Interest Development Early Abilities (2001-2004)

The North Carolina Department of Public Instruction (NCDPI) and the American Association of Gifted Children at Duke University (AAGC) designed a nurturing model to meet the mandate of the North Carolina General Assembly (Article 9B) to close the achievement gap and to nurture underrepresented populations for advanced or gifted classes. Over 900 kindergarten, first- and second-graders in five Title I schools in North Carolina participated in the project over three years.

The results exceeded all expectations and led to receiving a $2.5 million research grant (2004-2009) from the Jacob Javits Gifted Education Program at the US Department of Education to study and to scale-up the project across other schools districts.

Key results for Bright IDEA 1 were:

  • All kindergarten Bright IDEA classrooms scored in the 99% on the state literacy assessment.
  • Significant gains were seen in student achievement of the K-2 Literacy and Math Assessments across all of the sub-groups of children.
  • Achievement among black and Hispanic populations was raised close to the level of white and Asian students.
  • Thomasville Primary School showed Bright IDEA second graders scoring in the 80th percentile on the Iowa Test of Basic Skills Reading exam vs. 39th percentile for those who did not go through the Bright IDEA intervention. Class size averaged 21.5 in Bright IDEA classrooms and 18.8 in the non-Bright IDEA classrooms. The Principal, Phyllis Lupton, provided data that showed nearly all Bright IDEA students in K-2 classrooms scoring 50-100% higher than students in regular classrooms for every assessment or inventory given, including the Iowa Test of Basic Skills.

“Bright IDEA was built on the most advanced research of best practices and focused on empowering regular classroom teachers through training and mentoring to design concept-based curriculum, and to change the classroom environment to meet the learning styles of all children. ”
– Margaret Gayle, Executive Director of the AAGC

“Bright IDEA works with every child. It nurtures every child. It makes every child reach a higher level of expectation and achievement. In most cases, Bright IDEA students’ test scores increased by 50-100%. But as good as the test data is, the important thing is that the students are becoming – and staying – excited about learning. They are becoming lifelong learners.”
– Phyllis Lupton, Principal, Thomasville City Primary School.

“I would not return to teaching the way I did prior to Bright IDEA, I wish I could go back and teach all my previous students this way.”
– Virginia Avery, Kindergarten Teacher, Sherwood Elementary School

Bright IDEA students are challenged to use the full range of their talents and intellectual abilities as they address authentic and complex academic tasks. The project builds upon and extends the North Carolina Standard Course of Study through rigorous concept-based math activities and a research-based thinking skills program. Bright IDEA teachers create scholarly environments that engage students actively and consistently in sophisticated investigations of materials, texts, and learning activities, and require them to understand and apply critical and creative processes that are quite advanced for K-2 students. Our emphasis on broad cognitive and metacognitive skills instead of rote learning was instrumental in lighting up our students’ imaginations, which drove their learning achievement,” said Valorie Hargett, the State Consultant for the Academically or Intellectually Gifted Programs in North Carolina and a principal designer of the program.

The project goes against the grain of most current approaches that stress tight scripting of lessons, limited teacher flexibility and an emphasis on memorization and test preparation. Bright IDEA works within normal classroom constraints and does not extend the school day or school year or include extra tutoring or other special services. The strategies are designed to work with all content areas in kindergarten through twelfth grade.

Dr. Ron Tzur, North Carolina State University Professor and Evaluator of Bright IDEA 2 states, “The two core notions behind Bright IDEA are (1) that every kid has talent and (2) that intelligence can be nurtured and the teacher’s role is to nurture it. Bright IDEA tailors gifted methodologies for regular classroom teachers to use with all children. This raises the performance of gifted and regular children and has led to the extraordinary results achieved by Bright IDEA 1. We look forward to the controlled research methodology in Bright IDEA 2 to get a better understanding of these issues.”

“Bright IDEA shows a new, exciting and highly productive path for education in this country,” said Mary Watson, Director of Exceptional Children at the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction, “Education and political leaders may have to broaden their thinking and policies now that we have demonstrated a more natural and far more effective classroom approach than is the norm today.”

Teachers, principals, and central office personnel were involved in developing the project. School districts involved included: Gaston County, Henderson County, New Hanover County, Thomasville City, and Wake County. Project Bright IDEA 1 was funded by NCDPI through the Exceptional Children Division and Raising Achievement and Closing Gaps Section and by The American Association for Gifted Children at Duke University through a grant from the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation and private donations. Local school districts contributed funds for materials, travel, and subsistence for personnel to attend training. Participants completed thirty days of training over a three-year period.

Final Report Bright IDEA 1