NORWALK — Even Norwalk’s best and brightest are getting some attention when it comes to improving test scores and closing the achievement gap.

Last week, as part of the goal set forth in Superintendent Steven Adamowski’s Strategic Operating Plan to improve achievement for all of Norwalk’s students, the Academically Talented and Gifted Redesign Committee met for the first time.

Led by Chief of Specialized Learning Yvette Goorevitch, the committee’s goal is to develop a modern, innovative program for gifted students utilizing data, an evidence-based national model and highly trained staff to maximize the resources already in use by the program.

Goorevitch said it’s been more than two decades since the program has been touched.

“There are kids that may not, on standardized testing show they are in the 95th or 99th percentile, but their potential is outstanding,” Goorevitch said. “Our data is telling us that the students that are in the pullout program are not necessarily representative of the rich cultural diversity of our district, and we really want to increase the potential for students to participate.”

In a study of the existing program, prepared by Hanover Research in March, one of the biggest points for improvement was the selection process for students to determine giftedness.

Board of Education member Bryan Meek, who also sits on the redesign committee, said he obtained first-hand experience with the process when one of his own children went through it earlier this year.

“Our testing methodology is obsolete, so we need to improve on that,” Meek said. “More transparency on how it’s determined that a child is selected and how that comes about. Whether that’s just a test, or best practices include looking for non-verbal clues as well and more or less having a panel of professionals who are trained in gifted education to be part of the selection process.”

Meek added that the most exciting part of the redesign is the impact it will have on all students, not just those who are recognized as having substantial potential.

“The best practices suggest that not only do you have your academically talented program that covers academics and also artistically talented, but you have a group of truly gifted children that can be brought out of that group,” Meek said. “Better than all of that is that every child gets exposure to the framework. Not every child may end up in an academically talented program, but every child will have exposure to some of the concepts and programming at some level. This is more than just the children that are identified academically talented this is about building a program for the entire student body.”

The committee, which is comprised of parents, teachers, principals, gifted education experts and even a student, will work within the existing $1.5 million budget for academically talented education, and plans to have recommendations for improvement by the spring that can be implemented in a pilot program by fall 2018, Goorevitch said.

“It is very important to this current school board,” Meek said. “That’s evident by the fact that this area was actually considered for budget reduction and a majority of the board members stedfastly opposed that and I think it’s important that people know a goal of this redesign committee is not to downsize, but to maximize the resources that we are putting into it right now.”

kkrasselt@hearstmediact.com; 203-842-2563; @kaitlynkrasselt