs to survive. Hunsaker's second theme focuses on sources of giftedness. He indicates that most cultures view the source of giftedness as external to an individual, often as a gift from God. Modern society tends to view the source as a genetic gift, though the powerful influence of environment upon the development of talent is also widely recognized. While some abilities are readily recognizable, there are many more cases of giftedness that are identified because the environment has focused attention on the search for giftedness in individuals. For example, in countries or cultures such as Israel where young people are considered the nation's greatest natural resource (Herman, 1999), the education system places a priority on offering extensive support for the identification and development of talent and abilities to the highest possible levels. Hunsaker's third theme examines how special abilities are developed. The responsibility for developing human abilities has been viewed differently over time and cultures. For example, the current perspective in British Columbia is that the development of an individual's abilities is the responsibility of the home, school, and society, as well as the individual. The achievement of giftedness, according to Hunsaker (1995), is a "label for history to bestow; the educational responsibility is simply to develop the talents that are there" (p. 264). This perspective is important because it clarifies for students, their parents and teachers that the education system is not responsible for how the achievements of an individual may be received by society. Equipping the student to be an effective learner, providing opportunities for the development of talents, and supporting the productivity of the student are among the ways in which school systems can serve students. It is the work of the partnership between the school and the home together with the on-going support and encouragement of society that are responsible for the development of abilities of our youth. Hunsaker next examines beliefs about the distribution of exceptional abilities. Early cultures often linked perceived giftedness to social status and gender. Today's North American society tends to regard the special education of students with gifted potential as elitist despite extensive research that has shown that students possessing gifted abilities are found in all cultures, all socio-economic levels and among both males and females. The result is an on-going political struggle between excellence and equity. Providers of gifted education emphasize the importance of addressing the educational needs of all students. Potential abilities that are not developed are at risk of being lost to the society that needs them (Clark, 1988). Alternatively, the damage to an individual who is denied the service may result in a cost to society. Clearly the identification of abilities is not an end goal in itself, just as having gifted potential is not commendable in itself. It is the development of these abilities and the intensive work that is required to develop abilities to their highest levels that deserve recognition and support. Finally, Hunsaker comments on attitudes toward giftedness, including the educational implications of cultural attitudes toward giftedness within societies. He re-emphasizes that the 13 term gifted is a culturally embedded term used to refer to people's abilities and our attitudes toward them. He suggests that the considerable knowledge that has developed in both the psychology and physiology of human abilities has begun to affect our thinking about giftedness. In order for giftedness to be culturally valued it is important to educate society about human abilities and the kinds of educational needs that must be met i f those abilities are to be developed and actualized. It is this conversation about development of abilities and talents within and across all groups and societies which can generate understandings and support for those individuals throughout all societies who are challenged to find expression for their talents in ways that are satisfying to them and others. Educating society about human abilities needs to be supported by a clear understanding of giftedness. Sternberg and Davidson in Conceptions of Giftedness (1986) provide a comprehensive review of various conceptions of giftedness, concluding that giftedness "is something we invent and something we discover. It is what one society or another wants it to be" (p.3). The ways in which we conceptualize giftedness, therefore, can change over time and place. The reality test which society applies to a definition of giftedness is usefulness. "If the definition of giftedness does not include utility, valuable talents may be wasted, and less valuable ones fostered and encouraged. It is thus important to us all to understand just what it is we and others mean by the concept of giftedness" (Sternberg & Davidson. 1986, p.3). One of the educational implications of the concept of giftedness as a representation of the values of a particular culture at a particular time in history is that it allows for a degree of plasticity and fluidity in the interpretation of the term, thus encouraging flexibility in the way in which gifted education practices are developed. It suggests that there is no one right way to define giftedness or to approach the identification and programming for gifted students. This is important because it invites educators to consider alternative approaches to these issues in practice, focusing primarily on the question of how the education system can nurture special talents of young people. Definitions of Giftedness The ways in which society views giftedness have been substantially influenced by developments in psychology during the past century. Francis Galton's belief that madness accompanies genius was challenged with the development of the Stanford Binet Intelligence Test, which Lewis Terman used to launch his landmark study of over 1000 gifted children in 1916. Terman's study marked the birth of the traditional category-based model of gifted education. The conceptual basis for this model of gifted education is the general mental ability construct (Hoge, 1988; Hoge & Cudmore, 1986). This view assumes a "clear and unified category of gifted children, most readily identified as individuals scoring high on tests of general intellectual ability such as IQ" (Keating, 1991, p. 54). According to this model, general intellectual ability offers the broadest operational definition of giftedness and the most defensible approach to identification. It also claims that stable and replicated empirical findings offer support for the robustness of the "g" factor of intelligence. The assumption follows that this kind of intelligence requires special educational programming. 14 The most common form of programming to flow from the traditional category-based model of gifted education is enrichment. Enrichment is a form of curriculum modification that has been designed to broaden student experiences and extend thinking within a discipline. Enrichment is generally associated with more interesting approaches to curriculum and instruction and more varied resources. While it is appropriate for all students and provides stimulating learning experiences for those with above average abilities, it is a necessary but insufficient response to the educational needs of the academically highly advanced or gifted student. The more advanced the student, the greater the need for curriculum and instruction that is conceptually complex, focused on patterns and relationships within and across disciplines, and presented in ways that are both more flexible and faster-paced than can be offered in the typical classroom. Historically the category-based model of gifted education has been useful in "calling attention to the reality of significant developmental advancement [of gifted students]. Documentation of the extent and range of this diversity has provided the groundwork for arguments that education must be differentiated" (Keating, 1991, p.70). Given the categorical structure for special education funding across Canada, school boards and agencies have readily encoded the category-based definition of gifted education into their documents. As a result, today there are many Canadian school boards that acknowledge the need to accommodate gifted students (Keating, 1991, p. 70). This is not to say that there are many school districts that are actually funding gifted education programs, except in Ontario where gifted education is mandated. There is a range of problems with the category-based view of gifted education. There is little agreement on the theoretical interpretation of the "g" factor and little research to validate the construct of general intelligence as an enduring trait of an individual. A related corollary, the notion that general intellectual ability is developmentally fixed rather than plastic, is not corroborated by recent research (Frasko, 2001; Keating, 1991; Rea, 2001; Ritchhart, 2001). The category-based model of giftedness calls for a cut-off score, which cannot be justified on theoretical grounds. Also it is difficult to use this definition to determine specific educational needs of identified students. While there is considerable disagreement about how to uncover the sources of observed differences in cognitive performance, it should be emphasized that there is consensus on the reality of the observed differences (Keating, 1991). The existence of students who demonstrate abilities well beyond the range expected according to age is undisputed. Another important contribution to the concept of giftedness came from the work of Guilford in the 1950s (Guilford, 1967). Guilford's factor analysis of intelligence led to the Structure of Intellect (SOI) model, which he presented to the American Psychological Association at their annual conference in 1957. The SOI model identified divergent production, subsequently referred to by others as "creativity", as a specific component of intelligence. The recognition of creativity as one aspect of intelligence opened the door to the consideration of an array of complex psychological factors, for example, motivation, emotional development, risk-taking, resilience, curiosity and tolerance for ambiguity. More recent work in the area of creativity recognized that divergent production is only one aspect of creativity and other factors that are not as clearly measurable by standardized tests are equally important. Such factors include originality, elaboration, fluency and flexibility of thinking. The Osborne-Parne's Creative Problem Solving Model (Parnes, 1967), for example, 15 illustrates that creative thinking must be used in combination with critical analysis for productive thinking about complex problems to occur. A broadening of the understanding of giftedness has taken place during the intervening decades searching both to identify a larger talent pool as well as to develop a closer match between program goals and definitions of giftedness (Clark, 1997; Davis & Rimm, 1997; Gallagher & Gallagher, 1994). One example of the broadening of the definition of giftedness is the work of Gardner (1997) who is best known for his theory of multiple intelligences which defines different ways in which a person can display giftedness: logical/mathematical, musical/rhythmic, verbal/linguistic, visual/spatial, body/kinesthetic, interpersonal, intrapersonal. A different perspective is described by Sternberg's "triarchic theory of intellectual giftedness" (Sternberg, 1985, p. 223). Sternberg describes how intelligence functions in relationship to three variables: (1) an individual's internal mechanisms, (2) an individual's experience in using or applying this intelligence, and (3) the solving of problems that are meaningful from the perspective of the individual's culture or frame of reference. In a search for a more practical definition Renzulli (1986) generated a three-ringed definition of giftedness based on above average but not necessarily superior intelligence, creativity, and task commitment. His definition highlighted the importance of student production as a demonstration of giftedness and a measure of giftedness. The work of these and other researchers has identified different perspectives and features of giftedness. As a result the term is no longer narrowly measured in terms of an intelligence quotient. A number of leading researchers in the field now call for multiple measures for the identification of giftedness (Clark, 1996; Gallagher & Gallagher, 1994; VanTassel-Baska, 1984 & 1998). These various contributions to the discussion of the definition of giftedness are useful as programs move from legislated conceptual definitions of giftedness to the operational definitions that are expressed in identification processes and procedures. The usefulness of the definition of giftedness was put into perspective in the United States by a grant-supported study which produced the National Report on Identification of Giftedness (Richert, Alvino, & McDonnel, 1986). This report, based on input from over forty researchers in the field, recommended that any identification system for giftedness should be comprehensive, defensible and equitable. Critical elements of an identification plan included multiple kinds and sources of data related to key elements of abilities, skills, creativity and motivation. The broadened definition of giftedness has thus moved the identification of giftedness from the snapshot view of ability as measured by IQ to the development of a student profile based on a variety of sources and kinds of data. A significant contribution to the student profile in ideal circumstances is a psycho-educational assessment where a psychologist administers and interprets results from various assessment tools and other data including developmental history, student interview, teacher observations, and samples of student work. In consultation with other professionals a student profile is constructed. Students' cognitive, academic and creative potential and performance are explored together with student interests, learning style preferences, and goals in order to articulate areas of student strengths versus areas of lesser strengths. The combination of standardized assessment instruments and curriculum-based assessment used to describe achievement and performance suggest a range of learning trajectories for the student in terms of academic growth. These trajectories are based on the baseline of learning outcomes described for each subject and grade level according to the Ministry of Education. The result is a clarification of learning needs based on current achievement and future goals and an examination of program options that would be most satisfying and useful for the student. 16 Johns Hopkins' Study of Mathematically Precocious Youth identified another aspect of this process. Analyzed data are presented to both student and parents and a counseling approach supports them in understanding how to interpret the information and implications for career paths and program options. Students supported by parents have opportunities to explore these options by visiting programs, enrolling in short courses and developing long-term plans related to personal goals and career interests. The counseling component is an important element since it places students in the position of ownership of choices and encourages them to view programs as opportunities to achieve goals. Engaging students in the development of their talents and abilities and achievement of related educational goals occurs as a result of a dynamic link between definition of giftedness, identification process and programs. The process of working to articulate the nature, needs and options for a student who is challenged to develop his or her potential giftedness requires practitioners as well as psychologists trained in gifted education and sensitive to the intensity and the struggles of the gifted learner. Definition of Giftedness in British Columbia Today British Columbia's Ministry of Education defines gifted students as follows: Gifted and/or talented students are those students who possess demonstrated or potential abilities which are extraordinary and which lie beyond the ability levels anticipated or expected within the regular programs. Their capabilities are prolonged and may be demonstrated as general intellectual, creative and specific academic. Capability may also be demonstrated in the areas of leadership and the visual/performing arts. Gifted learners often demonstrate outstanding abilities in more than one area. Many talented children, however, also exhibit cognitive weaknesses or learning disabilities. They should not be expected to have strengths in all areas of intellectual functioning. (Special Education Policy Manual, 1995, E-17.) The Ministry provides funding for students receiving services under this definition within Function 1.32 of the Fiscal Management System to a maximum of 2% of district enrollment. The above definition describes the parameters within which school districts are expected to identify potential abilities in students and to develop programs and services that respond to these students' specific developmental and educational needs. The definitions used by specific program models must be based on the provincial definition and must demonstrate the link between identification procedures and program delivery. Given this general policy definition from the Ministry of Education, who are the students that are described as academically gifted? In addition to demonstrating exceptional general intellectual abilities, these students must be demonstrating specific aptitudes and skills in academic areas. The challenge for school districts is to operationalize the conceptual definition provided by the Ministry of Education using a variety of kinds and sources of student data. This process typically includes achievement measured by standardized tests as well as records such as report cards and awards. The measure of intellectual ability is generally accepted as the learning profile 17 described as a result of the assessment tools and data collected within the psycho-educational assessment. From this information a student may be identified as a gifted learner; however, the application of abilities to learning tasks and the achievement of learning goals involve other aspects of the individual which are important to consider when moving from the identification of students to program recommendations. It is helpful to look at a recent view of gifted education, which also has its roots in the landmark Terman (1925) longitudinal study, Genetic Studies of Genius. While Terman's work used the intelligence quotient as the defining variable for intellectual giftedness, the decades of follow-up studies on his research population laid the groundwork for more in-depth understanding of the subjective and circumstantial factors that affect the expression and development of giftedness. This more recent conception is referred to as the developmental model, also known as the domain-differentiated developmental model (Matthews, 1997). The model shifts perspectives from the metaphor of abilities to the metaphor of development (Keating, 1991). It focuses attention on how abilities are evoked, sustained, nurtured and brought to bear on the tasks at hand. Giftedness is defined as developmental advancement. The focus is on the way in which cognitive activity becomes integrated with the social-emotional development of the individual over the course of time and experience (Keating, 1991). The developmental model makes fewer assumptions about fixed mental structures, is more defensible because it is linked to curriculum assessment, and aims to provide instruction appropriate to a student's developmental levels. The developmental definition of giftedness is well suited to the identification of academically gifted students, the clarification of their educational and developmental needs, and the determination of whether these needs can be best met within the structures of the Transition Program. It helps to describe the process of determining which student profiles match the goals and the structure of the program. It facilitates discussion of the delivery of the program by making explicit how the elements of the program relate to one another. It encourages identification of what the students already know and what they next need to learn and what help or support would be most appropriate for them. It also helps to identify where linkages are weak, not well understood, or lacking in the program's theoretical foundation, thus, promoting discussion of related concerns as well as solution ideas. The developmental model of gifted education will be articulated as part of the Transition Program's conceptual framework in the next chapter. Characteristics of Gifted Students Characteristics of the academically gifted student have been extensively described in the gifted education literature (Benbow & Stanley, 1983a; Cox, Daniel, & Boston, 1983; Feldhusen, Van Tassel-Baska, & Seeley, 1989; Gallagher, 1975; Hollingworth, 1926; Kanevsky, 1999; Renzulli, Smith, White, Callahan, & Hartman, 1976; Tannenbaum, 1983; Torrance, 1975; Witty, 1930). Behavioral characteristics of students who are academically developmentally advanced are typically used to identify students who may benefit from gifted education programs. These characteristics play an important role in the interpretation of student learning needs. It is through an understanding of student learning needs that differentiation of curriculum for the gifted student can be addressed. The behavioral characteristics are linked not only to the cognitive needs but also to the social-emotional and developmental needs of the individual learner. 18 VanTassel-Baska (1998) offers one example of the relationship of characteristics, learning needs and curriculum for the gifted. It is these derived needs which drive delivery of curriculum content and instruction within gifted education programs. (See Table 1.0.) Table 1.0 Needs of Gifted Students Basic cognitive skills Basic affective skills Relationship, communication, and leadership Critical thinking Creative thinking Problem solving Research Tolerance of self and others Constructive use of humor Coping with being different Decision making Discriminating between the real and the ideal Use of high-level sensitivity To be challenged by mastery-level work in areas of strength and interest. To be challenged by exposure to new areas. To be challenged by the opportunity to see interrelationships. To be challenged by experiences that promote understanding of human value systems. To be challenged through discussions with intellectual peers. To be challenged by activities at complex levels of thought. To be challenged through opportunities for divergent production. To be challenged by the opportunity for real-world problem solving. To develop organization, time management, and study skills and the habit of sustained effort. To understand, appreciate, and learn how to use effectively their intensity and sensitivity. To develop creativity and understand its potential in relation to social responsibility. Research has also provided a list of student characteristics related to student learning outcomes (Ysseldyke & Christenson, 1987). (See Table 2.0.) When the behavioral characteristics of academically gifted students are organized according to the categories of student characteristics related to student learning outcomes, it is easier to recognize and understand gifted student profiles. The research on student characteristics sheds more light on the complexity of the decision-making involved in identifying and programming for students with unique educational and developmental needs. Student characteristics and student learning outcomes provide lenses that assist in the interpretation of student learning needs and the kinds of programs that would best serve individual students. Understanding the characteristics of gifted learners has been confounded by popular myths and stereotypes. Misinformation combined with misinterpretation and over-simplification of behaviors of individuals has made the needs of these students less readily available and less understood. Assumptions underlying these myths include ideas such as the following: gifted students are advanced not only cognitively but socially and emotionally, they are all high achievers and able to cope and succeed in a regular classroom environment without assistance or support, and they are good role models for other students (Berger, 1989; World Council for Joyce VanTassel-Baska, 1998. 