All students who attend the School for the Talented and Gifted pursue the Distinguished Achievement Program for graduation, as well as participate in activities unique to the magnet itself, such as the TAG Forum, TAG TREK, interim-term mini-courses (TAG-IT), and grade-level interdisciplinary seminars. The variety of experiences afforded these students has resulted in one of the best programs in the nation.
Preparation for Higher Education
Since our school has a strong college-preparatory and AP curriculum, it is incumbent that we give our students and parents as much information as possible regarding choices for higher education. Among the opportunities for understanding the need for planning and preparing for college, our counseling office provides the following:
- Required PSAT for all freshmen, sophomores, and juniors
- Required SAT for all seniors (ACT is optional)
- Updates on scholarship offers presented to parents
- Individual conferences with parents and students as needed
- Small group in-house visits with college representatives
- Encouragement for on-campus visits to colleges and universities
- Financial aid workshop
- Career interest survey for all students
- Career exploration through TAG Forum
- Senior exit interviews, resumes, and recommendations on file
- District-wide college night
Our curriculum goals adhere to the four categories of gifted education: content, process, product, and affective development. The four categories are defined as follows:
- Content: Present content that is related to broad-based issues, themes, or problems in an interdisciplinary format
- Process: Develop critical and higher-level thinking skills in both cognitive and affective areas.
- Product: Develop products that redefine or challenge existing ideas, incorporate new and innovative ideas, and utilize techniques, materials, forms, and a body of knowledge in an innovative way.
- Affective: Encourage the development of sound relationships, including tolerance of human differences, respect for the needs and rights of others, and recognition of the contributions of others.
Although our students are required to follow an extensive Pre-AP and Advanced Placement (AP) curriculum that includes a minimum of eleven (11) AP courses, our program is enhanced by an array of additional opportunities which provide services to our gifted and talented learners. These include the interdisciplinary focus of the grade-level seminars, TAG Trek, and TAG-IT, Advanced Research and Technology, and field-based research in conjunction with local universities and other collaborative institutions.
For the past thirty years, general principles about appropriate curriculum for gifted learners have been delineated. Experts such as Joseph Renzulli, Sally Reis, Joyce Van Tassel-Baska, Carol Ann Tomlinson, Sandra Kaplan and many others continue to present effective curriculum and instructional models for gifted and talented education. Many models for gifted curriculum are available. Because each approach responds to different needs and characteristics of gifted students, it has been found over a span of years that it is not advantageous to select one model over another when planning. Therefore, TAG uses many programs and models. In this way, such areas as enrichment, accelerated content, interdisciplinary instruction and creative problem solving are addressed. Among the models utilized are:
- Dallas Collaborative Model
- Enrichment Triad Model (Renzulli)
- Autonomous Learner Model (Betts)
- Learning Styles (Dunn, Dunn)
- Critical Thinking Skills (Ennis)
- Taxonomy of Educational Objectives (Bloom)
- Integrated/Interdisciplinary Curriculum (Roger Taylor)
- Cognitive Research Trust Thinking Skills (deBono)
- Creative Problem Solving (Parnes)
- Structure of the Intellect (Guilford, Meeker)
- Strategic Reasoning (Upton)
- Socratic Seminar
School for the Talented and Gifted Four-Year Plan
- AP Human Geography
- Pre-AP English I
- Pre-AP Algebra II or Pre-AP Geometry
- Pre-AP Biology
- Pre-AP Computer Science I
- Foreign Language (3 years of same)
- Physical Education
- AP World History
- Pre-AP English II
- Pre-AP Algebra II or Pre-Calculus Pre-AP or Fast Track Math
- Pre-AP Chemistry
- Theater Arts
- Phys. Ed. (Sem) / Health (Sem)
- AP English Lang. & Comp.
- AP Calculus AB or Pre-Calculus Pre-AP
- AP US History
- AP Statistics
- AP Physics B or Pre-AP Physics
- AP English Lit. & Comp.
