Changes in Highly Capable programs
Changes in Highly Capable programs provide greater access for students
Posted on 11/14/2019
Changes in Highly Capable programs provide greater access for students

A visit to Kaylee Shorter’s third/fourth grade QUEST classroom at Karshner Elementary recently provided a firsthand look at how changes to the district’s Highly Capable programs are making a difference.

Karshner Elem studentsThis is the first year Karshner students in grades 3-6 can attend self-contained QUEST classes at their neighborhood school. The program features specialized curriculum and instruction for highly capable students.

For example, students in Shorter’s classroom are reading the book Blazing West by Kathryn Lasky. It is about a boy who joins Lewis and Clark on their expedition west. Students are each assigned a different Corps of Discovery member and they write journal entries from that character's point of view. This is based off the idea that the book is also written through journal entries, but through the boy’s perspective. They are now working on a final draft of these journal entries. “We get to do a lot of projects, so it is always fun to see their final results,” says Shorter.

Opportunities and access for highly capable students in the Puyallup School District are on the rise. This school year, the QUEST and PAGE programs have expanded to schools at key locations across the region to make it easier for students who qualify to attend programs at neighborhood schools.

Chief Equity and Achievement Officer Gerald Denman says, “We want students who live in the area to have an opportunity to attend highly capable programs near their neighborhood. At Karshner, for example, we have third/fourth and fifth/sixth split QUEST classrooms and we feel really good about that. We now have QUEST and the Dual Language program there which makes it a magnet school, and that is a nice star for that community.”

Karshner ElementaryThe district offers a continuum of services for highly capable students in grades K-12. The programs include Young Scholars (grades K-2), QUEST (grades 3-6), PAGE (grades 7-9), AP courses, Capstone, and College in the High School, and Running Start.

The Highly Capable programs are designed to provide a challenging, accelerated and enriched curriculum through a broad range of accelerated instruction, services, and experiences.

Students in the QUEST and PAGE programs perform, or show potential for performing, at significantly advanced academic levels when compared with others of their age, experiences, or environments.

   • QUEST is offered at eight sites and the program is serving 511 students. The elementary schools are: Brouillet, Dessie F. Evans, Karshner, Pope, Shaw Road, Spinning, Sunrise, and Woodland.

   • PAGE is offered at three junior high schools and now serves 354 highly capable junior high students. The junior highs are: Ferrucci, Kalles, and Stahl.

   • In the high schools the district is offering 22 different Advanced Placement courses to 1,354 students and AP Capstone is in full implementation at all three comprehensive high schools.

Increased district enrollment and a commitment to provide highly capable services for students who need advanced learning opportunities has prompted changes in the programs. In past years, if a student qualified for PAGE the only option was to attend at Kalles Junior High.

Testing schedules

Students are tested to attend the following year during specific times frames. The schedule for testing to attend next year’s programs is below. Please contact the Highly Capable office at 253.841.8646 for more information and exact testing dates.

   • Young Scholars (K-1): Testing begins in April/May for 2020-21.

   • QUEST (3-6): Testing begins in January for 2020-21. All second graders are tested in January/February for 2020-21.

   • PAGE (7-8): Testing begins in December for 2020-21.

Beginning three years ago all second-grade students are tested for access to the QUEST program. Parents are individually sent information regarding the testing and program details in order to consider having their child tested for the program.

“As a result of QUEST testing changes, the number of students who qualified went up and we placed more underrepresented students in the program. This resulted in a more diverse group, better representing Puyallup’s demographics,” said Denman.

All students who qualify during the testing period get access to the programs. Denman cautions that testing only takes place once a year during a certain time period. Students who miss the testing will have to wait until testing the following year. “We try to be equitable for all students,” says Denman.