19 Gifted and Talented Children, 1997). Researchers have played an important role in debunking popular myths by elucidating how the nature and needs associated with giftedness are manifested through behavioral characteristics and how the experience of giftedness can be understood, for example, through the lenses of gifted students using techniques such as conceptual mapping (Kunkel, Chapa, Patterson & Walling, 1995). Myths and related assumptions have been reframed by research to reveal more clearly the kinds of needs that are common to this student population. Enhanced understandings of the characteristics of gifted learners and their related needs are integral to the development of appropriate educational programs and services and the differentiation of curriculum and instruction. Table 2.0 Student Characteristics Related to Student Learning Outcomes • Cognitive and affective entry behaviors • Abilities (cognitive, psychomotor, psycholinguistic, etc.) • Prior learning or knowledge • Level of skill development • Ability to understand instruction • Motivation • Task persistence • Learning rate • Time needed to learn • Attentional set • Individual differences in locus of control, achievement, motivation, cognitive style, conceptual tempo, anxiety, attribution patterns, attitudes, etc. • Learning styles • Cognitive types • Naturally occurring pupil characteristics (race, sex, physical appearance, etc.) Ysseldyke and Christenson, 1987 A n extension of the research on the characteristics and nature and needs of gifted learners has been the development of knowledge about special populations within this group. These populations have been identified in terms of degree and kinds of giftedness as well as with respect to other factors such as culture, race, class and gender. Questions have been raised with respect to how identification processes and program delivery have contributed to the under-representation of different populations of gifted students in gifted programs and a range of approaches have been suggested to address this issue (Bernal, 2002; Borland, 1989; Borland, Schnur, & Wright, 2000; Ford, Harris, Tyson & Trotman, 2002; Frasier & Passow, 1994; Frasier, Garcia & Passow, 1995; Kitano & DiJiiosia, 2002). Research on gifted girls has suggested that girls may be particularly at risk when it comes to talent development, a concern that is important to understand to help programs deal with their commitment to achieve gender balance (Noble, 1994; Reis, 1989; Silverman, 1989). Noble (1989) has categorized barriers to the development of talent in females in terms of three sets of problems: interpersonal obstacles, socio-cultural barriers, and interpersonal factors. Interpersonal obstacles include rejection from family, teachers and peers, and underestimation of abilities by families. Socio-cultural barriers include inadequate academic preparation and double 20 messages. Interpersonal factors include self-doubt, and disclaiming the label of giftedness. Examples of particular concerns which may impact on girls within the context of the early entrance to university program include math anxiety, inadequate career aspirations and low self-esteem (Kerr, 1994). Kerr (1985) has confirmed that Gilligan's (1982) conclusions about females also apply to gifted girls in that they make life decisions based on relationships rather than on principles and goals, that between the ages of 11 and 17 they are at risk for declining self-esteem and confidence, and that critical events can significantly influence their decisions to achieve and to lead. In order to develop their abilities gifted girls need to take responsibility for the development of their own talents and to accept guidance (Kerr, 1994; Reis, 1995; Noble, 1994). The guidance provided for girls needs to include specific and meaningful explanations about the kind and degree of their giftedness in comparison to areas of lesser abilities. Guidance includes a variety of role models and mentors and the raising of career aspirations through the exploration and development of a wide array of talents (Milgram & Hong, 1997) and extensive career exploration opportunities (Fredrickson, 1986). From their study of gifted adolescent females Shoffner and Newsome (2001) suggest that gifted adolescents can progress rapidly in identity development and that the process of identity formation is supported by exploration and tentative commitment to career opportunities. They conclude that "exploration of the world of work, one's interests and abilities, and various educational paths toward possible careers should start early for these youth" (Shoffner and Newsome, 2001, p.209). Educational programs play an important part in this process by discussing nontraditional and challenging career options at an early age. Contributing to the development of appropriate educational programs for gifted females is the model of female talent development generated by Noble, Subotnik and Arnold (1996). The model articulates the importance of context and support to the successful development of talent for women. Research on special populations of gifted students has also shed light on particular combinations of characteristics which influence student achievement. Combinations of characteristics need to be carefully reviewed when students are being considered for acceptance into programs that are exceptionally academically rigorous and fast-paced. Examples of such populations are students who possess particularly outstanding areas of strength and other areas that are relatively less developed albeit in the gifted range. Student profiles may also include issues stemming from English as a Second Language, cultural views about education, and indications of dual exceptionality such as giftedness and learning disabilities. Learning how to deal with both the "invisible gifts" and the "invisible handicaps" which may include aspects of learning differences that act like disabilities is inherently part of the challenge faced by many gifted students (Silverman, 1989). In addition to characteristics and needs of special populations within gifted students, researchers have focused on developmental aspects of giftedness. Social-emotional development for gifted learners has been explored through Dabrowsky's Theory of Emotional Development known as Positive Disintegration (Nelson, 1995; Piechowski, 1986, 1991, 1998). Through the concept of over-excitabilities, the characteristics of gifted students have been framed as behaviors whose interpretation can change the response metaphor of the student as well as significant others, including educators, from behavior management to talent development. Research has also articulated vulnerabilities associated with the asynchrony experienced by gifted students (Brown, 1984; Powell & Haden, 1984). Examples of internal vulnerabilities include unevenness in development, inner experiences and awarenesses qualitatively different from the norm, and stress 21 associated with self and others who do not live up to their standards (Roedell, 1984; Silverman, 1993). One of the challenges for gifted students, according to Silverman, is having to deal with the paradox of possessing advanced ability to generalize and anticipate possibilities which can generate greater equilibrium and stability on the one hand, while on the other hand, discovering the greater disequilibrium of practice where rules don't always fit and perceptual miscues can interfere with effectiveness of decision-making. In addition these students can be handicapped by their high capability which sometimes results in unique learning styles that do not allow them to fit well into the behavioral norm of their age peers. Creatively gifted students, for example, can be challenged to understand and develop both their academic strengths as well as their creativity in ways that enhance both (Csikszentimihalyi, 1996). It is also common for these students to experience some level of stigma because of their giftedness (Cross, Coleman, & Steward, 1993). Finding positive relationships with both age and ability peers influences how these students see themselves in the world and how they can behave toward themselves and construct positive futures with others (Cross, Coleman, & Steward, 1995). The understanding of giftedness and the opportunity to experience appropriate educational interventions that support their related needs are critical to the positive attitudes these students internalize about their work and their goals (Gallagher, Harradine, & Coleman, 1997; Howard-Hamilton, & Franks, 1995). The challenges of development that begin early for gifted students are often further exacerbated by the onset of adolescence. Gifted adolescents trying to deal with issues such as perfectionism, high levels of self-criticism, problems in relationships and meeting external expectations of others such as parents and teachers can be at risk for dropping out of school, eating disorders, insomnia, and suicide (Colangelo & Peterson, 1993). As an alternative to hiding giftedness and trying to be like other people, it is recommended that gifted students have a supportive environment that affirms intelligence while exploring affective and social development. Support for heightened emotional sensitivity as well as the differences in construction and organization of their mental structures includes human relations and leadership skills needed for the exercise of their talents (Blackburn & Erickson, 1986) as well as wisdom needed for academic planning (Colangelo & Kerr, 1990), both of which can be significantly lacking for gifted students who are "smarter about coursework than about themselves" (Colangelo & Peterson, 1993, p. 111). Recommended approaches include peer group developmental counseling which differs from the problem solving orientation of regular secondary counseling and involves a trained leader who has knowledge of both gifted adolescence and group dynamics (Colangelo & Peterson, 1993). Within a structured situation that is psychologically safe, where confidences are respected, risk-taking is supported, no grades are given and students are inherently valued as the individuals they are as opposed to their performance, students explore self and typical issues for gifted students. The way in which students experience their giftedness and respond to its challenges within the context of the other influences in their lives can affect how they thrive and the kind of support they may need in an intense, academically rigorous and fast-paced program (Cross, Coleman, & Steward, 1993; Gallagher, Harradine, & Coleman, 1997; Hollingworth, 1926; Howard-Hamilton & Franks, 1995). Efforts to address these issues within the identification process suggest criteria which include the following: motivation, self-management, parent support, self-esteem, organization abilities, resilience, work ethic, career interests, and openness to reflection on action. An understanding of the complex profiles of characteristics, interests, abilities and needs of the highly academically gifted adolescents is important to the development of identification systems and delivery of programs designed to support realization of their potential. 22 Educational Practices for Gifted Students Best practices for the student population identified with abilities in the gifted range are based on educational and developmental needs. Specific program needs of gifted adolescents articulated by Olszewski-Kubilius and Limburg-Weber (1991) include: academic challenge, continuous progress in talent areas, opportunities to preview college studies and college life, opportunities for adult-like work, instrumental and expressive rewards, and social support. (See Table 3.0). Practices that respond to the needs of gifted learners require differentiation of the standard curriculum in terms of content, processes, instructional approaches, products and learning environment. Differentiation is designed to support students' learning styles, learning goals and learning needs and has been described in a range of models (Colangelo & Davis, 1991; Feldhusen Van Tassel-Baska & Seeley, 1989; Kanevsky, 1995; Maker, 1982a, 1982b; Maker & Schiever, 1989; Renzulli, 1986; Shore, Cornell, Robinson & Ward, 1991; Ward, 1961). Maker and Orzechowski-Harland (1993) describe differentiation of curriculum with reference to Berliner (1986) who uses catastrophe theory to suggest that several differences of "degree" are able to affect a difference in "kind". "When several quantitative differences (e.g. in content, process, product, environment) are combined, they result in a different type of curriculum. An appropriate educational program for the gifted is one in which many possibilities for differentiation exist, and several are combined to fit the needs of individual students—resulting in a qualitatively different curriculum" (Maker & Orzechowski-Harland, 1993, p. 110). In other words when the content, processes and products of a curriculum are both accelerated and enriched to significant degrees, the interaction creates curriculum that is qualitatively different (Schiever & Maker, 1991). This interaction is a function of pace of learning, conceptual complexity and interdisciplinary connections expressed as meaningful, creative and useful products. These authors use enrichment to refer to curriculum as well as program delivery services. Enrichment with respect to curriculum describes more varied educational experiences enhanced by some modifications or additions. A n enriched program offers students curriculum that is greater in depth or breadth than is generally provided. Three approaches to enrichment are described as process-oriented, content oriented, and product oriented. From the program delivery perspective, a key element of an enrichment program is found in the articulation of a systematic plan for a wide range of opportunities designed to extend student learning according to goals defined by student needs. Similarly acceleration is commonly used to describe service delivery and curriculum approaches. Acceleration as a service delivery model includes early entrance to kindergarten or to college, grade skipping, or part time grade or course acceleration. These options offer standard curricular experiences to students at a younger than usual age or a lower than usual grade level. Acceleration as a curriculum model involves speeding up the pace at which material is presented or providing conceptually advanced curriculum at an earlier age with expectations of mastery. The use of acceleration with gifted students results in a number of benefits, including improved motivation, confidence, and scholarship, prevention of lazy mental habits, early completion of professional training, and reduction of the cost of education. 23 Table 3.0 Needs of Secondary Gifted Students • Experience Academic Challenge " ...main components of success in adulthood are persistence, determination, and hard work (Csikszentmihalyi, 1985; Ochse, 1993; Winner, 1996)." "If academically talented students do not experience academic challenge and, therefore, never learn how to study and persist at learning, they may falter in college. It is imperative that academically talented students have educational experiences that challenge them, make them reach new goals intellectually, and require them to study." Means: Advanced content; Accelerated pace of instruction; Increased rigor via cross-disciplinary curriculum; Opportunities for in-depth independent study of topics of special interest • Continuous Progress in Talent Areas "Gifted students need to be allowed to make steady, continuous progress at a pace appropriate to their rate of learning in all academic subjects.... For gifted students of any age to be adequately served by the educational system, the boundaries between different levels of schooling (that is, between middle and high school, and between high school and college) need to be seamless." Means: Eliminate age or grade as a basis for restricting access to courses; Use criteria such as readiness, completion of prerequisites, challenge level; Use alternate means and sites outside of school • Opportunities to Preview College studies and College Life "// is critical, both for their motivation to attend college and for their successful adjustment to college, that students acquire this knowledge through experiences during high school that preview college life. " Means: Summer or weekend classes; Academic year courses; Workshops and seminars on college campuses • Opportunities for Adult-like Work "Students involved in communities ofpractice (Lauren Sosniak, 1998) are allowed to enter adult worlds of real-life activities, becoming incorporated into the communities as novice but contributing members (e.g. as members of a laboratory research or newspaper production team)." "Sosniak's research showed that these adult-work activities were an essential component of the talent development of creative producers, with benefits that include access to professional standards, social support, and apprenticeship types of learning experiences." Benefits: Students acquire specific types of knowledge, learn about careers/fields of study; student motivation & interest increased. Means: Internships and mentorships; Working on real problems in real work situations with real audiences • Experience Instrumental and Expressive Rewards "Csikszentmihalyi, Rathunde, and Whalen (1993) wrote about the needfor school learning activities to have both instrumental (future long-term payoffs such as entry into medical school) and expressive (immediate feelings of enjoyment & engagement) rewards." Means: Institutional policies and partnerships • Experience Social Support "Many academically talented children feel different from other children. They may feel that other students in their grade do not share their interests and desire to achieve. Both school-aged children and adolescents may have a great deal of difficulty with these feelings, and they may even hide their abilities in order to fit in socially. (Buescher & Higham, 1989)." "Social experiences with other academically talented students who share their interests and aspirations can help inoculate gifted students against a negative peer culture. (Olszewski-Kubilius, 1998)." The support of peers for intellectual achievement is especially critical for gifted females and students of color (Olszewski-Kubilius & Grant, 1996; Olszewski-Kubilius, Grant, & Seibert, 1993). " Means: Residential Summer Programs; residential high schools; Early college Olszewski-Kubilius and Limburg-Weber, 1991 24 The practice of acceleration involves a number of strategies including compacting curriculum, gap-based instruction, using advanced concepts as organizers and optimizing cross-disciplinary linkages. These approaches are effective for the gifted learner and are considered appropriate for the students selected for the Transition Program. However, educators and parents alike have questioned the value of academic acceleration. Keating (1991) cites Benbow and Stanley (1983) and Kulik and Kulik (1984) in arguing that research on acceleration shows "widespread opposition to accelerative options, despite their strong track record in field-based educational research" (p. 78). Given the importance of acceleration to the design of the V S B / U B C Transition Program it is important to examine research related to academic acceleration. Research on Academic Acceleration Academic acceleration has been practiced in a large number of ways from early entrance to school, grade skipping, fast-paced classes, advanced placement, and concurrent studies at a university or college (Copley, 1961; Gold, 1982). Pressey (1949) defined acceleration as "progress through an educational program at rates faster or ages younger than conventional" (Cited in Southern & Jones, 1991, p. 1). A more recent definition of academic acceleration is offered by Paulus (1984), "[educational] flexibility based on individual abilities without regard for age" (p. 98). This definition suggests criteria for acceleration include demonstrated high achievement and ability to move more rapidly through standard instructional programs. A range of instructional interventions have been developed to support academic acceleration. While Passow, Goldberg, Tannenbaum, and French (1955) list eight options, more recent discussions have generated more options. Gallagher (1985) has described seven major methods with respect to academic acceleration. Subsequent work has included nine recommendations from Davis and Rimm (1988) and thirteen strategies and interventions identified through the work of Kitano and Kirby (1986). Southern and Jones (1991) summarized fifteen instructional interventions designed to facilitate acceleration1. One of the challenges in employing these options is in determining the degree or extent of differentiation of curriculum in the intervention. Factors which need to be taken into account according to Southern and Jones (1991) include: age discrepancy between student and academic peers, extent by which instructional time is reduced, and the degree of maturity required of the student. Radical acceleration is used to describe skipping of more than two grades, completing of year long courses of study in very short time periods, or entering a level of school more than two or three years ahead of chronological age peers. A second challenge lies in recognizing the difference between two kinds of students who may be candidates for acceleration. The difference is sometimes described as administrative recognition and active intervention. The first group consists of students who are already achieving at a level higher than chronological age peers. Interventions for these students need to recognize the 1 1. Early entrance to kindergarten or first grade; 2. Grade skipping; 3. Continuous progress; 4. Self-paced instruction; 5. Subject-maatter acceleration; 6. Combined classes; 7. Curriculum compacting; 8. Telescoping curriculum; 9. Mentorships; 10. Extracurricular programs; 11. Concurrent enrollment; 12. Advanced placement; 13. Credit by examination; 14. Correspondence courses; 15. Early entrance into junior high, high school, or college. 25 already achieved potential of the students by providing them with workable administrative provisions. These interventions should provide "adequate 'credit' without subjecting the student or the school system to negative consequences" (Southern & Jones, 1991, p.4). An example of this kind of intervention is placing the student in a program with older peers. Documentation of superior performance and determination of whether the student is able to perform at a level equal to that of older students, whether the student has sufficiently advanced skills and attainments and whether achievement in this setting will be at least as good if not better than in previous settings are concerns relevant to making such a decision. The other group of acceleration candidates is composed of students who have the ability and inclination to work through the curriculum at a faster pace. These students are accelerated on the basis of their ability to learn faster and to handle conceptually advanced material more easily. For these students interventions include fast-paced course work, telescoping of grades and curriculum compacting. As well, engagement in their educational programs demands a significantly higher level of work, a higher level of performance and different expectations with respect to interactions with other students. It is critical for the students engaged in radical interventions that all potential negative consequences of acceleration are explored. Southern and Jones (1991) emphasize that "(t)here must be assurance that those candidates most likely to benefit from such a radical departure have been identified and that adequate documentation of benefits of the process are provided to justify its application" (p. 5). These two purposes of acceleration are often not distinguished in the research on acceleration and often not understood by staff, program developers, students and their parents. Southern and Jones (1991) also provide insights with respect to the practice of academic acceleration in the United States from the early part of the twentieth century. Historically, placement of younger students with older students was considered a saving both in terms of student time and local tax money if students could be educated more efficiently. Uniformity of the grade structure was already becoming apparent in the early part of the twentieth century (Pressey, 1949). But the emergence of four factors affected popular beliefs about the importance of students remaining with their chronological age peers (Southern & Jones, 1991). The first was mandatory attendance for all children based on concerns for child welfare and employment conditions for minors. The second was increased educational expectations among employers and the general public. The third factor was the rise of developmental theories in child psychology that suggested children of similar ages were more alike than different in their readiness for learning. The fourth factor was the huge increase in the number of students being educated, leading to the institutionalization of skills and knowledge and a more rigid scope and sequence of knowledge and skills. As a result of these social and economic factors, bureaucracy within schools developed a logic for placement that confirmed the most convenient placement structures, namely age grade placements. It was only with the advent of World War II that priorities began to change and early entrance gained increasing prominence. With the baby boomers came another change of emphasis focusing on redressing social injustices and providing for the educationally disadvantaged. Southern and Jones (1991) argue that a new wave of national studies (Boyer, 1983; Goodlad, 1984; National Commission on Excellence in Education, 1988; National Commission on Excellence in Teacher Education, 1985) suggesting