Many private schools concentrate on the needs of academically advanced students, but it is difficult to find a public school that does. Pine View School in Osprey, Florida, a public school designed to meet the needs of gifted students, can serve as an excellent model for public school systems elsewhere.
In 1969 the school began as a grant-funded pilot program serving just a few students. For 25 years it was housed in portable buildings, but in 1995 the Sarasota County School System built a 74-acre campus with buildings for each subject area, sports facilities, a student center, and a media center. Pine View’s central location in the county allows more students to attend it.
Pine View’s mission is to provide a learning environment that nurtures intellectual curiosity, risk taking, independence, and innovation, and it is committed to the ideals of academic excellence and social responsibility. Sarasota County considers students for gifted programs according to their intellectual development, behavioral characteristics, and need for a special program.
Pine View offers instruction to some 1,500 gifted students in grades 2–12. The elementary grades follow traditional grade/age-level placement, but the curriculum is one grade level above that of a traditional school. As students progress to middle and high school, they can take math, foreign-language, and computer classes commensurate with their abilities. All high school courses are honors-level, and many are advanced placement. Pine View students not only hone their individual talents and gain independence but work collaboratively, researching areas of inter est and developing projects together.
Pine View also provides specialized services for gifted students with disabilities. For example, students with articulation, voice, or stuttering disorders receive speech therapy, and an occupational therapist serves students with motor difficulties. Parents and teachers together identify students’ strengths and weaknesses and note them in individual education plans (IEPs). Teachers are required to make the accommodations indicated in the IEPs. Assistant Principal Brenda George explains, “Our goal is to have students be their own advocates by high school.”
About 65 students in grades 2–12 at Pine View have been identified as having learning disabilities. The Gifted/Specific Learning Disabilities Program supports these students through consultative services and adapted teaching strategies. Students are also taught learning strategies from the Strategic Instruction Model, developed by the Center for Research on Learning at the University of Kansas.
Two programs help Pine View students develop social skills and emotional health. The TEAM-Time (Teaching and Enriching through Affective Means) helps middle school students explore issues such as managing peer relationships, dealing with giftedness and peer pressure, making decisions, and clarifying personal values. RAP (Resource Advisory Program) assists high school students in clarifying and achieving graduate and postgraduate academic and career goals. The program’s points of focus include study habits, drug and alcohol awareness, stress management, AIDS/STD awareness, and devising and maintaining a four-year plan.
Above all, Pine View prepares students for higher education. Ninety percent of the class of 2000 earned scores of 3 or higher on advanced placement tests, and 96 percent went on to four-year colleges and universities. As George explains, “Our graduating seniors tell us each year how much they think they were challenged throughout their education at Pine View. The best reward is when former students stop by during holidays and breaks to let us know how well prepared they were for college.”
—G. Denise Lance, PhD
G. Denise Lance holds a doctorate in special education and assistive technology from the University of Kansas. She is a freelance writer and editor and is founder and manager of the Virtual Assistive Technology Center.