EAGLES program to start accepting 2nd-graders

       Five years ago, when the EAGLES class for gifted students started at Whittier Elementary, it was the first of its kind in District 11 to include third-graders along with fourth- and fifth-graders.

Students in the EAGLES class at West Elementary work on assignments this week. Second-graders will be added to the mix in 2010-11.
Westside Pioneer photo

       (Note: The word “EAGLES” stands for the Whittier mascot and is also an acronym for “Exceptional Academic Gifted Learning Experience Site.”)
       The class was strong enough to survive the Whittier closure after the 2008-09 school year, becoming part of the new West Elementary.
       Now, looking ahead to EAGLES' sixth year, D-11 plans to expand it, this time adding second-graders to the mix. According to district gifted program consultant Beth Busby, the intent is to have two classes in 2010-11 - one for grades 2-3 and the other for 4-5.
       The intent of EAGLES is to provide an accelerated level of education for elementary students, who can then move up to the district's grade 6-8 SAIL program for gifted students (offered at West Middle School).
       “I am not aware of any other public school that offers a self-contained gifted magnet for students as young as second grade,” Busby said. She and EAGLES teacher Anne Shargel said they saw no reason why second-graders shouldn't thrive in the program.
       Testing now can indicate if children that age are in the gifted range, said Shargel. In fact, Busby said, the district plans a gifted charter school elsewhere next year for grades K-8.
       The EAGLES expansion will nearly double its size, from the current 23 students to 40 total (ideally, 20 in each classroom). A “floating” educational assistant will help the teacher in each classroom, Busby said.
       Another advantage of the change will be reducing the current two grade-level gap to just one. “It's a large gap between third and fifth grade,” observed Shargel, who has taught the class all five years.
       Asked where her students come from, she said about half are from the West attendance area and half permit in.
       A few students in the current class are not “gifted,” per se, but were allowed in at their parents' request because there was room in the class and they tested as “bright, high achievers,” the teacher explained. Depending on how many sign up for the new two-class configuration, there may still be space for the high-achiever students next year, she added.
       “EAGLES has been highly successful with bright and gifted students for the past five years and going strong,” Busby said. “The Westside has always been open to something new. Here is just one more opportunity for the children in the Pikes Peak region.”
       An application is necessary to get into EAGLES. The deadline is April 30. For more information, call Busby at 520-2465 or download an application from the EAGLES website - d11.org/westelem.

Westside Pioneer article