that schools are "expecting less and less of students and that certain students are receiving increasingly inadequate education" contributed to a renewed interest in gifted education. With this interest has come the development of early entrance opportunities for gifted students. The focus of most acceleration research has been more on whom to accelerate rather than whether acceleration is an 26 appropriate intervention. There continues to be some uncertainty, as well as differing perspectives on the practice of radical acceleration and unanswered questions about which practices work best for which students. It is within this broad picture of acceleration that the Transition Program has its roots. Studies on academic acceleration report that "(w)ell-designed programs using academic acceleration obtain uniformly positive results both educationally and in terms of life outcomes (such as reported satisfaction and achievement)" (Keating, 1991, p. 78). Karen Rogers (1996) identified twelve approaches in her study of academic acceleration and confirmed the benefits of acceleration for the gifted students she studied. Similar reports are found in longitudinal research on academic acceleration at the Study of Mathematically Precocious Youth (SMPY) at Johns Hopkins University (Swiatek, 1993). Research on the Early Entrance Program at the University of Washington, Seattle, provided additional evidence of the successful achievement and social development of these students (Janos, Robinson & Lunnenberg, 1989; Noble, Robinson & Gunderson, 1993). Noble followed up the initial work of the former study using the same students and comparison groups and reported similar findings. One criticism of research on academic acceleration is that it has not considered the achievements of accelerated students when compared to equally able students who do not choose acceleration. One such study is the ten-year longitudinal follow-up of ability-matched accelerated and unaccelerated gifted students by Swiatek and Benbow (1991). The study focused on the academic and psychosocial concerns about acceleration and found them to be not well founded. With respect to the academic concern about gaps in knowledge, it was determined that "the accelerates were able to perform as successfully as the non- accelerates, even though the accelerates were at least 1 year younger" (Swiatek & Benbow, 1991, p. 536). Similarly the concern that these students would "burn-out" was discussed on the basis that the "accelerates did not appear to slow their college educations, take time off before pursuing graduate studies, or plan to curtail their educational pursuits. When academic variables as a whole were considered, the performance of the accelerates appeared to be slightly stronger than that of the non-accelerates" (Swiatek & Benbow, 1991, p. 536). Similarly the psychosocial/attitudinal variables indicated that accelerated students were as well adjusted as non-accelerated students. The study concluded that acceleration can be recommended for students who are highly gifted and who desire acceleration. Students who do not wish to be accelerated should not be pressed, and those who do should not be denied the opportunity, provided that they meet the criteria for acceptance into the program. These criteria include ability and skill measures, standardized tests and curriculum assessments, motivation, social-emotional readiness and resilience. Readiness has included consideration of age, stamina, and general health. Not only did the above researchers find that acceleration does not harm students, they also clarified a number of positive effects of acceleration. Documented benefits of acceleration include increased efficiency, increased effectiveness, recognition, increased time for careers, increased productivity, increased options for academic exploration, exposure of the student to new peer groups, and administrative economy (Southern & Jones, 1991). It is clear from the research of Swiatek and Benbow (1991) and the extensive reports of Southern and Jones (1991) that academic acceleration as a programming option for students possessing the requisite ability and motivation is both defensible and useful. The ways in which acceleration is implemented in the Transition Program need to be examined together with the attitudes to 27 acceleration of students, teachers, and parents. There are still many teachers, principals, parents and students who are uncomfortable with academic acceleration. Negative attitudes toward acceleration are largely based on rigid notions of social and emotional development, anecdotal information, past practices that are not comparable to current approaches, and the challenges inherent in choosing an educational alternative that is different from the regular classroom experience. Research on accelerated students such as those found in an early entrance to university program discusses the concerns related to academic advancement as well as the psychosocial concerns that often arise when students begin to explore the options of acceleration of one or more years. With respect to academic acceleration there are two common concerns. One is the potential burn-out of students who are placed with other students not of their chronological age (Compton, 1982). The second concern is that acceleration may lead to knowledge gaps or poor retention of material learned at an accelerated rate (VanTassel-Baska, 1989). These concerns were examined in the Ten-Year Longitudinal Follow-up of Ability-Matched Accelerated and Unaccelerated Gifted Students by Swiatek and Benbow (1991). They suggest that the "risk of burnout is offset by an even higher risk of underachievement due to boredom" (p. 528). Underachievement and boredom may lead to maladjustment and difficulties such as social withdrawal or lack of self-discipline (Paulus, 1984). Swiatek and Benbow (1991) note that a number of studies of accelerated students have not found any gaps in knowledge. Accelerated students do not exhibit deficits in knowledge or achievement. Potential gaps, which might be due to grade skipping, are avoided by careful evaluation of student progress within advanced courses. The psycho-social concerns for students in the multi-year accelerated program such as the early entrance to university Transition Program are often expressed as a question: can this student adjust to the new setting? From their review of the literature, Swiatek and Benbow (1991) summarized the following psychosocial concerns: (a) gifted students have deficient or retarded psychosocial development and will not fit in with classmates; (b) gifted students enrolled in special programs will lose the ability to function in the larger world of average people; (c) the social acceptance of the gifted students will be jeopardized by being in an accelerative program that emphasizes differences between gifted and average students; (d) special educational opportunities lead gifted students to become conceited and self-centered; and, (e) self-concepts of gifted students will suffer. Studies around the psychosocial development of gifted students do not support the first four concerns. Research does demonstrate that most gifted children are psychosocially mature, even surpassing average children. They are also shown to be popular. It is suggested that while self-concept may decrease in accelerated programs this may be due to a more realistic view of the student's abilities and may be short-term (Powell & Haden, 1984). The predominance of findings is that "...most gifted students have strong personal resources and are unlikely to experience psychosocial harm from acceleration" (Swiatek & Benbow, 1991, p. 529). Studies of other early entrance to university programs suggest that, on average, participating students achieve higher grades and more academic honors, enter graduate school early and go on to complete advanced degrees and enter professions earlier (Noble, Robinson, & Gunderson, 1993). Longitudinal studies suggest that early graduates go on to lead effective adult lives. While the literature around early entrance to university or college is limited by relatively small samples, there are general indications to support the appropriateness of this option for students 28 who both demonstrate advanced abilities and are highly motivated to participate in this program for their own reasons related to career and learning goals. Repeatedly the literature suggests that the key variables of these programs are the intellectual challenges and the opportunities to work within a motivated and equally able peer group (Robinson & Noble, 1992). The research does not suggest that these students experience no difficulties, nor that they do not require support at various times and for various academic or social difficulties. Program structure and staff, including counselors and psychologists, need to provide support for the students who experience these difficulties (Olszewski, Kuliede, & Willis, 1987). In their review of student perceptions of early college entrance and the effect of skipping high school years on their social, emotional, and intellectual development, Noble and Drummond (1992) reported that the students who graduated from the Early Entrance Program at the University of Washington were "...unanimous in their satisfaction with their choice to forego both high school and the senior prom, a satisfaction educators, parents, and counselors should not overlook" (p. 110). Examples of this adjustment related to feeling accepted by regular-age college students, being generally well regarded by professors, and feeling well prepared for university level work. Janos, Robinson and Lunneborg (1989) concluded that "pronounced wishes for college studies by highly motivated, well organized, and academically ready young people argue convincingly for programs designed to facilitate this option" (p. 516). Early Entrance to University Programs Early entrance to university is an option supported by most colleges and universities in the United States. Typically Canadian universities examine such applications on a case by case basis. The University of British Columbia allows students sixteen years of age to enroll in a limited number of courses in the category of concurrent studies. Some exceptions have been allowed on a case by case basis. Benbow and Stanley (1983) and Swiatek and Benbow (1991) suggest that an increasing number of innovative programs designed to foster academic talent development using an early entrance to college model have been initiated. The Center for Talent Development at Northwestern University (Internet Site, Center for Talent Development, Northwestern University, 2001) identified eleven early college entrance programs at various institutions in the United States. Most of these programs consist of after school, weekend and summer courses. Boothe, Sethna, Stanley, and Colgate (1999) described eight early entrance to college programs, five of which were fully residential and three described themselvestas mostly residential. Tuition and board and room costs per student ranged from a low of $3,105, which rose to $8,568 for out-of-state students, to a high of $30,000. Need-based funding was available for all eight programs while six institutions used merit-based funding. A l l programs provided college courses only but graduates were able to receive credit most often for a high school diploma or options such as an associate degree from the college. Curriculum addressed core courses, thematic options, high school requirements or a combination thereof. Of these four private and four public institutions offering programs of either two years or four years in duration, gender equity was practiced except for PEG (Program for the Exceptionally Gifted) at Mary Baldwin College which was designed to serve high school-based gifted females. Enrollment across these programs ranged from a low of 40 to a high of 390 students. 29 Typically early entrance programs allow students to simultaneously complete high school course requirements while taking college classes. The majority of programs admit full-time students one or two years early. Very few programs admit students as much as three or four years earlier than usual. Other options available for gifted students in the United States include residential high schools developed specifically to serve this population. One of the most well known university-based initiatives to promote the academic ability of children and youth throughout the world is The Johns Hopkins University where in 1971 Julian C. Stanley founded a program known as the Study of Mathematically Precocious Youth (SMPY). The program functioned primarily as a summer outreach program. Stanley designed and developed the talent search model that is currently used to identify gifted young people in various university sites in the United States. The students, some as young as Grade Six age, take the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) designed for senior secondary students. Through this process of off-level testing, highly gifted adolescents are identified and educational options including access to university courses are made available. The program is designed "to inspire young people by offering distinctive educational opportunities that nurture intellectual abilities, advance academic achievement, and enhance personal development" (Internet Site, Center for Talented Youth, Johns Hopkins University, 2001). Their current range of programs offered to support young people's academic talents in the liberal arts includes in-school and out-of-school programs in mathematics, the sciences and the humanities while students continue completion of regular secondary school. To validate the talent search process and support SMPY's continuing development, a longitudinal study of the students that have been identified as highly gifted was initiated in 1972 (Swiatek, 1993). Follow-up surveys periodically sent to identified students have suggested that academic acceleration is often an effective educational approach to address the educational needs of these students in that almost all students do not appear to suffer from knowledge gaps or burn-out and report successful academic achievement and satisfaction with their accelerative experiences (Swiatek & Benbow, 1991). The Transition School and the Early Entrance to University Program offered at the University of Washington in Seattle offer a one year full-time program of studies designed to prepare academically gifted students for early entrance to university and a second year in which the early entrance to university students (EPPers) are provided with academic advisement and support as well as a space for meeting and studying. The University of Washington's program of instruction and support for students who are committed to a goal of early entrance to university was the model which most closely paralleled the resource base available to the original planners from the Vancouver School District when they were exploring how to address the needs of academically gifted adolescents interested in attending university early. The program in Seattle, while unlike the Vancouver model in that the Seattle model had developed as a university-based initiative and operated on endowment, tuition and scholarship funds, represented an attractive alternative education program compatible with program models serving special education students in Vancouver. Its design, proximity and the welcome extended by its administrator and staff to examine their program made it the model of choice for the developers of the V S B / U B C Transition Program. In a summary of research regarding early entrance to college programs, Olszewski-Kubiluis (1995) affirmed the need for these kinds of programs and the success achieved by students who chose to enroll. Program designs varied in response to the particularities of their various contexts. Thus, best practice defined by the program in Seattle, for example, was not necessarily 30 available to the program developers who were working under the guidance of educational policies in British Columbia. An understanding of the educational policy-making process in the British Columbia context is thus important to an understanding of decision-making of the V S B / U B C Transition Program developers, administrators and staff. Educational Policy and Giftedness Without an educational policy, gifted education tends to be left to chance and other political considerations. In Ontario, gifted education is mandated by legislation as part of the general Special Education policy. However, unlike the other areas of Special Education which have memoranda to articulate and clarify how particular student populations are to be defined, identified and served, gifted education has no such statements in their policy documents (Ontario Ministry of Education, Special Education Policy, 2001). As a result, the decision to offer programs and services for gifted students and the nature of these programs and how students are identified is left up to the individual school district (Personal Communication, Joanne Lee, Ontario Ministry of Education, 2002). The lack of specificity in education policy in Ontario limits availability and access to programs and services needed by gifted students. Public policy not only reflects what a society values but also how social structures are expected to function so as to facilitate the expression of these values through daily living. Ball (1990) suggests that policy serves as the "authoritative allocation of values...operational statement of values (and) statements of prescriptive intents" (p. 3). Policy, suggests William Jenkins, is the "...set of interrelated decisions taken by a political actor or group of actors concerning the selection of goals and the means of achieving them within a specified situation where those decisions should, in principle, be within the power of those actors to achieve" (Cited in Howlett & Ramesh, 1995). Most current policy tends to frame social problems amenable to social intervention in terms that are politically acceptable, reasonably feasible and that encourage maximization of limited resources. Government decisions to enact a policy may be related to whether the issue is recognized as a social problem, as one within the government's purview to solve, and also within the government's capacity to affect. The problem-solving processes within policy-making have been described as "messy realities of influence, pressure, dogma, expediency, conflict, compromise, intransigence, resistance, error, opposition, and pragmatism" (Ball, 1990, p. 9). The challenge of policy-making, therefore, is " retain messiness and complexity and still be penetrating" (Ball, 1990, p. 9). Public policy with respect to education of gifted students thus reflects the way society understands and values the development of the abilities of the exceptional student. It outlines how public funds can or should be used to address the educational needs of this student population. The articulation of the need for gifted education within education policy is important for several reasons. Talent that is not developed is a loss to society as well as to the individual. Since the population in question is small and the required interventions specialized, it is important that direction to act on behalf of these students comes from educational policy makers who are committed to talent development for the sake of the individual as well as society, who understand the challenges inherent in that development and who are prepared to stand up for the needs of these learners when it comes to the distribution of resources in public education. 31 Implementing policy with respect to the needs of gifted students affects society in significant and positive ways. Numerous consequences and spin-offs of gifted education can be found in the regular education curriculum, including the expansion of options and flexibility for student learning that supports society's vision of life long learning as articulated in the British Columbia Ministry of Education's report entitled A Legacy of Learners (Sullivan, 1988). While gifted students and their parents advocate for gifted education policy, it is ultimately society that benefits from the contributions which these students have to offer over a lifetime of productivity. Experience has shown that i f the needs of gifted individuals are not addressed, they can be marginalized, ignored, or only brought to attention through crises, for example, the suicide of individuals who find themselves isolated, frustrated and alone in their differentness and their intensity. What is the cost of the cure that is not discovered, the groundbreaking discoveries that are not made, the great literature that is not written, and the insightful understandings that have not been realized and shared? This is the question that policies supporting gifted learners must address, according to Gallagher (2001), educational researcher in gifted education and mental handicaps whose substantive work on both ends of the spectrum of students' educational needs has brought him recognition within the international community of educational researchers. Within a democracy where equity is a key value, there has been particularly vocal criticism of gifted education and related educational policy to provide for difference. It is important that educational policy articulates support for the development of talents and abilities of all students while at the same time recognizing that differences within this range of abilities represent very different kinds of needs, which ultimately require different educational programming responses. The belief that addressing the needs of the gifted learner is elitist affects policy despite current research that documents the different learning needs of the gifted student and that measures the positive effects of practices such as flexible pacing, advanced placement and radical academic acceleration. Equity defined as "sameness" fails to acknowledge the unique needs of individuals. Fairness lies in addressing differences in individual needs as equally important and equally deserving of resources and support. Thus understanding the different needs of gifted learners is critical to equitable distribution of educational opportunities and resources. Gifted education policy must be responsible for negotiating an understanding of the educational needs of gifted learners and articulating the social value of education that is designed to address these needs and support the development of talent and abilities of young people. To understand how this commitment to address the needs of the gifted learner comes to be reflected in policy, it is helpful to consider how policy is made and translated into practice. By its very nature, policymaking takes place in different contexts. Bowe, Ball and Gold (1992) suggest three policy contexts: text production, influence, and practice. Through text, policy articulates definitions of giftedness and procedures and standards for identification. Text provides tools for program development: conceptual, instrumental and legitimization (Rubenson, 1991). The responsibility for producing policy as text lies with the provincial governments in Canada. While educational policy is an expression of the values of the people, it is also open to the influence of the people who make up the society, most notably educational consumers — students and their parents. As guardians of student needs and student rights and through their questions and participation in educational decision-making, parents as well as other groups and organizations are able to influence policymaking as well as policy interpretation. To influence policy effectively, parents need to learn how to access networks and engage effective advocacy strategies 32 Lastly, policy is articulated through the practices of educators on a daily basis. Through their interpretations of policy, practitioners place emphasis on the perspectives and ideas which are meaningful to them. The daily experiences of students in a classroom are significantly shaped by the policy interpretations generated by teachers whose decisions are supported by professional autonomy. Different policy contexts generate policy debate and interpretation. Through a process of sharing perspectives and looking for commonalities, the various policy actors, such as students, parents, educators, and administrators from all levels of organization, establish a foundation from which program infrastructure can be developed. Ball (1990), for example, identifies three dimensions of education policy making: economic, political, and ideological. These dimensions function autonomously as well as in relationship to one another. For example, with respect to the funding and valuing of gifted education, the funding priorities (economic dimension) are negotiated through patterns of governance and influence (political dimension) using arguments based on views and beliefs central to gifted education and the society (ideological dimension). In British Columbia, the Ministry of Education develops and distributes policies for Special Education. Gifted education is a category within Special Education and gifted students are described in terms of their special needs. The current public policy on gifted education as articulated in the Ministry of Education's Special Education Services' Manual of Policies, Procedures and Guidelines, (Ministry of Education, 1995) "Students Who are Gifted", provides an operational definition of this student population with stated requirements for identification and assessment, program differentiation, evaluation and reporting, and personnel. Gifted students are considered to be those who "possess demonstrated or potential abilities that give evidence of exceptionally high capability with respect to intellect, creativity, or the skills associated with specific disciplines" (Ministry of Education, 1995, E-17). The definition acknowledges that these students typically possess an "extraordinary intensity of focus in their particular areas of talent or interest...