The School for the Talented and Gifted at the Yvonne A. Ewell Townview Magnet Center (commonly referred to as TAG or TAG Magnet) is a public college preparatory magnet secondary school located in the Oak Cliff area of Dallas, Texas (USA).

The school enrolls students in grades 9-12 and is a part of the Dallas Independent School District. It is known for its liberal arts, Advanced Placement Program intensive education style focused on students within a small scale learning environment. In 2006, 2007, 2009 and 2010 Newsweek named the school the #1 public high school in the United States.

Curriculum Overview

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

Ninth Grade

Tenth Grade

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
Elective

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)
Elective
Elective

Eleventh Grade

Twelfth Grade

AP English III (Lang. & Comp.)
AP Calculus AB or Pre-Calculus Pre-AP
AP US History
AP Statistics
AP Physics B or Pre-AP Physics
Speech
Elective
Elective

AP English IV (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)
Elective
Elective

Electives Offered:

TAG Electives

AP Art History
AP Biology

AP Chemistry

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

Creative Writing

AcademicCenter Electives

Choir

Marching/Concert Band

Orchestra
Web Mastery

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

Differentiated Modules

Interdisciplinary Seminars

While the national and state educational programs are moving away from factual learning toward a more conceptual and hands-on approach to learning, there is still inadequate time to implement the higher-level problem solving necessary for the gifted student. Inquiry should be active. Along with emphasis on concepts, students should be involved in real world investigations while integrating the disciplines. This interdisciplinary approach is a major part of the curriculum.

There is cooperation among the staff to integrate the curriculum. With an emphasis from the state toward AP, we have had to work more diligently to maintain our interdisciplinary and intradisciplinary focus. Since TAG students at all grade levels take rigorous AP courses—upperclassmen take up to eight AP courses—planning for interdisciplinary activities has become a challenge. One area integral to our curricular planning is our grade-level seminars, which provide opportunities for students to make connections across the disciplines.

Freshman Foundations

Sophomore Explorations

Junior Connections

Senior Horizons

Freshman Foundations Seminar

Freshman Foundations Interdisciplinary Seminar is a one-day event during which students explore metaphor and its use in all academic disciplines. In addition, we invite a local writer/poet who “performs” metaphor, giving the students an opportunity to see “live literature.”

Martin Heidegger defined the poet as anyone who can see and understand what others cannot, and the poet fulfills his role when he conveys to the world what he has seen. Unfortunately, new concepts can rarely be explained using literal terms, so the poet must use metaphor, a comparison to known things, to communicate his news. By this definition, groundbreaking scientists, mathematicians, artists, and philosophers qualify as poets.

Throughout the seminar, students participate in several activities, projects, and presentations using language, images, and 3-D visuals to convey various difficult-to-explain concepts.

Explorations Seminar

The Sophomore Explorations Seminar is conducted during the fourth six-weeks period. The courses comprising this seminar include English II Pre-AP, AP World History, Algebra II Pre-AP or Calculus Pre-AP, Chemistry Pre-AP, and Theatre Arts. During the most recent Explorations Seminar, teachers discussed the concepts which are part of their curriculum during the fourth six weeks. After brainstorming, students and teachers arrived at “Nuclear Energy” as our theme. Under the “chemistry umbrella,” we studied nuclear chemistry, including related aspects of fission, fusion, and the transmutation of atoms, and also discussed the social/political/historical aspects of nuclear energy from a scientist’s point of view. English classes read Animal Farm; math classes discussed exponents and used equations for determining radioactive decay; theatre classes completed improvisations which signified transmutations, mutations, or reactions to historical events associated with nuclear energy; and history classes discussed issues such as the Cold War and the Cuban Missile Crisis.

A discipline wall created in the hallway identified the theme, disciplines studied, and the objectives related to the area under study. Students added information to the wall as they formed new connections between and within disciplines. A list of the new insights were made and then used as prompts for further group or independent study.

Connections Seminar

The general theme for the interdisciplinary curriculum for juniors is connections. The courses that all TAG Magnet juniors take during the year are AP English Language, AP Statistics, AP Physics B, AP U. S. History, and AP Calculus AB/Pre-Calculus Pre-AP. So it is appropriate to have the connections theme emphasized throughout the year and to plan lessons reflecting this theme. The goal is to enable and encourage students to recognize the relationships and interconnectedness between and among the academic disciplines and to transfer acquired knowledge and concepts to other applications as appropriate. Students complete and submit products that exhibit their language proficiency, organization, and appropriate data analysis. They may conduct surveys or use existing data to analyze and make predictions and draw conclusions based on sound scientific methodology. They may choose a topic of interest but must gain approval from one of the seminar teachers before conducting their studies.

Horizons Seminar

In a continuing effort to focus on the interdisciplinary nature of learning, the seniors are offered the Horizons Seminar. We believe that when students make connections across disciplines, time, events, and topics, they become life-long seekers of wisdom.

The courses comprising this seminar include AP Literature and Composition, AP Government, AP Economics, AP Psychology, AP Calculus and AP Independent Study. The 2004 seminar took place during the second six weeks, prior to the national election. It involved the League of Women Voters, whose president gave a presentation on an election issue – the environment – and its importance to voters in electing a candidate based on his/her stand on the issue. She explained the pros and cons, using as an example workers in a cement plant versus environmentalists. She then had the students participate in an exercise involving a poll sample, which she explained. In this seminar, students had to use their science knowledge (the environment), their English skills (writing a report), their math skills (working with poll samples), and their knowledge of how government works.

Enrichment Activities

TAG Forum

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.

TAG TREK

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.

Source: http://teacherweb.com/TX/tagmagnet/main/apt8.aspx

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