- AP Calculus AB or BC
- AP US Government (Fall) / AP Economics (Spring)
- Pre-AP Psychology/AP Psychology
- AP Science (Physics C, E&M, Chemistry, Biology, Environmental Science)
- Independent Studies (Senior Thesis)
AP Art History
AP Computer Science A
AP Environmental Science
AP European History
AP Physics C: E&M
AP Spanish Language
AP Spanish Literature
Technology Applications Independent Study
AP French Language
AP German Language
AP Latin: Vergil
AP Music Theory
AP Studio Art-3D Design
AP Studio Art-2D Design
AP Studio Art-Drawing
TAG has always dealt with the challenges of meeting the needs of gifted students who enroll with varying degrees of skill development, as well as with maintaining a focus for the entire school. We want all of our students to reach their goals as expressed in our mission statement. The TAG Forum, held in early September, includes the areas of study skills, research methods, social/emotional needs of the gifted, character development, goal setting, and career planning. The TAG Forum also provides a “starting ground” for Freshman Foundations (9th grade seminar) with reinforcement and development of topics in Explorations, Connections, and Horizons seminars, which are part of the 10th, 11th and 12th grade differentiated curriculum.
The Forum, an all-day activity, begins with a keynote speaker or speakers. In 2004 our speakers were two engineers from Texas Instruments who talked about career choices, education, and duties associated with their professions from the female’s perspective. Students then rotated through five activities (each 25 minutes) in the areas of Determining Academic Interest (Career Planning), Self-Regulation Strategies (Social/Emotional Needs of the Gifted), Character Counts, How the Brain Learns, and Learning Styles.
During the last part of the day, in groups of ten or fewer, students had the opportunity to interact with one of the twenty guest speakers representing a variety of professions. Several weeks earlier, students pre-selected careers of interest so as to limit the size of the groups.
A great deal of time and organization were necessary for the planning of this activity. We were able to provide the Forum activities because we have only 200 students and also because the teachers understand the importance of this activity as it relates to the success of the students. In fact, the Forum was developed because teachers saw a need to expand services for our gifted students. In addition, the Forum would not have been so successful without the participation of the guest speakers. These individuals had to be knowledgeable about our program and receptive to the needs of the gifted high school student as they discussed their own careers and professions.
TREK is an off-campus interdisciplinary seminar over the course of three days. Students need the opportunity to concentrate on one topic to achieve depth of insight and to develop their problem-solving skills. An important benefit of TREK, and indeed one of its stated goals, is the opportunity for significant community building among students and staff. Students and teachers get to know each other early in the school year as small groups are intentionally mixed by grade level, gender, and ethnicity. Planning the annual TREK requires a great deal of time and organization in order to enable the students to achieve the objectives in three days. Arranging for a camp location and guest presenters, gathering materials, and creating traditional name tags and notebooks are just some of the tasks that must be completed beforehand if a TREK is to be successful. Multiple resources including gifted journals, web sites, and inter/intradisciplinary curriculum such as that developed by Sandra Kaplan are used. Gifted strategies are also integrated throughout the curriculum.
TREK has been a part of the TAG enrichment curriculum since 1982. Each year students are asked to respond to the effectiveness of TREK. Consistently students find this interdisciplinary activity to be one of their favorite learning experiences. Students frequently become so involved in TREK that they give up their lunch and free time activities to work on their TREK products.
TAG Interim Term (TAG-IT)
TAG-IT is a two- or three-day concentrated program that incorporates multi-culturalism and character education while fostering a love for lifetime learning. Several years ago our teachers were asked, “If you could teach any ‘mini-course’ in or out of your teaching field for three days, what would you want to teach?” The response was indeed positive as teachers considered the things they enjoy doing outside of class or the topics they do not have time to include in their regular curriculum. This was the beginning of the TAG Interim Term (TAG-IT), usually scheduled between semesters or at another time that will not interrupt regular course curriculum. Small groups of students work with a teacher for the entire two or three days of TAG-IT, exploring a wide variety of topics and interests. All TAG-IT courses culminate with some kind of product: a report, a demonstration, a presentation, a model, an original piece of art, etc. Both teachers and students have enjoyed this opportunity for uninterrupted, in-depth learning or for exposure to topics which often spark life-long interest and participation. During TAG-IT, students and teachers pursue a single topic from a broad list of course offerings.
Past course selections include:
- ballroom dancing,
- stained glass making,
- biomechanics of athletes,
- rock climbing,
- chemistry and the art of Raku,
- DNA analysis using gel electrophoresis,
- relaxation techniques,
- Ham radio certification,
- glass blowing and neon glass making,
- Broadway musicals,
- needlework (knitting, crochet, embroidery),
- French culture and cuisine,
- Texas poets and authors,
- Connecting with the DallasMuseum of Art,
- analysis and comparison of science-fiction movies,
- women writers, and
- bird-watching and identification.