(and the possibility of) accompanying disabilities" (Ministry of Education, 1995, E-17). B C s Special Education policy also sets out the program parameters for gifted education. These include appropriate identification and appropriately differentiated service on a regular and ongoing basis. The more extraordinary the abilities of the student, the more necessary it is to expand options beyond the regular classroom. Every identified student requires an appropriate educational program (Individual Education Plan) to articulate his or her educational needs and the means by which these needs will be addressed. Through the Ministry's definition, gifted education is thus recognized and legitimized as a category of special education. The official policy outlines how gifted students will be identified and served in our schools and in this way provides the tools for program development that are conceptual, instrumental, and offer legitimization to the field of gifted education practice (Rubenson, 1994, p. 152). The policy also offers incentives. In exchange for meeting the requirements delineated in the policy together with the general education policy requirements, a school district is allocated supplemental funding for up to 2% of total student enrollment. This funding is subject to audit by the Ministry of Education; school districts are required to list the names of students who are receiving service and to demonstrate how this service meets Ministry requirements. The penalty 3 3 for failing to provide programs is the withdrawal of funds. Thus the policy is permissive rather than mandatory but it provides incentives —financial reward— for program development. Current leaders in the field suggest that gifted educational practices serve a larger percentage of the population, as much as 10 to 15% of the population (Gallagher, 2001). It has been argued that the 2% cap on gifted education funding is not an appropriate match to the service levels needed by this population within school districts (Gifted Children's Association of British Columbia, 2001). The Vancouver School Board (VSB) has a gifted education policy that flows from the Ministry of Education's policy. The VSB policy (1988) articulates a commitment to full development of abilities of every student to his or her fullest potential, both as an individual and as a member of society. The policy goes on to explain that this commitment to the development of individuals— intellectually, physically, socially, and emotionally—is valued for the sake of the individual as well as for society as a whole. The Board's goal is the development of defensible and comprehensive educational programs for gifted learners, Kindergarten through Grade Twelve. Two requirements for the development of gifted education programs have also been articulated by the Board (1994): (1) equity of access for all students in all areas of the city; and (2) programs must respond to the diversity of educational needs of this student population. Essentially the Ministry of Education's policy on gifted education, supported through the distribution of funds, determines the limits of service, namely who constitutes the target population, how many, under what conditions, how and for what purpose they will be served. The policy outlines the parameters within which service will be recognized and accountability will be required. What is missing from the policy text are the views of the students being served (or not), their parents, and the implementing educators — those who interpret policy and deliver programming to students. The rational economic paradigm requires that only objectively measurable concepts are included in written policy; what is absent is the ambiguity, complexity, instability, value-conflict and uniqueness that characterize the phenomena of practice (Schon, 1983). Education policies developed by the Ministry of Education form the basis for local school district policy. School district policies, once removed from the professional bureaucrats of the Ministry of Education, have the additional responsibility of responding to the values and beliefs of the local community. Flexibility in the translation of policies is critical to their implementation. The Vancouver School Board's gifted education policy, for example, speaks to the values of equity, respect for persons and social justice, but addresses these values within a context of an urban environment with complex issues of inner city schools, First Nations students, higher numbers of special needs students and multi-cultural populations with significant ESL (English as a Second Language) needs. The service models developed for the Vancouver School District reflect these values and these environmental realities. The structure for funding education policy on giftedness is also important. Inherent in this structure is the value placed upon gifted education programs and services as well as the accountability for the use of funds. Funding for gifted education is often a target of criticism. One perception is that funding in gifted education is draining funds from other areas of special and general education needs. In reality, government funding for gifted education is very limited in comparison to all other areas of Special Education funding. At the same time the funding cap of 2% provides inadequate funding to address the required service levels described in the policy. 34 One result is that only minimal levels of programming for gifted students can be supported; there are limited incentives to develop creative options given a climate where competing needs vie for school district funds. In contrast, programs and services receiving targeted funding on a per identified student basis are viewed as more fundamental to society, are more readily accepted as an appropriate use of public funds, and enjoy prominence and priority on the education policy agenda. Gifted education's status in the policy arena can be linked to the role of education policies in society in general. These various policies indicate the value placed on the education of our potentially ablest future citizens. It is reasonable to expect that society supports the development of the potential abilities of all people including gifted students to the fullest extent possible so that society may benefit from the most creative, insightful, productive problem solving of its citizenry. 35 C H A P T E R III T H E TRANSITION P R O G R A M ' S E V O L U T I O N At first people refuse to believe that a strange new thing can be done. Then they begin to hope it can be done. Then they see it can be done. Then it is done and all the world wonders why it was not done centuries ago. — Frances Hodgson Burnett Dr. Stanley Blank, Professor Emeritus at The University of British Columbia, stated in his comments at the official U B C opening of the Transition Program (UBC, Sept. 30, 1999) that during the thirty or more years he dedicated to gifted education, he dreamed about the creation of an early entrance to university program. However the realization of that dream occurred only when a series of critical elements came together in British Columbia. These key elements included experiences of academically highly gifted students successfully pursuing radical academic acceleration, strong and vocal parent advocacy, substantive gifted education knowledge to support program design and implementation, leadership committed to addressing the needs of this student population and to encouraging political will within a new climate of support for gifted students, and collaboration among numerous articulate individuals to enable the creation of institutional partnerships. The result was the establishment of the Vancouver School Board/ University of British Columbia Transition Program in 1993. Critical Elements Supporting Gifted Education Program Development in Vancouver Prior to 1987, gifted education in Vancouver schools was focused on enrichment in the regular classroom (Gifted Education Report to Director of Student Services, V S B , 1988). (See Appendix A for list of Transition Program study abbreviations and source documents.) Leadership for enrichment programming in schools was provided by a series of district consultants. During the late 1970s and early 1980s a small number of elementary schools used flexible staffing to create school-based enrichment centers staffed part-time by a cohort of exceptionally creative and dedicated teachers. As of September 1987, a total of 13.3 teacher positions were deployed in twenty-seven elementary schools to create enrichment programs (Gifted Education Report to Director of Student Services, VSB, 1988). Four secondary schools offered district programs for high achieving students: International Baccalaureate Program, Churchill Secondary; Challenge Program, Hamber; Arts and Athletics Program, Magee; and, Enrichment Program, John Oliver. A number of secondary schools offered options for gifted and highly able learners such as honors and enriched courses, challenge examinations leading to acceleration by grade within some subject areas, and Advance Placement Examinations and concurrent studies (secondary and university) at the senior secondary level (Gifted Education Report to Director of Student Services, VSB, 1988). Extracurricular activities and electives were also considered a source of enrichment for capable students. 36 Parents of gifted children clamored for support from the school system in the early 1980s, and in 1982 a group of parents from Vancouver and Richmond came together to find peers for their children and to address their concerns about the need for the school system to respond appropriately to children with gifted abilities (Baum, 2002). They formed the Gifted Children's Association of British Columbia (GCA) which was formalized as a society in January of 1983; their first presentation to the Vancouver School Board took place in 1984 during a daunting period of economic restraint. The Vancouver School Board meanwhile had been replaced by an appointed trustee (as a result of disagreement with the provincial government over resource distribution). The parents expressed their concern about the lack of infrastructure for identifying and serving gifted students within the context of provincial audits for Special Education, specifically the 2% funding designated for the gifted student population. The appointed trustee responded by indicating there was a committee working on enrichment and offered to place a G C A representative on this committee. Parent representation on district committees was not common practice at that time, but when a new Director of Student Services took responsibility for the area of gifted education in 1984, she encouraged parent participation within both committee work and professional development opportunities. The opening up of communication between the Gifted Children's Association and the Vancouver School Board went on to nurture the supportive partnership that has enhanced program development for gifted students in Vancouver for almost two decades. In 1984, Dr. Jean Moore, the new Director of Student Services, paved the way for the establishment of a new position, District Support Teacher for Gifted Education. She describes the creation of this position as one of her most difficult tasks during her tenure as Director (Moore, 1997). Not only were budget considerations an issue as was the case when any new position was discussed, but also the needs of gifted students were not widely recognized among educators and the general public. However, she was supported by the District Advisory Committee, Enrichment Center teachers and a small group of principals and classroom teachers together with parents particularly associated with the Gifted Children's Association of BC who had all advocated for the position (DAC Minutes, VSB, 1987). Contrary to common practice, which was to hire experienced classroom teachers from within the district for district positions, the successful applicant was new to the school district and had extensive training and experience in gifted education. This background in working with gifted learners proved helpful to the district's articulation of the range and diversity of needs of gifted students. It was also instrumental in extending the focus of effective practices for gifted students from classroom enrichment to an array of programs and services designed to nurture both the identification and the development of students' potential abilities and talents. The creation of a position for gifted education for the Vancouver School District meant that the area of gifted student needs was given an articulated legitimacy (Rubenson, 1994). The nature and scope of the work took on specific definition, and subsequent efforts to develop programs and services for gifted students validated the support of the Board as well as Senior Management. A n experienced Enrichment Center Teacher explained that at the time of the creation of this position, the use of the term gifted as an area of student needs was almost non-existent (Herman, 1997). With its creation and the selection of a candidate with extensive gifted education training and previous experience working in a district position, the Director opened the door to the development of programs and services for the gifted and highly gifted students K-12 within the school district. 37 The first task of the District Support teacher was a review of gifted education in the Vancouver School District to stimulate program development. This review resulted in a paper identified as Gifted and Talented Education: A Position Paper, VSB, 1987. The Director of Student Services directed the District Advisory Committee for Gifted Education (DAC) to use this review to discuss how to address the unmet needs of gifted students in Vancouver (DAC Minutes, V S B , 1987). The result was a five-year District Plan for Gifted Education. This action placed the needs of gifted students squarely on the education agenda for the district. The critical starting point for the Transition Program was the presentation of this Five-Year Plan for Gifted Education to the Vancouver School Board in the spring of 1988 (VSB Minutes, 1988). It requested Board support for the development of comprehensive, defensible, and equitable programs and services to enable the nurture of those with gifted abilities in Vancouver students from Kindergarten through Grade Twelve. Comprehensive programming was described as "adequate and appropriate learning experiences for a particular individual, when and how that experience can and should be accelerated, when and how that experience can and should be enriched in depth and/or breadth" (Passow, 1987, p. 15). Equity of access to programs for gifted students from all areas of the city was highlighted as a priority. The district's commitment was to insure that appropriate services and programs would be available to address the gifted learner needs in all Vancouver schools. In accordance with the Ministry of Education policy for Special Education, the Five-Year Plan defined students with gifted abilities as individuals with exceptional talent in areas of intellectual, academic and creative production. Its adoption by the Vancouver School Board in 1988 was an important milestone (VSB Minutes, 1988). It provided the school district with an updated gifted education policy, set a climate of support for gifted education initiatives, and revitalized efforts to develop appropriate responses to the needs of this student population. The policy provided the foundation for written goal statements, a practice that had been acclaimed as the best predictor of "substantial" gifted education programs according to the 1985 National Survey conducted by the Sid W. Richardson Foundation (Cox, Daniel, & Boston, 1985). With this support from the Vancouver School Board, the District Gifted Education Advisory Committee was able to initiate pilot projects while helping schools identify gifted students and develop appropriate programs and services to meet student needs. The first priority was to develop programs and services for elementary gifted students. Professional development opportunities were organized for teachers and administrators at both the district and school levels. A handbook, Identification Guidelines for Gifted Education (1988), was developed and circulated to all Vancouver schools and an array of services was articulated through a Gifted-Enrichment Education Continuum. The Need for a District Gifted Education Early Entrance to University Program At the time when the Five-Year Plan for Gifted Education was presented to the Vancouver School Board there were no district programs specifically designed for identified gifted students. Elementary enrichment programs were school-based and staffed through flexible or discretionary staffing, an additional limited staffing that was distributed by Human Resources according to a formula based on the size of the school's student population. Each school submitted a plan for the use of additional staffing to address unmet student needs within the school. The plan 38 required the support of both the school staff and the school administrator. In a small number of schools Learning Enrichment Centers (LEC's) were staffed in order to offer pull-in programs for students referred by classroom teachers. There was no district initiative to provide gifted education at the secondary school level although every secondary school demonstrated a keen interest in attracting high achieving students. Several secondary school administrators were exploring the possibilities of modifying their programs to attract gifted and talented students (DAC Minutes, VSB, 1988). There were a number of secondary educators who attended district inservice sessions and two schools that organized a professional development event to focus on gifted and highly able learners (Gifted Education Year End Report, V S B , 1988). Secondary schools tended to function autonomously under the leadership of school administrators and individual student needs were subsumed under the management of the school community and school culture, neither of which articulated the needs of gifted students as a priority. Discussion of an early entrance to university program began at the District Advisory Committee for Gifted Education, stimulated by the cases of two Vancouver students who were enrolling in university at the ages of 13 and 14 (DAC Minutes, 1989,1990). One high school student was accelerated to senior level science and mathematics while in Grade 8 and eventually enrolled at Simon Fraser University after successfully completing the Grade 12 International Baccalaureate Program Mathematics, Physics and Chemistry. He had not yet received credit for English and Social Studies at the Grade 10 (or 11 or 12) level and as such could not qualify for early entry to the University of British Columbia. This issue proved to be particularly problematic for all gifted students wishing to enter the university. Simon Fraser University, on the other hand, offered him four years of scholarship tuition and did not require that he complete high school graduation requirements. He thus entered university at age 14 in 1989. A second student was identified as gifted as a result of his intense interest in Physics in Grade 5, an interest that the parents explored with a Physics professor from The University of British Columbia. While still enrolled in elementary school, the student was invited by the neighborhood secondary school principal to try out some high school courses in Mathematics and Science. The student subsequently enrolled in David Thompson Secondary's gifted enrichment program as an early entrant, an uncommon practice at the time. Through the school's support and a process of academic acceleration, the student achieved high school graduation at the age of 13 (1990). He enrolled at The University of British Columbia where the Associate Dean of the Faculty of Science personally mentored him (TPSC Minutes, VSB, 1991). At this stage the idea of early entrance to university was linked to an awareness of an unmet student need. While concurrent enrollment for individual senior secondary students was an occasional practice in a number of secondary schools, there was a strong tradition of age-grade placement of students in both elementary and secondary schools (TP Notes, VSB, 1993). It was startling for some educators and parents alike to see that students could handle advanced academic studies, thrive within the challenge of the experience and continue on to successful university work. There was also a sense of dismay that these students who were choosing to do so were obliged to navigate a path through bureaucratic structures that were not organized to support their choices, and they were doing so against popular tradition and with little encouragement or help except for a very few individuals along the way. Discussions at the District Gifted Education Advisory Committee focused initially on the difficulties faced by the first student who completed only Grade 12 Mathematics, Physics and Chemistry before entering university. The unevenness of development of academic skills, 39 particularly communication skills cultivated through the study of English and History, was discussed in terms of long term success in university studies. Concerns were expressed about a lone student at age 14 navigating the university system without peer or social support. The committee agreed that both academic and social-emotional support should be available for students motivated to achieve excellence while pursuing acceleration of their academic studies. Suggestions to address the needs of these students included an intellectual peer group, mentors, counselors and teachers who understood how to support them given their special issues; there was also discussion of a system of academic advisement, advocacy and support to assist with the unique challenges early entrants would face by virtue of being so much younger within the university setting (DAC Minutes, VSB, 1989). In the fall of 1989 two members of the District Advisory Committee for Gifted Education were on the organizing committee for the Third Canadian Symposium for Gifted Learners held in Vancouver. One of the invited presenters, Dr. Nancy Robinson, spoke about the early entrance to university program located on the campus of the University of Washington, Seattle. Dr. Halbert Robinson started the program in 1977 with two students, one of whom was his daughter. Dr. Nancy Robinson then became the program's director in 1981 (Robinson, 1990). The success of the University of Washington's approach to supporting academically motivated and gifted adolescents to achieve early entrance to university was subsequently shared with the District Advisory Committee. Members were unanimous in their support to explore a similar program initiative for the academically gifted secondary student population in Vancouver (DAC, Minutes, V S B , 1989). As a consequence, the Director of Student Services initiated discussions with the principal of University Hi l l Secondary about using that secondary site for the establishment of a program to support early entrance to university (TP Notes, VSB, 1989). Exploration of Program Models To gain information, a small group of teachers and administrators visited the Early Entrance to University Program and Transition School in Seattle in the spring of 1990 (TP Notes, V S B , 1990). The group included two Churchill Secondary School staff members who had worked closely with the student who had entered university before completion of high school graduation. Administrators included the principal of University Hi l l Secondary and the newly appointed Associate Superintendent for the Jericho Area who was a past principal of University Hi l l Secondary School (Moore, Notes, V S B , 1989). Both administrators supported the idea that University Hi l l Secondary, which is located on the edge of the U B C campus, would be the optimum site for the new initiative. They saw the advantages of such a program both for students and for the school district as well as in enhancing the climate for academic excellence of this school in particular (TP Survey, V S B , 1999). Mary Lynn Baum, representing the Gifted Children's Association of BC on the District Advisory Committee and the District Support Teacher for Gifted Education, completed the visitation team. Visitors observed classes, spoke with enrolled students and program graduates, and met with the counselor for these students, Dr. Kathleen