Understanding the Lived Experience of Gifted Middle School Students Who Chose to Attend a New School-Within-a-School Gifted Magnet Program Located on a Highly At-Risk Campus



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In 2008, Bryan ISD decided to establish a magnet program for gifted middle school students. The program followed the school-within-a-school model and was housed in an existing middle school situated in an area of the district where a high percentage of the student population came from low socio-economic homes. The purpose of this qualitative case study is to gain an understanding of the experience a gifted student goes through in choosing to attend a new gifted magnet program housed in a school away from their home campus. It examines how students arrived at their decision by taking an in-depth look at their thoughts and decision-making processes, the outside influences on their decision, and their expectations of the program. A qualitative case study research method guided this study. The subjects were middle school students in grades 6-8, who were selected for participation based on random sampling for maximum variation. Six students were selected for participation, of which, two were from each of the three grade levels, four were male, two were female, one was African-American, two were Hispanic, and three were Caucasian. Participant interview responses were compared to responses from the entrance applications of the other 123 magnet students at INQUIRE. The responses of the two different groups of students mirrored each other. The results of the study indicated three emergent themes: 1) the desire for challenge overruled the comfort of the familiar, 2) the need to be surrounded by other students who love learning, and 3) the focus was on the future and not the present. The findings of this study indicate that gifted students chose to attend the new magnet program for the academic challenge and the opportunity to learn alongside other gifted students. They had high expectations of what this program would be able to provide them as they strove to reach their goals. The participation of their friends in the new program was not a factor in their decision to attend. INQUIRE Academy was designed to offer something unusual in public education ? the opportunity to cluster gifted students together, to provide them the opportunity to be intellectually stimulated and challenged by working with peers of the same ability level, to offer multi-age classes, and to offer acceleration based upon student need. For the students in this study, INQUIRE Academy accomplished these goals.