This story has been corrected.
Hudson PEP Elementary School in Longview needs to add three more first-grade classrooms before school starts in August.
After Longview ISD switched to just the Iowa Assessment, a national standardized test, for all students in kindergarten through seventh grade, 234 kindergarten students qualified for Hudson PEP, said District Testing Coordinator Catina Love.
Of those, the district has room to accept 102 students, Love said, and that means expanding from six classrooms to nine. The three new classrooms will accommodate 66 of the students, she said.
To make space, Hudson PEP Principal Sue Wilson said workers are cleaning out rooms that had been used for other purposes on the campus, waxing the floors and moving in desks and chairs.
To decide which of the students who qualified actually get admitted to Hudson PEP, Wilson said a school committee starts at the top with the highest scorers and calls parents to let them know their children qualified. Parents can accept or decline.
In the past, to get into Hudson PEP, students had to be nominated or parents chose to test for admission, Love said. Students would then take multiple tests to determine eligibility, she said.
In the 2018-19 school year, all students were tested for that opportunity and will be from now on, she said.
Because Hudson PEP covers first through fifth grades, determining eligibility through testing affects only kindergartners through fourth-graders.
And because testing will continue for all students in eligible grades, Wilson said she has been assured the district has a plan for future growth.
“Hudson PEP is an accelerated campus,” Wilson said. “It’s for students average to above, and PEP stands for Planned Enrichment Program. We just take students who have the ability to learn and have the motivation to learn, and we take them where they are and take them as far as they can go up that scale.”
Wilson said usually in first grade about 5% of those students are identified as gifted and talented. By the time they’re in fifth grade, that number jumps to about 50%.
“They have been exposed to a higher-level thinking,” she said. “Their teachers have pushed them as far as they can go, so each year they sharpen the saw until they are showing the ability to be a gifted student.”
Of all the kindergarten students who qualified for Hudson PEP, 172 were Montessori students, said Director of Montessori Jacqueline Burnett.
“It’s because of our materials and the opportunity to be met where they are and expose them to higher levels of material,” she said. “We’ve never tested all students before; parents made the decision if they wanted their child tested, and not knowing, understanding the testing process — some just didn’t have their child tested.”
Love said the data from the testing is not only used to see if students qualify for Hudson PEP, but it also will be used help teachers fill gaps in instruction.
Because of the increase in testing, costs increased for the district.
In the 2017-18 school year, the district spent $23,392.55 on gifted and talented assessments, spokeswoman Elizabeth Ross said.
In 2018-19, that amount jumped to $186,982.80.
“That is to ensure no child gets excluded, no child gets left behind, and no child gets profiled,” Ross said.