Noble, and the program administrator, Dr. Nancy Robinson. Dr. Noble had been hired as the psychologist, academic adviser and assistant director for the early Entrance Program in 1989. As a result of this visit there was a feeling that the Seattle model could be modified and "Canadianized" so as to contribute a similar resource to British Columbia and Canada. The Committee reported that there were " similar models of this kind of program directed 40 specifically to this target population in Canada. The interventions that do occur are unique to individuals; they are not developed programs" (Moore, Notes, VSB, 1992). Through the gifted education literature and written communication, the Advisory Committee also explored several other early entrance to university program models. The best known was the Program for Mathematically Precocious Youth (PMPY) at Johns Hopkins University. That program's structure consisted of university summer classes primarily in mathematics. Students as early as Grade 6 who scored exceptionally high on the Scholastic Aptitude Test were invited to participate in the program. The program was administered through the university. Opportunities to enroll in advanced university mathematics courses were provided for those students who demonstrated exceptional success in the summer program. While the P M P Y model pointed to the specific needs of mathematically precocious students, the committee determined that the range of student needs and goals for a BC early entrance to university program would be more comprehensively addressed by a program model similar to the one at the University of Washington, Seattle (DAC Minutes, VSB, 1989). The result of these experiences was a clearer identification of the needs of secondary academically gifted students, a recognition that these needs were not met within existing programs and a commitment to explore alternative ways to address these needs. Gifted Education policy supported the development of appropriate programs and services to address the educational needs of this student population; however, the political reality was that a number of key decision-makers were not yet aligned with this perspective. Development of an Institutional Partnership In September of 1990, the principal of University Hil l Secondary continued discussions with the Director of Student Services about the development of an early entrance to university program for his school. It was clear that a facilitative partnership was needed between the Vancouver School Board and The University of British Columbia. To facilitate the development of that partnership, the principal of University Hil l Secondary contacted Dr. Dan Birch, Academic Vice-President of U B C , who requested that Dr. Patricia Vertinsky, Associate Dean of the Faculty of Education at U B C and also a parent of students attending University Hi l l Secondary School, initiate further discussions (Moore, Notes, V S B , 1990). A meeting organized at University Hi l l Secondary hosted by the Principal and with the Director of Student Services as Chair included representatives from U B C , V S B , and G C A (Gifted Children's Association of BC). This group became the Advisory Committee for the Early Entrance to University Program and subsequently has become known as the Transition Program Steering Committee. The founding members of the institutional partnership between the Vancouver School Board and the University of British Columbia were Dr. Jean Moore, John Minichello, Mary Lynn Baum, and the District Support Teacher for Gifted Education from the Vancouver School Board; and Dr. Patricia Vertinsky, Faculty of Education, Dr. David Holm, Faculty of Science, and Dr. Paul Tennant, Faculty of Arts, from The University of British Columbia (TPSC Minutes, V S B , 1990). At this time Dr. Holm was mentoring Ryan Hung, the young man who had graduated from high school and entered university at the age of 13. He offered his experiences with Ryan and several other students to help the Committee understand the challenges faced by these students, their potential 41 for high level achievement as well as their needs as younger students who entered university early. Over the course of several meetings the partnership between the two institutions, the Vancouver School Board and the University of British Columbia, was developed and the program design process initiated. Dr. Vertinsky undertook to encourage the university's support and the President confirmed his commitment to the development of this program. The first formal support for this initiative from U B C was the establishment of a 0.25 FTE position that would provide a university liaison role to support coordination of this program with U B C (TPSC Minutes, V S B , 1991). Dr. Stanley Blank, Professor Emeritus of Educational Psychology with the Faculty of Education, joined the committee as the liaison with the President's office. A letter of support from Dr. Dan Birch to the Chairman of the Vancouver School Board outlined the university's support for this initiative (VSB Minutes, 1991). Assumptions Underlying a Program Model The District Advisory Committee for Gifted Education was united on the need to provide motivated and academically talented adolescents with a program designed to prepare them for early entrance to university. The target population for the program was academically gifted students who had completed a minimum of Grade 7. By virtue of their age and educational levels, these students were assumed to be similar to high achieving secondary students (TPSC, Minutes, V S B , 1990). It was anticipated that they would be competent in academic learning skills, possess gifted cognitive abilities, and be motivated to achieve early entrance to university (TP Notes, 1989). They were expected to be committed to the intensive work required to achieve their goals. The Committee unanimously supported the importance of an intellectual peer group for these students as well as a program of accelerated academic studies (DAC Minutes, V S B , 1990). Situating the program at University Hi l l Secondary School was expected to take advantage of the existing infrastructure of the school system, including school administration, counseling, facilities such as the gymnasium, science labs and library as well as the culture and climate of a small secondary setting (TPSC Minutes, V S B , 1990). Close proximity to the university campus would allow students to participate in on-campus activities, visit classes and enroll in courses as they were ready to do so. It was also argued that the secondary school setting would be safer than a campus location and less intimidating for students. There was considerable discussion about whether the students should need to meet the requirements of both high school graduation and university entrance (Notes, Steering Committee, V S B , 1990). Unlike the University of Washington Transition School, where entrance to university was guaranteed for students who were selected for the program and who successfully completed the one year of academic preparation, no such guarantees were available for the students enrolled in the Canadian program. Neither the University nor the Ministry of Education policies articulate specific recognition or support for the exceptional achievement of highly academically gifted students who choose to achieve early entrance to university. The policies that do exist relate to concurrent studies and have a minimum age requirement of 16 (Notes, Steering Committee, V S B , 1990). Therefore, the 13, 14, and 15 year old students enrolled in the early entrance to university program would be competing for scholarships as well as for university entrance and early placement in courses of choice with all British Columbia 42 Grade 12 students who would be an average age of 18 and would typically have completed five years of high school. The committee recognized that these students would be working against existing tradition by entering university early and that planning needed to occur to overcome the penalties that might befall them by virtue of their age, regardless of the merit of their unique accomplishments. The committee recommended that the design for the V S B / U B C Transition Program consist of a two year academic preparation program with a third year available for full-time studies or concurrent studies at the University of British Columbia or any other university open to early entrance students (TPSC Minutes, V S B , 1990). Long term goals included receiving funding from the Ministry of Education for this program as a Provincial Resource Program, providing early entrance to university based on the recommendations of the secondary teachers and university staff that worked with the students, modifying high school graduation so as to make it attainable retroactively rather than prior to university entrance, and recognizing the acceleration of the students as a "saving" of educational funds which could be translated into university tuition for the school years "saved" by the student (TPSC Minutes, VSB, 1991). Program Approval in Principle Beginning in 1990 Vancouver's Director of Student Services had initiated preliminary discussions about an early entrance to university program with the Director of Special Education at the Ministry of Education, Dr. Shirley McBride. Dr. McBride supported the program concept but looked to the Vancouver School Board and The University of British Columbia to develop the program and commit their support (Moore, VSB, 1995). In April of 1990, the Director of Student Services, as a member of the Vancouver School Board's Senior Management Team, presented her colleagues with a summary form of the program concept at one of their regular meetings (Notes, SMT, VSB, 1990). The recommendation of the Senior Management Team was that exploration of the concept was to be continued and a further report brought back to the group. This decision was a reflection of political and practical priorities as well as the response to the concept. The concept represented a challenge to the traditional organization of schools and had implications for existing practices and future program development. At a time when budget considerations were the priority for Senior Management, the most that could be hoped for was the introduction to the idea and future opportunity for discussion. The concept's credibility was enhanced by support from the secondary school administrator as well as from UBC's President's Office. The combination of support proved critical to future negotiation. To keep the concept moving forward, in September 1991 the Principal from University Hi l l Secondary received funding from the Director of Student Services for two blocks of staff time to explore and plan school-based programming for academically gifted students for the 1991-1992 school year (Moore, Memo, VSB, 1991). The 0.28 FTE or two timetable blocks funded through the Gifted Education budget enabled a teacher at University Hi l l Secondary to work with the District Support Teacher for Gifted Education on program planning for gifted students enrolled at University Hil l Secondary. Advanced Placement Music and student learning experiences with the U B C Drama Department were initiated (Moore, Notes, VSB, 1991). 43 The Director of Student Services chaired a strategy planning session on October 25, 1991. At the meeting attended by University Hi l l Secondary's principal and teacher, the Gifted Children's Association/District Advisory Committee representative and the District Support Teacher for Gifted Education, a timeline for implementation of an early entrance to university program targeted for September, 1992, was developed (Moore, Notes, VSB, 1991). During this period of waiting for authorization to present a formal Transition Program proposal to the Board, concerns were being raised by Vancouver parents about the decline in gifted programs, particularly in elementary schools in the Vancouver School District. As a result, the Board requested a report on the status of gifted education programs and services in the district. A survey mailed to all elementary and secondary administrators requested feedback regarding the categories of giftedness most commonly served, current service delivery models, current and desired staffing and resources, and satisfaction with present levels of service for gifted students. Follow-up calls to all administrators collected responses to all survey questions. The responses indicated "a strong support for gifted education as a district initiative where the planned approach is supported by appropriate funding for staffing, resources, inservice, and the tools and materials for delivering appropriate education to these students" (Gifted Education Report, VSB, 1991). In response to the concerns raised by parents and the results of the survey, trustees at a Committee III meeting of the Vancouver School Board (June 10, 1991) recommended that a review of flexible staffing and its impact on gifted education be conducted in the fall. The report entitled "Gifted Education Services for the Vancouver School District" was presented to the Board in February 1992. The report indicated that in response to continuing budget reductions, staffing allocated to support gifted education in elementary schools dropped from 13.40 in 1990-91 to 5.43 in 1991-92 (VSB Minutes, 1992). It also described the district profile of students receiving gifted education services or enrolled in programs demonstrating the effects of the loss of special needs staffing in schools in terms of the dramatic decrease in gifted education programs and services. It linked these reductions to the Five-Year Plan and the Board's commitment to support gifted education K-12. The report concluded with seven recommendations to restore services. Five of the recommendations required additional funding. Recommendations one through five requested support for the following: a program planning guide for schools, continued funding of school-based pilot projects, designated staffing for school-based contact persons in each school, district programs and resource teachers to support students whose needs cannot be appropriately met within the regular program, and congregated full-time classes for highly gifted elementary students. Recommendation Seven read: "The Vancouver School Board reaffirms its support of educational programs that are appropriate for gifted and highly able students in Vancouver schools" (Gifted Education Report, VSB, 1992). The Transition Program proposal was strategically embedded within the 1992 Gifted Education Report as Recommendation Six. Recommendation Six proposed that an early entrance to university program be established to support highly gifted students with appropriate peers and academic preparation to insure success. "This program would function in conjunction with The University of British Columbia and with the support of the Ministry of Education. It would be the only program of its kind in Canada" (Gifted Education Report, V S B , 1992). One of the 44 attachments to the report was the letter of support for the early entrance to university program concept signed by UBC's Provost and Academic Vice-President (VSB Correspondence, 1992). The Board passed recommendations six and seven thereby approving in principle an early entrance to university initiative. The proposal now had legitimacy, and planning could proceed in a substantive way. Although it provided no funding, at least it opened the door to an exploration of funding options. Negotiating Funding for Program Implementation The 1992-1993 school year was focused on obtaining financial support from the Ministry of Education as well as the University of British Columbia. The Transition Program Advisory Committee approved a three year financial plan for program implementation, anticipating support from the Vancouver School Board, the University of British Columbia and the Ministry of Education (Minutes, Steering Committee, V S B , 1992). The University of British Columbia funding included the time of four professors from the disciplines of History, English, Mathematics and Physics at .25 FTE each for a total of one full-time professor. Dr. Blank's .25 FTE position as U B C Liaison would also be continued. The Vancouver School Board would be responsible for the site, resources, staffing, governance and administration of the program, and student identification and counseling support. A meeting was held in Victoria in the spring of 1993 with Dr. Shirley McBride who invited representatives from the Treasury Board as well as members of her staff responsible for provincial resource programs and gifted education (Transition Program Meeting Notes, Victoria, 1993). Dr. Dan Birch, representing the U B C President's Office, attended with Dr. Stanley Blank. Representatives from the Vancouver School Board included Dr. Jean Moore, Director of Student Services, the new Principal of University Hi l l Secondary, Tom Grant, and the District Support Teacher for Gifted Education. The case for the program for early entrance to university was presented as a partnership initiative from the two institutions. The Ministry of Education was asked to provide support in principle as well as operating funds. Despite considerable enthusiasm for the program from all quarters, the committee was told that no monies were available. Alternatively it was suggested that the program apply for consideration as a Provincial Resource Program, the structure of which would provide funding for program staff and operating resources (TPSC Minutes, V S B , 1993). Meanwhile the Director of Student Services continued negotiations with Senior Management for a portable to house the program at University Hi l l Secondary and two blocks of teacher time to provide on site program support (Moore, Notes, 1993). The Steering Committee meetings abated while negotiations for financial support were underway. During this time there were doubts about whether the program would ever be implemented given the challenge of finding resources for an initiative that challenged traditions and addressed the needs of a very small population of students. These doubts, however, were balanced by an enthusiasm for the concept and the conviction that the positive effects of the program would not only serve enrolled students and society at large but would influence the identification and programming for high ability students in the regular classroom. 45 Initiating Program Implementation It took an act of courageous leadership to move the program concept into implementation. In May 1993, the Director of Student Services, with the Board's support but with no indications of funding from the Ministry and no space available at the school, designated funds to move a portable to University Hi l l Secondary for September 1993 (Moore, Memo, V S B , 1993). She subsequently advised the District Support Teacher to locate appropriate students for the program that would commence in September. Collaborating with school and district staff to identify possible candidates the District Teacher organized psycho-educational assessments through the services of a district school psychologist. The identification of candidates became a pivotal step in the process of program implementation. Criteria for identification of students who were academically developmentally advanced or gifted had been previously articulated in the V S B Gifted Education Identification Guidelines and Ministry of Education policy. To be effective and defensible, the identification system for the Transition Program needed to offer equal opportunities for all interested students to access the program and to provide a comprehensive overview of each applicant's abilities and skills, educational needs and goals in order to determine the applicants for whom the program would be an appropriate match. The screening and assessment process needed not only to identify the cognitive strengths available to the student to respond to the intellectual challenges of a rigorous academic program but also to identify other aspects of the student learning profile including those areas which in some cases might make the pace and the intensity of the program problematic for the student. A consistent set of minimum standards for screening of Transition Program applicants was articulated with the expectation that refinements would occur over time through the operation of the program and collaboration of district and program staff supported by the experiences shared by students and their parents. Initial criteria included measures of intellectual ability, academic performance, motivation, and stamina. Students participated in psycho-educational assessments and an interview with district staff in the presence of their parents with whom portfolios of students' best work and documentation of their achievements and interests was shared. A minimum score of two and a half standard deviations above the mean on an individual cognitive ability test, either the Stanford Binet IV or the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for children - Third Edition (WISC III) was established to identify the applicants that would be further reviewed by a screening committee. While these minimum standards offered guidance to the identification process, the assessments of initial applicants revealed scores three and in some cases four standard deviations above the mean on individual intelligence measures. Dr. Donna Haqq, the District School Psychologist primarily responsible for assessments for the Transition Program, explored various measures to determine an effective approach to the identification of candidates who would benefit from the program and successfully handle the challenges of a rigorous program of academic acceleration. The resulting in-depth individual learner profiles became a means to help staff understand the uniqueness of students' strengths, weaknesses, and vulnerabilities and their need for support and coping strategies in some cases. Scores also often surpassed the 99th % ile minimum for achievement testing in mathematics, reading, and writing suggesting that applicants were six or more years beyond the skill development typical of students of their chronological ages. Complementing formal measures of abilities and skills, academic readiness in terms of 46 organization and time management skills, work ethic, and a high interest in complex ideas was assessed informally through the psycho-educational assessment process as well as through the personal interview, samples of student work, past report cards, and references from previous teachers. Motivation was also reviewed through this process and identified as a critical factor influencing student success. Through discussions of students' career interests and personal reasons for applying to the program, students and parents were alerted to the notion that students who applied to the program at the behest of parents and not because of personal interest were less likely to succeed. The interview also included discussions of the importance of stamina from the perspective of physical health and social-emotional resilience. The program was distinguished from high school and five years of secondary school curriculum mastered in two years. Instead students and parents were counseled to view the program as a university preparation program that involved intensive fast-paced learning, and depended on positive peer relations and parent support as well as individual perseverance and willingness to learn, to ask for help and to accept criticism. Students were encouraged to explore their identities as pre-university students. The innovative nature of the program encouraged students and parents to view themselves as collaborators in the program's development and to work together with staff to improve the program for future participants. A condition of acceptance to the program included residence within the Lower Mainland with either parents or relatives. Concerns about transportation were inevitability discussed as factors influencing the decision to enroll in the program. These initial considerations within the identification process became more transparent as program staff worked with students and translated new understandings into effective practices within the program. While the process of identifying students within the Vancouver School District was the focus of intensive effort during the month of June 1993, information about the program circulated through the community. Parents with students enrolled in private schools called for information about the program. A number of parents brought their children forward for interviews and discussion about the establishment of an early entrance to university program. Some of these students had previous psycho-educational assessments while others were undertaken in June and a number were scheduled for August. The Principal of University Hi l l set up a meeting with the heads of the academic disciplines in his school at the end of June. He introduced them to the District Gifted Education Teacher and invited them to listen to the plans for the early entrance to university program that would be initiated at the school in the fall (Grant, V S B , 1993). Interest was balanced with skepticism about the establishment of a program without consultation regarding program design and implementation particularly with staff who would be responsible for working with the new students. There was a general sense that programs implemented without time provided for planning by the staff were doomed to failure (TP Notes, V S B , 1993). The Principal indicated that the number of students who would be participating in the coming year would be few in number. He encouraged staff to consider having a few of these students in their classes and to use the year as an opportunity to learn as well as plan for the program's future. As a result of the meeting three teachers from University Hil l Secondary accepted an opportunity to interview candidates and engage them in curriculum-based assessments in late August in order to identify appropriate placement in senior secondary classes. By the start of the school year in September 1993 six students had accepted the invitation to enroll in the first year of the Transition Program at University Hil l Secondary School (TP Records, VSB, 1993). 