After numerous parent complaints about its gifted program, the Altoona Area School District is providing a new online program this school year and promoting testing to identify gifted students.
"We stepped it up because we thought it was the right thing to do," Elementary Education Assistant Superintendent Frank Meloy said when asked if the parents' complaints had anything to do with the additions to the gifted program.
Parent Ginny Hand of Altoona filed a noncompliance complaint with the state Department of Education because she believed the district did not follow state law regarding advertising the gifted program.
Under Pennsylvania law, districts must conduct awareness activities to inform parents of students enrolled and not enrolled in public schools of the program.
Hand said she talked to other parents who told her they were not aware of the program and asked if the board would consider expanding public awareness.
Meloy said Renzulli Learning, an online program connecting a student's strengths and interests to curriculum, will meet gifted individualized education programs where applicable.
The district also has begun promoting the gifted program on public access and its Web site, Meloy said.
Appalachia Intermediate Unit 8 supervisor Richard Miller, whose area of responsibility is gifted programming, said Chapter 16, which covers state laws for gifted programming, is in revision.
He said the bottom line for Pennsylvania school districts is they have to develop individualized education programs for students identified as gifted.
''Chapter 16 does not have a well-defined public awareness plan,'' Miller said.
He said most districts include program information in handbooks, and IU8 publishes information in local newspapers.
He said No Child Left Behind leans a district's concentration toward meeting Adequate Yearly Progress requirements.
He said research shows gifted students need attention.
''You don't see too many Olympic athletes not training in Olympic training facilities,'' he said.
Hand is happy the district is implementing Renzulli Learning and is waiting to see how the program plays out among students.
''Sounds like a good program that will help meet the needs of the gifted and talented,'' she said.
As for the district's promotion of the gifted program through television and the Internet, Hand said, "I think that is a great first step."
Mirror Staff Writer Amanda Clegg is at 949-7030.