ALPHA is an educational enrichment program designed to meet the needs of intellectually gifted students in the Jackson Public School District. The curriculum incorporates both group and individual strategies, focusing on thinking skills, creativity, information literacy, communication skills, affective skills, and success skills. ALPHA currently serves intellectually gifted students in second through sixth grades in a gifted “pull-out” program. Services are provided by a teacher with gifted endorsement for a minimum of five hours per week.
The identification process utilizes several different measures to identify gifted students. The process begins at the school level. A student can be referred for testing by a gifted teacher, a classroom teacher, a parent, or by him/herself. When a student has been referred, his/her teachers fill out published checklists of gifted behaviors, standardized test scores are recorded, and a group intelligence test is given. Any student that meets the school level requirements moves on for individual IQ testing at the district level by a licensed psychologist/psychometrist. A score in the 90th percentile on an individual IQ test is required for entering the Gifted Education Program.
The major emphasis of the Gifted Education Program is the process of learning rather than content; divergent thinking rather than convergent; exploration of ideas through creative problem solving; and reasoning abilities. This is evidenced in the Mississippi Department of Education, Gifted Education Program, Outcomes.
The curriculum is composed of six outcomes. The Mississippi Gifted Education Outcomes are Thinking Skills, Creativity, Informational Literacy, Communication Skills, Affective Skills, and Success Skills, along with opportunities for Self-Directed/Autonomous learning. These areas are in coordination with the State Department of Education's Outcome Areas for Gifted Students and MAGC's (Mississippi Association for Gifted Children) Recommended Curricular Elements.
McWillie's ALPHA Program is a pull-out program. Once a week, students are pulled from their academic classes to attend gifted classes, as required by law, for a minimum of 4 hours. ALPHA (gifted) and academic teachers work together to make sure that students are allowed to make up any work that is missed and that they are not overloaded with makeup work on gifted days.