47 1993-1994: The Start-Up Year The introduction of the Transition Program to the staff at University Hi l l Secondary in September 1993 sparked an informal debate that questioned the merit of an early entrance to university program. The very nature of the program challenged the status quo by introducing the idea of academically gifted students and radical academic acceleration. Prevailing assumptions within the debate included the idea that every student needs a high school experience and that the optimum setting for social-emotional development to occur for the adolescent is the high school setting. Such assumptions made it difficult for staff to understand the perspectives of students who shared a goal of early entrance to university. The implementation was also challenged by a history of skepticism and distrust of district initiatives by experienced staff. Teachers referenced proven past practice to critique the introduction of the innovative program and changes to traditional practices. Parents were questioned by various individuals about the wisdom of "rushing" their children through secondary school social development, and Transition Program students were sometimes identified as "nerds" by their age peers or viewed as social isolates because they did not choose an active role in the extra-curricular activities of the school (TP Notes, TP Parent Interview, VSB, 1994)., By late fall the group of Transition students numbered seven, of which three were girls. In this atmosphere of newness and doubt, the principal, Tom Grant, provided students and parents with encouragement and support and actively expressed his enthusiasm for the program. His leadership helped both the students and the program staff to focus attention on enjoying the challenge and opportunities inherent in the program and developing effective approaches to new problems as they pioneered the first year of program implementation (TP Notes, VSB, 1994). The Initial Program Design The needs of the students enrolled in the program were conceived of as three-fold: academic preparation for early entrance to university, social-emotional development, and physical development and well being (TPSC Minutes, V S B , 1993). Physical activity was promoted through gym class and through extra-curricular opportunities like the badminton club organized by one of the teachers or the school's basketball team. Parents were encouraged to support their children's participation in sports and physical activities outside of school. Social-emotional development was supported by the school counselor who made a conscious effort to be available to the students when they needed to discuss their issues. Academic preparation for early entrance to university was first addressed through academic acceleration. Students had been previously assessed in terms of both academic ability and achievement. Readiness for advanced level work in English, Social Studies, Mathematics and Science had been further determined by the teachers' curriculum based assessment. As a result, students were scheduled into classes at the Grade 9, 10 and/or 11 levels depending on their profiles of abilities, skills, and motivation. Only Physical Education was provided at or near grade level as the timetable allowed. Teachers were encouraged to incorporate the Transition 48 students into regular classes while recognizing that they would need some support with respect to specific knowledge or skills. Students were expected to keep up with all assignments and ask for assistance as needed. Undertaking advanced level curriculum was deemed to provide enough of an academic challenge for these capable and motivated students. While there was some uncertainty whether the younger students would fit in with their senior secondary classmates, they expressed satisfaction and pleasure with the more serious approach to studies in the senior classes as well as the conceptually more substantial curriculum. The major challenge for most students was in organization and time management. Teachers were placed in a position of learning how to help the Transition students through a process of trial and error, a process made more difficult by the uniqueness of each of the students. While they all shared a high ability profile, they also had differences in learning style, personality and goals. Student profiles often displayed some uneven development of abilities, skills, interests and social-emotional maturity, often described in the literature as "asynchrony" (Silverman, 1993). Teachers were faced with students who could understand the concepts being discussed and read, but who could have difficulties organizing and presenting information for the purposes of assignments. Students presented strengths in some disciplines and some learning environments and demonstrated weaknesses in other areas or less complex aspects of a discipline. Teachers accepted these younger students into their senior secondary classes, but were not prepared to teach differently for these students. For the most part, it was up to the students to learn how to learn according to the instructional style of individual teachers. At the request of the Principal and with the support of the Director of Student Services, the District Support Teacher for Gifted Education was scheduled for one block of the timetable to meet with the students three times a week to develop a peer group of mutual support (Moore, Memo, V S B , 1993). Students met in Portable Three (P3) for this block (E). Block E turned out to be the one occasion during the week when the students had opportunities to meet together as an intact group, to discuss their program experiences and reflect on their goals and how they were learning both as individuals and as a group. The equivalent of a home room, P3 became a place to study, relax, eat lunch and play games, humorously described at one time as the 'palace of the procrastinating platypi' (TP Notes, VSB, 1993). Seminar topics ranged from organization and time management skills to creative problem solving and reflection on their experiences in the program through interactive journal writing. Students completed the Myers Briggs Type Inventory as did many of their teachers, and the results were used to explore learning style preferences and group dynamics. (See Appendix B.) A climate of positive coaching facilitated problem solving with the students as they moved through a program of intensive challenge and radical change. Students were engaged in discussions about the nature of giftedness and different ways of making sense of each other's profiles including strengths, interests, and areas needing more support. They were encouraged to appreciate the uniqueness of each individual and learned how to function as members of a cohort group. Instead of competitiveness as a norm, they made a deliberate choice to believe that enabling each other to succeed was the more empowering and more meaningful approach to their experience of the program's various challenges. Students were also facilitated in developing skills for helping one another. For example, they discussed effective approaches for presenting their report cards and marks to their parents in an effort to respond to one student who expressed trepidation about bringing his first term marks home. Topics discussed included negotiation skills within the education system, winning arguments and effective behaviors, ways to 49 understand other people's actions, personal learning preferences and choices, strategies to cope with change. (See Appendix B.) As part of this climate of support, students' long term goals and preferred future successes were explored and supported. Struggles experienced along the way were viewed as opportunities for developing strengths and enhancing the sophistication of life skills. The seminar block played an important role in the lives of these students in a secondary setting where doubts about the appropriateness of their educational path were expressed by staff, students, and the secondary culture (TP Parent Meeting, V S B , 1994). It became a safe environment for the development of understandings, skills and strategies that supported social-emotional development. The seminar block confirmed for the students the realization that they were choosing a non-traditional educational path, that they were sharing in the pioneering of a new initiative, and that their role in the process as participant and observer was significant and valued. Their contributions to program development were emphasized. It was equally important for parents to know this perspective was articulated to the students as well as to them, since they too were struggling with how to support their children within this alternative education opportunity (TP Parent Note, V S B , 1994). Parents and students reported that the purposeful expression of encouragement extended to participants by an educator who understood the vulnerabilities, sensitivity and intensity of gifted learners contributed significantly to the development of the peer group and the on-going efforts and perseverance of the students within this exceptionally challenging gifted education program (TP Parents' Report, V S B , 1997). As one might anticipate, the students typically had achieved high grades in academic work in the regular school setting without significant effort. In their initial experiences with the work in classes that were usually at least two grades above their chronological grade level, the Transition Program students were playing gap-based curriculum catch-up and grappling with standards and expectations for work at a higher level while attempting to master new curriculum as it was taught. As a result their marks initially were not always stellar. Initially this experience was startling and unnerving for these young gifted adolescents. Gradually they learned how to organize their time, focus their attention and adopt effective and efficient learning strategies. Unfortunately prevailing myths and misinformation about gifted learners dominated. Students were sometimes faced with inappropriate challenges such as, " if you are so smart, figure it out for yourself (TP Notes, Parent Interview, VSB, 1994). Similarly it was suggested that gifted students can make it on their own and don't need help. In some settings direct instruction was not provided and students were left to struggle to learn on their own. There was also the viewpoint that students with exceptional abilities do not require assistance, with an implied comparison to students who struggle to master the basics. Whether due to lack of information, misunderstanding or misjudgment, these views often prevented students from receiving the kind of support or help they needed. The articulation of student learning needs became a primary challenge for students and their parents as well as for program staff and teachers in the school. Gradually, as students and teachers worked together for significant periods of time, there emerged broader understandings of students' learning needs and teaching approaches that responded more respectfully and effectively to individuals as well as to Transition Program students as a group. By the spring of the first year of the program, most students were completing at least one Grade 11 course. A number of students were experiencing some level of difficulty with managing the 50 workload and completing assignments successfully. Two students, together with their parents, consulted with the school counselor and Principal and made the decision to leave the program. In one case the student who had relocated to the Lower Mainland from the BC interior in order to attend the program experienced difficulties related to organization and time management. Despite significant interventions on his behalf, the counselor and his parents agreed that living in another city without the support of parents was too demanding. As a result this student left the program near the end of the school year and returned to his neighborhood school where he went on to achieve exceptional success (TP Correspondence, VSB, 1995). In the second case, one of the girls decided to discontinue the program at the end of the first year because she felt the intense academic focus demanded more time than she was prepared to give. In particular she wanted more time for elective courses and extracurricular activities and chose to enroll in a combination of Grade 11 and 12 courses for the following September (TP Notes, VSB, 1994). Liaisoning Between U B C Professors and Transition Program Staff During the first year of the program, the four university professors who would work with the Transition Program were identified: Dr. Jesse Brewer, Physics; Dr. Charles Humphrey, History; Dr. Judy Brown, English; and, Dr. Roy Douglas, Mathematics (TP Notes, V S B , 1993). The U B C Liaison Coordinator and the District Gifted Education Teacher organized an introductory meeting between the university and secondary school staff in the fall of 1993. The discussion focused on how the curriculum might be compacted for an accelerated program and the kinds of support that the university professors might provide. Invitations to visit the program were extended to the professors, and relationships between the individuals from the same disciplines began to develop. Several of the professors and teachers made immediate plans to work out schedules for visits and teaching time. In other cases there was a lack of follow-up on both sides due to time constraints, the newness of the roles, and a lack of clarity about how to provide effective assistance across institutions and for this particular student population. Interesting issues emerged gradually from teacher-professor discussions (TP Notes, VSB, 1994). A key question focused on what would constitute the skills necessary for success in university studies within each discipline. Another question regarded the knowledge considered most useful for the student planning to enter university early. Recommendations such as the ability to write on demand, to read critically, to analyze information and to generate interesting questions were gradually translated into practical goals of curriculum delivery and teaching for advanced level understandings, knowledge, and skills. There was a consensus that focusing on the achievement of provincial examinations was a necessary but insufficient goal for the program and for these students who would need to be prepared to achieve high levels of success in university studies. Exposure to the expectations and learning approaches used at the university was part of the experiences that these professors could provide. In the case of Physics, the instructor introduced students to current science research involving a tour of Triumf at U B C , and he took particular time to work with students who were exceptionally gifted in the area of physics (TP Notes, VSB, 1993-95). The university and school History teachers developed a strong professional relationship that resulted in university level seminars in History for Year Two Transition Program students. These seminars have continued to be one of the highlights of the students' experiences in the program (TP Notes, VSB, 2000). 5 1 The faculty and teachers gradually built relationships within which they examined, articulated, and refined their understandings of effective teaching approaches and essential learning for this particular group of students. The conversation about student learning needs, the ways curriculum could be presented and the kinds of ideas that could be explored forced a closer examination of pedagogy that was appropriate for these learners. These conversations were further stimulated when interdisciplinary discussions involved secondary teachers from the four disciplines with the U B C professors from different faculties. While the learning needs of students remained the focus of these conversations, it was the students themselves ~ their ideas, insights, humor, enthusiasm for learning, remarkable work efforts and dedication to excellence — who made the teaching experience refreshing and inspired creative responses from their teachers. The exchanges between the university professors and secondary school teachers proved beneficial for each other as professionals as well as for the students who experienced the results of their collaboration. Many of their informal exchanges increased understandings about the substantial academic growth which these students could achieve in the course of a year of advanced study. For example, at a similar meeting in 1995 one of the professors commented on the youthfulness of incoming students, particularly one student whose feet did not reach the floor when he was seated in a desk. At that point, a senior secondary teacher, who had in previous years expressed doubts about the ability of such young students to master advanced level work, commented on how amazingly quickly these students grow and learn (TP Staff/Professor Meeting, U-Hi l l Secondary, 1995). Another indication of the impressive nature of the abilities of the Transition students was the welcome extended to them to attend and enroll in the courses taught by these professors at the university. On numerous occasions when Transition students visited university courses, individual professors remarked on the students' insightful understandings and the interesting questions they generated, suggesting that they often demonstrated more advanced level thinking than many first year university students (TP Staff/Faculty Meeting Minutes, VSB, 1997; TP Staff, Interview Notes, VSB, 1999). Developing Professional Knowledge: Gifted Education and Related Student Needs Professional development support for the teachers in the Transition Program proved challenging to arrange. The Transition Program students represented an additional assignment for teachers who were already dedicated to teaching assigned courses; their foremost commitment was to the school as a community and to the students in their regular classes. Time available for meetings was limited (TP Notes, VSB, 1994). In these early stages there was also a level of uncertainty about the nature of this new program and questions about the value of approaches such as academic acceleration and curriculum compaction which led to some doubts about whether professional development in this area was necessary or useful. Gifted education was not a familiar topic for most secondary teachers and certainly not one that staff had perceived as important for the school as a whole (TP Interview, Administrator, 1994). Since 1987, district gifted education initiatives had been focused on elementary students and how to support the development of the gifted individual through exploration of interest areas, personal interest projects, and enrichment to complement an emphasis on academic productivity. Secondary teaching being organized differently, focused on the development of students within content, skills, and understandings of specific disciplines defined according to an age-grade 52 appropriate structure wherein all students are invited to participate equally as members of the same school community (DAC Minutes, V S B , 1995). Traditionally, in a secondary school, gifted students have been assumed to be synonymous with exceptionally high achieving students with excellent study and work skills, a strong work ethic, and high standards of academic production. Conversations about the needs of gifted learners as special needs students did not typically have a recognized place within the infrastructures and operation of the secondary school culture. Another challenge inherent in meetings of staff involved with Transition Program students was the discussion of interdisciplinary curriculum. Teachers were involved in discussions of learning and teaching styles and faced with dilemmas such as students who could learn mathematics easily and quickly but who had difficulty with writing assignments. These issues involved an articulation and an examination of how teachers organized and presented curriculum and evaluated student work. It concerned issues such as what skills were common and related to learning how to learn, what skills were unique to a discipline and how student needs could be supported within all disciplines (TP Staff Meeting, V S B , 1994). These questions were not always comfortable ones and discussing them among teachers from different disciplines was often frustrating. One administrator explained that it is not typical for secondary teachers to work as part of an interdisciplinary team (Interview, Secondary Administrator, V S B , 1999). One secondary teacher with over twenty years of teaching experience pointed out that discussions of interdisciplinary curriculum ideas typically occurred only within departments or disciplines and not across disciplines or in multi-disciplinary groups (TP Interview, VSB, 1999). One very useful opportunity for professional development was the visit to the Transition School at the University of Washington, Seattle (TP Notes, VSB, 1994). A number of staff participated and were encouraged to see a program that had been in operation for almost fifteen years. They spoke with students, met with the teachers, and discussed the program's design with both the Program Director and Administrator, and the Assistant Director and Resident Psychologist. Since the primary interest of teachers was in curriculum delivery, the District Support Teacher organized a Saturday meeting of Transition Program teachers with teachers from the Seattle Transition School. The meeting was held at Vancouver's Student Services location and discussions were organized for the most part by discipline (TP Notes, VSB, 1994). The significant impact of these events was not on specific aspects of teaching but rather on attitude, credibility, and an understanding of student needs. Teachers were able to explore how curriculum delivery for this student population could be organized. Through these exchanges it became clear that the parameters defining the BC education system, viewed from the perspective of secondary school culture and its familiar traditions, limited consideration of organizational structures and program practices that might be adopted by the V S B / U B C Transition Program. For example, as part of the University of Washington, the Seattle Transition School is able to register students for university, receive funding through an endowment, and allow students to complete high school graduation requirements during their first year of university studies (TP Notes, V S B , 1994). Exposure to this information and particularly to the people involved in the program resulted in more open conversation among the V S B staff about the needs of these students and generated an increased respect for the efforts of the staff within the program. 