The Advanced Learning Specialist

Every K-8 school has a halftime position dedicated to Advanced Learning. The Advanced Learning Specialist in your school is a resource to help your principal, school-based leadership team, and classroom teachers identify advanced learners in every grade level in 5 different domains. These domains are Specific Academic (Literacy, Math Science and Social Studies), General Intellectual, Visual and Performing Arts, Creativity and Leadership.

These specialists work with the school staff to assist with the implementation of advanced instruction and with providing comprehensive supports for students who require challenge beyond grade level expectations to keep them growing in their learning. They have the expertise to help identify appropriate curricular extensions and/or replacements and to provide direct instruction for students as needed. They also assist with talent development which identifies and supports students from demographic groups that have historically been underrepresented in Advanced Learning; low-income students, English language Learners, students with disabilities and black and Latino students.

The Advanced Learning Specialists proactively communicate with staff, parents and students about Advanced Learning in defining what can be expected for instruction and supports during the school year and as students make transitions between each grade and between school levels (elementary to middle and middle to high school).

The Advanced Learning Director

At the high school level, our Advanced Learning Director works with principals and school-based staff to ensure that course sequences beyond standard level (Honors and Advanced Placement) are available in the core subjects (English, Math, Science and Social Studies) and in specialty areas such as the arts and world languages. The Advanced Learning Director also helps staff at the high schools build the expertise to guide students in their course selection and to ensure that schools are providing comprehensive supports for advanced learners. This includes recognizing and supporting students from demographic groups that have historically been underrepresented in Advanced Learning; low-income students, English language Learners, students with disabilities and black and Latino students.

Other staff at schools who can be resources for families:

  • Math and Literacy resource teachers or interventionists
  • Librarians
  • Art and Music teachers
  • Computer teachers
  • Counselors and Social Workers
  • Your classroom teacher

Background resources

While MMSD uses the broader term of Advanced Learning, most researchers, policy makers and school districts still reference Gifted Education. Thus resources and research generally focus on Gifted Education instead of Advanced Learning. The National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC) is the national organization with recognized expertise in defining best practices for Advanced Learners and Gifted and Talented students.

This is not intended to be a comprehensive list of resources but a start for families to learn more about Advanced Learning. These resources are summarized below though content is managed externally and not by MMSD.


Helping your Gifted Child Succeed: brochure from NAGC
¡Ayude a su hijo dotado a tener éxito!: panfleto de la NAGC en español

These brochures in English and Spanish give families tips on how to support their advanced learner at home, in the community and at school.

This list from the National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC) details the most prevalent myths in gifted education and a counter viewpoint or truth. Have any of these myths hindered you and/or your school from providing challenging instruction for advanced students?

Gifted education is crucial but the label isn’t

The bright vs. gifted comparison: a distraction from what matters

These two articles, one in Education Week and one in Creativity Post explain that by focusing only on a set of unique “gifted” characteristics to identify students, schools actually miss the more important question of which students are not being challenged by grade level curriculum and what to do to keep them growing in their learning. This doesn’t lose Gifted students in the process, it just expands the view of which students could benefit from more academic challenge.

What a child doesn’t learn

This article explains the skill building opportunities that are missed by students who earn good grades and high praise with little effort in their early school years. These include work ethic and sacrifice, responsibility, self-worth, time-management, decision-making, problem-solving and study skills.

Expanding the view of gifted education

This article details how “five districts share a mission to develop underrepresented students on the cusp of excellence”.

Beyond the School Walls: What Parents can do to Widen the Horizons of their Gifted Learner

This article gives suggestions for parents on how to make home a place of discovery for curious minds.

NACG links on topics such as Motivation and learning, Social-emotional issues and Asynchronous development.