The mission of the Open Doors Program is to target the special needs of intellectually gifted children and provide the necessary instructional modifications to increase intellectually gifted students' skills in and capacity for autonomous learning; creative/productive thinking; love of learning; metacognition; developing and maintaining healthy, positive, enriching relationships; and developing appropriate expectations for the understanding of the self. The instructional modifications include an environment that allows children of the ability to learn from one another, a curriculum that addresses the unique characteristics and needs of the gifted by balancing cognitive and affective instruction/experiences, and a delivery system that employs multiple instructional strategies to honor and accommodate individual learning differences.
The identification process utilizes several different measures to identify gifted students. The process begins on the school level. A student can be referred for testing by an Open Doors 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 Open Doors Program.
The major emphasis of the Open Doors 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. These 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 Open Doors Program is run as a pull-out program. Once a week students are pulled from their academic classes to attend Open Doors classes, as required by law, for a minimum of 4 hours. Open Doors 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 Open Doors days.