53 Transition Program Parents From the first meeting with parents and students, the Transition Program was described as an alternative educational experience that would evolve through the support and collaboration of all participants including students, staff, and parents (TP Parent Meeting, 1993). Communication between home and school, students and teachers, parents and staff as well as within the home was emphasized. Given the pioneering nature of this initiative, it is not surprising that parents were very concerned about the delivery of the program and the well being and achievements of their children. Both Principal Tom Grant and the District Support Teacher for Gifted Education encouraged the parents to support one another and learn from their children and each other (TP Notes, V S B , 1993). As a result of their dedication to their children's education and their support for the program, parents held an informal meeting in December 1993. This group was soon to become known as the Transition Program Parents Support Group (TPPSG) and later was formalized as the Transition Program Parents Association (TPPA). The meeting minutes of the January 12, 1994, indicate that the formal aim of the association is "to provide a center for communication among the parents on matters concerning the education of their gifted children" enrolled in the Transition Program (TPPA Minutes, V S B , 1994). Specific goals included facilitation of communication and mutual support among member parents, assisting students and candidates with educational issues, providing a collective channel of communication with authorities and agencies, and interacting with external institutions on matters related to the Transition Program and education of gifted children (TPPA, Minutes, VSB, 1994). From the time it was established, the Transition Program Parents Association shared information among members, provided feedback and brought concerns and recommendations to the school administrator or Transition Program staff. The parents' voice articulated student needs and lobbied for improvements to program delivery and long-term program development (TP Administrator, V S B , 1994). At the same time this strong voice of a group of parents was contrary to the traditional expectations of secondary schools where students are encouraged to articulate their needs and concerns directly to the teachers or a counselor. Parents, while informed, were not expected to respond to the everyday unfolding of program instruction or related school events (TP Notes, V S B , 1994). Transition Program parents, new to both the school and, in most cases, to a public secondary school culture, were embarking on the development of a special relationship with the program and the school. They found themselves engaging in negotiation, communication strategies for sensitive information, trust building, developing knowledge about how the system worked, and discerning basic ground rules for facilitating change (TP Parent Interview, VSB, 2000). In order to be effective advocates for their children's education, the parents actively sought to educate themselves about the Transition Program, gifted students' needs, and effective approaches to parenting. A significant number of them visited the Transition School and Early Entrance to University Program in Seattle on February 21, 1996. They invited a variety of speakers to address them at their meetings. They wrote to the Ministry of Education to lobby for university tuition monies based on the shorter time students had accessed the traditional school system (TPPA Minutes, VSB, 1995-99). In subsequent years parents accumulated considerable correspondence with school and district administration in order to clarify the needs of their adolescents and to express their experiences, issues and perspectives as families. 5 4 Parents used a variety of means to highlight unmet student needs and to request program changes. In the first year of the program, parents brought their concerns directly to the principal who had created an open door policy for the program's students, staff and parents (TP Notes, V S B , 1993). Parents also came to the school to discuss their children's experiences in the program with the District Support Teacher. But over time as the leadership roles changed, the parents' need for problem solving were directed to meetings with individual teachers and the counselor and then presentations to school administration, the Transition Steering Committee, and the Director of Student Services (TP Notes, VSB, 1994-97). In order to facilitate change individual parents were also advised to document concerns in correspondence with school and district administration. 1994-1997: Struggles of Program Organization and Program Identity The massive pioneering efforts of students, parents, staff and administration in 1993-1994 built a broader understanding of purpose and direction for the Transition Program within the secondary school organization. This initial phase of implementation saw the beginning of an intensive struggle to define the needs of gifted students within the secondary school context and within an early entrance to university program. While they were engaging in innumerable discussions about the particular experiences and issues of individual students enrolled in the program, the staff, administration and parents were learning from one another about the various and unique kinds of needs presented by these students. Concerns about productivity and social-emotional development were explored and, as students developed and changed, the articulation of these concerns became more focused and less rigid. The learning process for all concerned was demanding of time, energy, and reflection. It was mostly through a process of trial and error that new understandings and related appropriate practices emerged. These understandings became most evident when they bumped up against existing traditions and practices—their articulation often taking a weighty toll on relationships and emotions within the program, within families, and the school (TP Survey, Parents, 2000). In 1994 the Transition Program Steering Committee was reactivated (TP Notes, V S B , 1994). The Committee's role was to help the program establish itself within the context of the institutional partnership. While not responsible for daily management decisions, the Committee discussed program issues that were affected by institutional and Ministry policies. These discussions articulated program policies, program goals, and plans to address long term program development. Topics included high school graduation, university entrance, scholarships, program refinements, and issues related to emerging student needs (TPSC Notes, VSB, 1994). Meanwhile other students had been recruited for the program following psycho-educational assessments, interviews and some curriculum-based assessment. As a result, the second year of the Transition Program, 1994-95, had an enrollment of 12 Year Two students and 20 Year One students (TP Records, VSB, 1994). With the increase in enrollment in both Years One and Two (1994-95), the program required more staffing support. For electives and physical education the students were enrolled as part of regular classes as best suited their age and development. However, the challenge of addressing 55 the needs of twenty Transition Program students within regular academic courses was problematic given timetable and contract limitations. It was also deemed important that they work together to develop a supportive intellectual peer culture. As a result, students were enrolled as intact groups for the majority of their academic courses (TP Notes, V S B , 1994). Year Two students, with the help of their teachers and the school counselor, focused on completing high school graduation requirements and meeting university entrance requirements. The twelve students enrolled in Year Two in 1994-95 would be the first graduating class of the Transition Program; cohort members were committed to achieving excellent results on provincial examinations. This group of students had been affected by the changeover of staff, both with the loss of the previous administrator who had been highly supportive of them and with adjustments to new staff (TP Parent Interview, 2000). Parents carefully watched over the students' welfare and workload. Marks took on a new prominence as a critical variable for measuring achievement and the means for attaining scholarships. Students intensified their efforts to meet teacher standards and manage their workloads in order that they could achieve their goals. The Year Two student culture changed as students increased their study efforts and examinations approached. A strong bond had developed among them, demonstrated by their commitment to helping one another succeed (TP Student Interviews, 2000). It was clear that the students owned the goal of early entrance to university, and they were taking initiative with respect to preparing for success. In an effort to assist the program's development, the school principal supported the proposal for part of the school staffs professional development to focus on developing an understanding of the Transition Program. With the support of the members of the school's Professional Development Committee, a panel presentation for the staff took place in the fall of 1994. This panel was composed of parents of students currently enrolled in the program. One parent expressed appreciation for what the program had contributed to the education of his child and for the life of their family as a whole. Emotions ran high as he concluded: "Thank you for giving my son back to me" (TP Notes, VSB, 1994). The school counselor played a key role in the lives of the students as they completed applications for both Lower Mainland universities and scholarships. The counselor advised students about career paths and provided information about the entrance requirements and courses offered through various faculties. The counselor took responsibility for meeting with a representative from the Registrar's Office at U B C so that applications from Transition Program students could be received with an understanding of the nature of their program, the exceptional abilities of the students and the circumstances of their achievements. This understanding provided a more appropriate and absolutely essential context for the university's review of student marks when university entrance and course enrollment were decided. Out of concern for these students and appreciation of their efforts, individual staff members working within the secondary school were gradually retooling the infrastructure to address student needs (TP Notes, VSB, 1995). Plans were tentative because it was unknown how much and to what extent students would complete the work required for provincial examinations. Considerable tolerance for ambiguity was required to keep program options open for students. For example, one student from the first cohort requested the opportunity to complete Grade 12 Chemistry in the last half of the second year (TP Student Interview, 2000). The Chemistry 56 teacher provided support for the opportunity and monitored student progress. A second student who had been enrolled in Grade 10 in a neighboring secondary school joined the Transition Program Year Two students in January and worked intensively so as to be able to achieve high school graduation by the end of June of that school year (TP Student Interview, 2000). These experiments with program flexibility by staff and administration were interpreted by students and parents as tokens of encouragement and respect for the students and their abilities and goals. It was from the experiences within the program's first two years by both students and staff that structures for the program emerged and gradually became articulated as practice. In November of 1994 the Year Two students agreed to serve on a panel at the first ever Colloquium on the Highly Gifted which was organized by the Vancouver School Board with financial support from the Ministry of Education (Colloquium Report, V S B , 1995). Two well-known contributors to the field of gifted education, Dr. Linda Silverman and Dr. Karen Rogers, presented research-based understandings with respect to academic acceleration and its effectiveness for academically highly gifted learners. The highlight of the day was the panel of Transition Program students who spoke about the intensity of their workload, the development of a powerful bond among their peer group, and their reasons for wanting to attend university early. Following an earlier visit to the Transition Program in Seattle, Jim Nattress, the Chemistry teacher, likened the early entrance to university program to academic boot camp. While the term captured the intensity of the workload, it did not completely explain the intensity of the caring that one of the more reticent students described when she commented in front of her peers, "We love one another" (TP Notes, VSB, 1994). While working hard to accomplish their goals, the students were also supporting each other through the process. Talking about their experiences in a public setting helped students recognize the uniqueness of their educational journey and validated their efforts and goals. Having a real and interested audience helped the students reflect on their experiences and articulate a range of perspectives for their audience and for one another. The response to the panel validated for the students that their decisions were important not only for themselves but also for the range of Colloquium attendees who represented various professional roles, as well as parent and student perspectives from the Lower Mainland and other areas of the province. Up to this point the implementation of the program had proved to be an intriguing challenge with a steep learning curve. The problems that arose had unique elements that required thoughtful exploration and resolutions that had to be developed on a case by case basis. For the most part, staff, students and parents learned how to make the program effective at the same time as the students were completing required work and exams (TP Teacher Interview, 2000). There was little occasion for reflection because each aspect of the program was new with data that were often incomplete and decisions that were constantly open to discussion and innovation. Communication was critical. Staff found it difficult to meet as part of the Transition Program because the majority of their teaching time was focused on University Hi l l Secondary School responsibilities with at most two teaching blocks scheduled for Transition Program students. The only constant for leadership and program support was the school principal. Teachers conferred with him about their concerns, and he interacted with every teacher as well as the students and parents as individuals, building a climate of trust within which teachers and students and parents felt supported. 57 Changes in Program Staff In the second year of the program, changes in school staff impacted Transition Program delivery. The Chemistry teacher who had visited the Seattle program and afforded Transition Program students exceptional flexibility moved to another school district. Staff also needed to be identified for mathematics and then physics. These changes were limited by hiring practices and organized to address school needs and accommodate program teaching blocks. The new vice principal of University Hi l l Secondary was given responsibility for the seminar block for the Transition Program students in Year One, and the District Support Teacher was asked to provide ancillary support. The Year Two students were not provided with a seminar block but were given tutorial assistance and planning support from a member of the Year Two teaching staff (TP Notes, V S B , 1994). In December the school was notified that the principal of University Hi l l was to be promoted to a larger secondary school commencing in January 1995. The students, their parents and the staff keenly felt the loss of energetic leadership and enthusiastic support for the Transition Program at this critical point. The new administration needed time to develop the experience to respond to the intensity of these students' needs and the fragility of a new program initiative. A change in leadership philosophy also created more instability for the program. It was a credit to the students and their teachers and parents as well as the school counselor that the Year Two students took up the academic challenges and by the end of the school year had met requirements for high school graduation and university entrance including competing for scholarships. Not only were the students pleased with their efforts and their success, but they had earned the respect of their teachers who recognized and appreciated their perseverance and the intensity of the work ethic which students brought to bear on their learning tasks (TP Notes, V S B , 1995). The teachers expressed their enjoyment in teaching the students and in addressing the unique needs of individuals within this group. The first graduating class had generated a template for how the program could accomplish the goal of early entrance to university. Five of the graduates chose to enter university following Year Two in the Transition Program. Of the seven who did not, one spent a year travelling while six enrolled in a regular Grade 12 program. Parents who had formed an association the previous year in order to bring concerns and suggestions to the administration and to support collaborative problem solving wrote a letter to the Associate Superintendent of the Jericho Area, requesting a full-time coordinator for the Transition Program (TP Correspondence, V S B , 1994). They believed that the coordinator role would provide the students and staff with the support and assistance needed to maximize the learning opportunities within the program. The letter urged that the successful applicant be trained in gifted education, know how to support gifted learners, know how to modify curriculum to support accelerated learning, and be able to provide program leadership, coordination, and communication with parents, staff and UBC. In anticipation of the need for school-based program coordination, a program coordinator position similar in scope to the Department Head positions found in secondary schools was discussed. A position was posted and two Transition Program staff members who had applied and wished to share the position were successful (TP Notes, V S B , 1995). The teachers represented Social Studies/History and Mathematics respectively. Each teacher was provided with one block of time during the 1995-1996 school year to monitor student progress, organize program events, meet with parents and handle responsibilities for individual education plans and 58 resource management. Both teachers worked in coordination with the principal. District staff was responsible for program information, recruitment, identification of program candidates, and organization of screening meetings which involved representation from school administration, program staff, school counselor and district staff including the school psychologist(s). Provincial Resource Program Status In the spring of 1995 the Ministry of Education notified the Vancouver School Board that the Transition Program had been accepted as a Provincial Resource Program (TPSC Minutes, V S B , 1995) . Educational programs which may be eligible for designation as a Provincial Resource Program include the following: "Unique programs for exceptionally low-incidence populations...when it has been demonstrated that the number of such students is so low and the nature of the special needs so severe as to preclude the operation of a suitable program in most school districts" (Special Education Services Manual, 1995. p. F3). The policy requires that the majority of students enrolled in the program must not be residents of the sponsoring school district. The Transition Program as a Provincial Resource Program would serve qualifying students from any school district in the province. No more than half of the students accepted for the Transition Program are to be enrolled in the Vancouver School District; all other spaces are to be filled by students from other districts and/or private or independent schools. The funding for the Transition Program as a Provincial Resource Program included 2.5 FTE (Full Time Equivalent) staffing and 0.3 FTE for each of counseling and psychological services as well as a resource budget. As a provincial resource program, the Transition Program was to be administered by the Vancouver School District, through the district senior management official responsible for Special Education. This official was also responsible for over-seeing the work of district staff associated with the Transition Program, namely, the District Support Teacher for Gifted Education and the psychologist responsible for assessments in this area. The Director of Student Services was responsible for this program and acted as chairperson for the Steering Committee. Daily management of the program was to be supervised by the secondary school principal. This change of status for the Transition Program had several positive effects (TP Notes, V S B , 1996) . As a result of the funding, additional course options were made available for these students as a cohort group. Ministry funding for the PRP gave a formal legitimacy to the Transition Program. As a Provincial Resource Program funded by Special Education, the program extended its support to include the Ministry of Education as a third institutional partner. This status also enhanced the credibility of discussions about the unique educational needs of gifted students within all schools and across all school districts where awareness of the program was gradually developing. Clarifying a separate funding source for the program dispelled the misinformation that had created the perception that the core school program had been eroded in order to facilitate the establishment of the Transition Program (TP Notes, VSB, 1995). While this had never been the case, critics of the program had argued this position. Supporters of the program put forward the idea that the school was benefiting in many ways by having an identified academically gifted student population to add to the school culture. These differing viewpoints were part of the learning and adjustment process within the school. 59 District Changes and Leadership Challenges for the Transition Program In December of 1995 the retirement of the Director of Student Services resulted in program leadership becoming the responsibility of a new Interim Director (TP Notes, V S B , 1996). The Interim Director instructed a new District Principal to take responsibility for Gifted Education and supervise the work of the District Support Teacher for Gifted Education who provided gifted education leadership and program support for the Transition Program (TP Notes, V S B , 1996). The effect of the loss of the original educational leader behind the Transition Program's establishment coupled with more new school-based management staff who had little experience with gifted students and their parents was to change program-focused decision-making, by default, to secondary school decision-making. In some respects the Transition Program began to look more like a secondary school program (TP Notes, VSB, 1996). This change in program leadership resulted in a blurring of program goals and understandings. Two distinct perspectives became apparent among Transition Program students and their parents. One view was that the Transition Program offered gifted secondary school students enriched learning experiences within a group of high ability peers. Members of this group wanted stimulating learning experiences but were not committed to the goal of early entrance to university. They were typically inclined to take one or two years of the Transition Program and then enroll in the regular secondary program for Grades 11 or 12 respectively. Students in the second group were unwaveringly dedicated to the goal of achieving early entrance to university. They were interested in the opportunity of engaging, challenging work and enjoyed the press involved in the intense workload as well as the group dynamics within a climate where academic intellectual pursuits were the norm. These students were not particularly interested in the secondary school experience and were attracted to the university's extensive learning opportunities. It became clear that the former group needed a program within a secondary school setting while the latter group needed a program designed to support the intensive work efforts required to achieve the goal of early entrance to university (TP Notes, VSB, 1996). In March of 1996 the Transition Program Parents' Association prepared a report for the Interim Director of Student Services (Report, TPPA, VSB, 1996). The report was designed to describe the first three years of the Transition Program to the new district administrator and a follow-up meeting was requested to discuss the parents' concerns and recommendations. The report recognized three key resource groups within the program: students, teachers and parents. The importance of the program's existence and a review of its development were followed by seventeen recommendations2. The report also articulated parent responsibilities to support students, staff and institutions as well as to support growth of individual parents, families and the program parent community. The report affirmed that nurturing of students required parent involvement and commitment. More flexibility; social development & bonding; study skills & time management; full-time coordinator; structure accessibility; research; support at the university; teacher training ~ gifted students; program guidelines; "counseling"; parental involvement'; help for teachers in curriculum development; budget; early entrance to universities; communication between students, school & parents; commitment from University Hill & School Board; evaluation. 