My field study was conducted at the Talented and Gifted School for Young Scholars (T.A.G.) Middle School located in the East Harlem section of Manhattan. T.A.G. is a selective public school, governed by the NYC Department of Education. It was founded in 1989 as a magnet program within the school system’s District 4, and became an independent K-8 gifted and talented school in 2004. T.A.G. is one of only three gifted and talented programs in New York City. It serves students identified with gifted abilities in grades K-8. Children are admitted to kindergarten through 2nd grade based on their scores on two tests, the Otis-Lennon School Abilities Test (OLSAT) and the Bracken School Readiness Assessment (BSRA). Children whose scores put them in the 97th percentile nationally are eligible. There are a handful of seats open in the upper grades. Middle school admission is based on grades, standardized test scores and teacher recommendations. There are approximately 500 students comprised mainly of African-American, Hispanic, and Middle Eastern backgrounds, reportedly only 2% of the student body is Caucasian. Each grade level has two classes of up to 25 students each. The school is located in a building that houses four other mini schools, a common practice in schools these days. For instance the high school I attended has been divided into five different high schools. T.A.G. is located in a community which could be described as a lower socioeconomic area, 36% of the children live in poverty. A majority of the students, approximately 63% are on free or reduced lunch. TAG serves a predominately minority, working-class population, mostly from Upper Manhattan, the Bronx and nearby parts of Queens. The students' standardized exam scores are consistently strong, with 92% scoring at or above grade level in ELA and 97% in Math during the 2008-2009 school year. 8th graders take Regents exams in Science, Social Studies, Math, and Spanish. I observed the sixth, seventh, and eighth grade classes of the middle school during the instruction of various subjects such as language arts, social studies and math. The middle school is departmentalized meaning specialized–teachers teach only in their areas of specialization, and students move periodically from room to room for each content area.
The classes were comprised of students in the sixth, seventh and eighth grade level. The students ranged in ages from 12 to 14 years old. There are approximately 25 students in each class,12 boys and 13 girls. No one in TAG has special needs or requires related services during school hours. Many of the students are bi-lingual. The classes are culturally enriched as some of the students come from varied parts of this country and other countries as well. Four students are from Africa, two from Asia, and three used to live in the Middle-East. These students help diversify the class because they share their previous cultural experiences with the entire class. Even though English is not their first language, these students are able to speak English fluently and share their culture/language with the rest of the students. The classroom has several learning centers, also referred to as “learning stations” set-up around the room that are designed for a specific activity such as, the annotating and analyzing a poem center. At the different centers, students focus on developing and/or mastering a particular skill and/or concept while working either individually or in cooperative or ability groups. The grouping depends upon the teacher’s objectives for the center activities as well as the dynamics of the students in the class. The centers are an excellent way to incorporate many skills and concepts as well as state learning standards. Centers can be used to supplement instruction for reinforcement or to provide review for an upcoming test or end of chapter/unit assessment. Interesting and attractive visual aids, such as bulletin...
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