60 While the report addressed a variety of program and student issues, its strongest recommendation was for the hiring of a full-time coordinator who could be dedicated to supporting the program's operation and development and meeting the needs of the students. The parents indicated that the demands of the coordinator role could not be effectively shared nor be handled part time by an individual or individuals who also had teaching responsibilities. They also recommended a return of the services of the District Support Teacher for the students in a format similar to that offered in the start-up year of the program. In April 1996, the school administrator, in consultation with the Interim Director, posted the position of coordinator with teaching responsibilities (TP Notes, V S B , 1996). Given the restrictions of the hiring process, the position was limited to Vancouver secondary school teachers. Background in gifted education and specific knowledge of academic acceleration, educational and developmental needs of academically gifted adolescents, and early entrance to university programs were not highlighted as a priority. None of the applicants had training or background in gifted education, a limitation that increased the learning demands for the role and became noticeably problematic when it came to supporting program development and delivery. The successful applicant qualified on the basis of a doctoral degree, a high level of commitment to students, and experience as a teacher in a Vancouver Mini-School but had no previous program coordination experience. The task of teaching science to the Transition Program students was added to four blocks for coordination involving tasks which had previously been undertaken by the two Transition Program staff who had shared the coordinating role the previous year. The coordination responsibilities were not outlined in detail, which made it difficult to initiate effective organization. Program coordination was also a challenge because staff who taught in the program saw their primary roles as teachers with responsibilities within a specific discipline in the secondary school. The Transition Program staff positions initially had not been posted because no funding was available for separate staffing; instead existing staff in the secondary school had been invited to take on teaching responsibilities within the program. Only one of the teachers had taken a course in gifted education many years earlier and no teacher had experience in teaching students in an early entrance to university program. Teachers by and large were not aware of the nature and needs of this student population and how they functioned as a group and as individuals. The focus for teachers became the curriculum, and students were required to adapt to what was being taught and the way the teacher provided instruction. Staff commitment to program development was, therefore, limited. The coordinator position was difficult to articulate given different perspectives of the program and the limited time of the staff who were already committed to a secondary school teaching assignment. It was also difficult to initiate the conversation about the unique needs of this student group within the context of an environment where the program was anticipated to function as an extension of a secondary school structure. The culmination of these changes and varied perspectives of the program resulted in decision-making that made the program participants uncertain about goals and directions. Effects on the program included some students discontinuing the program and in some cases qualified applicants choosing not to enroll. 61 During the period from 1995 to 1997, the Vancouver School District underwent further budget cuts. The Vancouver School Board commissioned an external review of Student Services, and a final report presented in November 1996 recommended downsizing and re-organization. Events at this time included the elimination of the position for District Support Teacher for Gifted Education. The position was subsequently reinstated for one year. When plans for instituting a consultant position for gifted education were changed in the face of on-going budget concerns, the original position was continued. After significant staffing cuts and reorganization of services, most of what had been Student Services and Program Services was decentralized into four Area Learning Services Teams with a limited number of staff designated to provide service through District Learning Services. Many former highly specialized staff accepted new assignments in the new organization while a number of talented staff were lost to the system. Beginning in September 1997 responsibility for gifted education was placed under the direct supervision of the Associate Superintendent of the newly formed Learning Services. The Associate Superintendent contributed standards of excellence, professional integrity, conceptual clarity and an ability to think outside the box to the Transition Program's mandate to meet the educational needs of gifted students. As chair of the Transition Program Steering Committee and as part of the management team for the Transition Program, Dr. Overgaard spearheaded the process of clarifying the program's goals and making the operation of the program more responsive to student needs and more transparent and available for discussion with parents, students, and staff (TP Notes, VSB, 1997). The Program's Struggle for a Clear Identity At the time when new leadership was initiated at the district level, there were numerous problems related to program management identified by staff, students, and parents. There were differences of opinion about program decisions being made on a daily basis. There were questions about whether these decisions were addressing the specific educational needs of the students or whether they were reflecting the common sense of the secondary school culture, practices, and management (TP Notes, V S B , 1996). The program was viewed as a secondary school program, as a school within a school. Focus was placed on "normalizing" the students so that they would look more like regular secondary school students. There was little interest in developing the program's response to the special needs of these gifted students. If students failed to meet the standards set by the teachers, they were advised to enroll in regular courses. Students were presented with the goal of becoming "well-rounded" and advised to take more courses over more years in order to develop a broader range of talents and interests (TP Notes, VSB, 1996). Within the context of exploring why there were students who were not succeeding, choosing to leave the program or expressing disappointment with the narrow academic focus of the program, it was suggested that the process of selection of students needed to be examined more closely (TP Notes, V S B , 1996). Criteria for selection were thus refined to emphasize commitment to the goal of early entrance to university. Discussion focused on taking into account social-emotional development, academic learning skills, and identification of issues that might hinder the student's ability to manage the workload within the program. 62 Discussion also addressed assumptions that gifted students applying for the program would necessarily be organized, high achieving and equipped with the skills and understandings to be successful within the program. Another assumption that was questioned was whether being gifted carried with it the expectation that the individual should be able to handle whatever internal challenges might accompany the experience of being an adolescent in a program of intensive and conceptually advanced academic studies. One of the most challenging issues identified by students, their parents and program staff was the asynchrony between the conceptual abilities of these individuals and their social-emotional understandings and skills as well as their physical development. Wide-ranging interpretations of student performance, behaviors, and skills contributed to different interpretations of students' related educational needs (TP Notes, VSB, 1996). The result was that students received a wide range of advice from many different sources. For example, students who qualified for early entrance to university were advised by secondary peers and school culture to take a Grade 12 year at the secondary school to ensure adequate academic and social-emotional readiness for university studies (TP Student Interviews, 1999). Students and parents also articulated a more tangible and concrete rationale for this decision, namely that they could more readily be assured of receiving higher competitive marks that would support their scholarship applications i f they remained for a Grade 12 year (TP Parent Interviews, 1999). Increasingly, Transition Program parents were articulating the ways in which their students were experiencing the Transition Program within the secondary school environment (TP Notes, VSB, 1996). Parents reported hearing discouraging comments made by individuals within the school about the program, individual students, and individual parents. Parents also brought forward questions and issues related to unmet needs of students with respect to program coordination and teaching. At the May 08, 1996, meeting of the Transition Program Steering Committee, Pat Sparkes spoke on behalf of the Transition Program Parent Association and requested that a member of the parent organization be invited to sit on the Steering Committee to provide the parent perspective as well as facilitate communication with parents (TPSC Minutes, VSB, 1996). The following year, two parent representatives joined the Transition Program Steering Committee. These representatives eventually evolved as one parent from the current group of students and one parent representing the parents of graduates of the program. In January 1997, the Transition Program Parent Association surveyed the parents of students in Year One and Year Two (TPPA, Minutes, VSB, 1997). The survey questions asked for the most positive program benefit, recommended changes, feedback on student social-emotional support, use of tutors, concerns about teaching or other comments. The majority of parents identified the peer group support as the most positive aspect of the program at that time. Most parents suggested program changes should focus on the need for encouragement of students, more information about curriculum and instruction, and more flexibility in the program to respond to individual student needs. A majority of parents also requested proper counseling noting that at the time of the survey neither the school counselor nor the District Gifted Education Teacher had been scheduled to meet with students. Parents noted that a majority of the students in the program were receiving tutoring outside of the program. Most parents indicated a preference for meetings with teachers as a group when reviewing student progress in the program or related concerns rather than to meet with teachers individually. The results of the survey reflected both 63 the on-going valuing of the program as well as serious concerns about program operation, coordination and curriculum delivery. At the June meeting of the Transition Program Parent Association the areas of program delivery that did not support the needs of students were raised once again. Parents expected the program to provide a differentiated experience for the students with respect to curriculum, instruction, and program management and organization. They expressed concerns that they were not "allowed to discuss...teachers, curriculum, and teacher attitude" (TPPA Minutes, 1997). Adding to the nature of these concerns was the realization that no one seemed to be in a position to make the changes necessary to address these concerns. The majority of parents articulated their support for the program concept and their support for the student population; the same majority concluded that program delivery issues existed and needed to be understood and addressed by program leadership. Program Learning Culminates in Reframing of Program Structure By the 1996-97 school year an enrollment pattern in the Transition Program emerged. It became evident that there was a significant decline in the number of applicants and an increase in the number of students leaving the program after Year One (TP Notes, VSB, 1998). Many of the students who were discontinuing the program were registering in the regular program at University Hi l l Secondary. Accommodations were made for these students with respect to academic placements that reflected the acceleration experienced during their enrollment in the Transition Program. The move to the regular program did not involve a change in location and often students had the same teachers and the support of the same counselor, and were able to optimize their subsequent year(s) in the secondary school setting. The secondary school staff and administration welcomed the achievement of excellence of these identified gifted students. Many of the students brought exceptional recognition to themselves and to the school through their various talents, personal integrity, response to challenge and commitment to social responsibility. As a result of a combination of factors, including issues of leadership, roles and responsibilities, instruction, evaluation, student support and unmet needs, the 1996-97 Year Two class was down to nine boys and the 1997-98 Year One class enrolled six boys. Of those six boys, three did not continue into Year Two. Two accepted advanced placement in regular secondary programs and one received a scholarship to study piano and music composition at Berkeley where he relocated and also enrolled in university courses. The trend toward a larger proportion of male students enrolling and continuing in the program had developed gradually. Initially fewer girls applied to the program often because their abilities had not been previously recognized as exceptional and alternative programs had not been either available or explored on their behalf. Girls were also more familiar with being rewarded for behaving in accordance with expectations of teachers and parents and less familiar and less confident about taking academic risks and pursuing intellectual challenges. Girls often expressed more hesitation about accepting placement in the program, indicating doubt about the validity of the assessment results closely followed by concerns about leaving their friends and being identified as academically and intellectually different from age peers. In addition a number 64 of factors within the culture of the program adversely affected retention of girls. Differences in social-emotional maturity between males and females at this age were intensified by the larger number of boys e.g. 15 boys and 7 girls in Year One, 1994-95; 14 boys and 6 girls in Year One in 1995-96. As enrollment numbers increased, the Transition Program developed an identity characterized by achievements in mathematics and science by students typified as "nerds". This male dominance was also reflected in both the school and university staff. During the first four years of the program, twenty-seven girls enrolled in Year One, and only seven of those students continued on into Year Two. Twenty girls who completed the first year either chose or were counseled to enroll in a regular secondary program. The issue of gender balance required attention both from the recruitment and selection process and from program delivery elements. In the preceding year, efforts to understand student needs and enhance program development had been intensified. A major catalyst for this program development occurred December 12, 1996, through Dr. Kate Noble, now Director of the University of Washington program, who visited with the Transition Program students at University Hil l Secondary School and talked with them about their program experience, benefits and concerns. Later that day she met with the Transition Program Steering Committee where the current issues were discussed. She advised Transition Program administration, staff, and district staff that to be successful the program needed to be located on the university campus. Her recommendation suggested that location was the answer to many of the difficulties being experienced in the program with respect to student success within the program and at the university. Dr. Noble also understood the need for staff "who were specialized and conversant with the university environment so as to be able to understand the needs of the students and be able to explain the system to them" (Noble, TPSC Minutes, VSB, 1996). At the close of the Steering Committee's discussions on December 12, 1996, a sub-committee was identified to draft a proposal for the relocation of the Transition Program to the U B C campus for discussion at the next meeting (TPSC Minutes, V S B , 1996). The sub-committee consisted of the following members: Program Coordinator, G C A Parent, TP Parent, U B C Liaison Professor, School Administrator and District Gifted Education Teacher. Committee members at the January 17 meeting approved the proposal with suggestions that were subsequently incorporated (TPSC Minutes, V S B , 1997). Discussion of criteria for selecting program space included student safety and proximity to libraries, lab space and recreational facilities. The final version of the proposal requesting that The University of British Columbia provide space on campus to facilitate the relocation of the Transition Program was submitted to the U B C President's Office in February 1997. With some indication that the proposal was receiving support from U B C , the Steering Committee focused attention on program delivery issues that were manifesting as declining enrollment, particularly with respect to girls. In the context of discussions about how student needs could be met through the program's relocation to the U B C campus, Steering Committee members recommended refinements to program organization and delivery. For example, student selection according to the original vision of the program required an emphasis on requisite abilities, skills and work ethic together with a clear commitment to the goal of early entrance to university. The Committee recommended posting of all Transition Program staff positions using criteria and qualifications which included gifted education training and willingness to work together to support program goals. If appropriate candidates through the V S B internal posting process did not become available, an agreement had been negotiated with the union that the 65 competition would be opened to qualified staff from other school districts. Committee members also discussed the reorganization of program delivery so as to maximize opportunities for students through access to U B C opportunities including visits and enrollment in university courses. Alignment with the university timetable, which was recommended to encourage opportunities for students to participate in university courses, had implications such as flexible work hours for staff and release from the organizational framework defined by the secondary school timetable. The Committee also recommended curriculum reorganization and varied instructional approaches to support development of interdisciplinary curriculum experiences for students together with an emphasis on university preparation rather than high school coverage. Professional development for staff including university courses designed specifically to address their unique needs and related program research possibilities were discussed. Committee members reiterated the need for full-time coordination and academic advisement and counseling available on site. As a follow-up to these discussions and at the request of the Chair of the Steering Committee, a sub-committee was identified to explore ideas related to the Transition Program's operation on campus. The same members who had worked on the relocation proposal agreed to sit on this sub-committee (TPSC Minutes, VSB, 1997). A preliminary description of program vision and goals was presented to the Steering Committee at the meeting held on April 24, 1997. The Committee approved the initial work and contributed further ideas to the development of the document which was targeted for completion prior to the program's relocation to U B C . Discussions of program relocation prompted a request in March to the Ministry of Education for a budget increase for the Transition Program (TPSC Minutes, V S B , 1997). The Steering Committee was pleased, therefore, when the Ministry's representative announced at the meeting on June 6, 1997, that staffing would be increased the next year by 1.0 FTE and that limited one-time funds to support relocation would also be provided. This show of support from the Ministry heralded an increased enthusiasm for and belief in the viability of the program and the worthwhileness of the efforts of the students and their teachers. The announcement of increased staffing was included in the letter from the Director of the Special Services Branch of the Ministry of Education (TP Correspondence, V S B , 1997). Dr. McBride requested that planning for program evaluation be initiated so that what was being learned from the experience within the program could be documented. She suggested that questions for this evaluation might include the kinds of student outcomes obtained both for participating students and those who had left the program along with the relative impact of the program on the learning and adjustment of exceptional students. These questions further stimulated efforts to understand and extend program development. The Committee recommended that formal evaluation be delayed until the program had developed stability in its new location but that planning for future evaluation begin immediately (TPSC Minutes, V S B , 1997). As an extension of this discussion committee members pointed out that the Transition Program was not well known within the Vancouver School District or within other school districts in the province. The program was also little known at U B C and among parent and community organizations. The Ministry of Education representative recommended documentation of the numerous positive aspects of the program and distribution of this information to a wide range of interested audiences, not the least of which were the institutional partners (TPSC Minutes, VSB, 66 1997). It was recommended that information about the successes of the program accompany future budget requests. Also at the June meeting the District Support Teacher presented an outline for what would later become known as the Conceptual Framework document. The committee supported the outline and encouraged the development of the document to support preparation for program relocation. Following the initiation of the new organization for district and area programs (September 1997), the Transition Program Steering Committee at the October 09 meeting welcomed the new Chairperson, Dr. Valerie Overgaard, Associate Superintendent of Learning Services. At that meeting the District Teacher was given responsibility to complete the draft document with edits from sub-committee members. The process of writing this document was informed by the coursework and development of the research proposal undertaken as part of the District Teacher's graduate program at UBC. In January members of the Steering Committee discussed the document, offering feedback and editorial changes. In mapping out the elements of the program including goals, vision, and identification of candidates as well as program delivery and expectations for participants, the document became the first comprehensive articulation of the program and a reference point for future program development. The document also functioned as a communication tool with students, parents, and new applicants and their parents, as well as new and continuing staff. To enhance program planning and improvement, the Conceptual Framework was structured as a response document. A l l interested groups were invited to respond to this articulation of the program design. The Associate Superintendent of Learning Services and the District Support Teacher met with a variety of groups including current staff, current students, graduates of the Transition Program, and parents of current students and program graduates to obtain their input about the articulated program structure (TP Notes, V S B , 1998). Both parents and students indicated that the document gave them a clearer understanding of the program's design and purpose. The Transition Program staff suggested that details of program delivery such as courses, grade levels and timetabling be referred to in more general terms to retain flexibility for the program's continuing evolution. The document articulated the conceptual foundation for the program and suggested operational guidelines, both of which were related to key understandings about the nature and educational needs of academically gifted adolescents within an accelerated program that prepares them for early entrance to university. In some sense the blueprint for the program had been articulated and the scaffolding underlying its structure was now available for critical viewing. The Conceptual Framework Response Document The Conceptual Framework '98 document which was shaped by the literature review undertaken for this study was developed to address the Steering Committee's need for program clarity at a time when the program was experiencing a decline in enrolment, particularly female students. This document was informed by past practice and recommended practices of acceleration and curriculum organization described in the gifted education literature. In addition to clarifying the program's scope and goals, the document articulated the minimum entry criteria, the process of identification of candidates, orientation and placement decisions, and responsibilities of program