CUSD’s Weinberg Academy earns national recognition - SanTan Sun News SanTan Sun News

CUSD’s Weinberg Academy earns national recognition

September 25th, 2022 SanTan Sun News
CUSD’s Weinberg Academy earns national recognition
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By Ken Sain
Managing Editor

It didn’t take Weinberg Gifted Academy long to put itself on the map.

The U.S. Department of Education recognized the Chandler Unified school in Gilbert as one of just under 300 Blue Ribbon schools across the country only a year after the academy was opened.

“It’s big because I think a big push with National Blue Ribbon for this year, in particular, was really what did to make sure kids have what they need during the pandemic. And that it was hard,” said Weinberg Principal Jennifer Nusbaum.

Only six schools in Arizona were chosen to be National Blue Ribbon Schools this year. CUSD opened Weinberg as its second gifted school in 2021, joining Knox Gifted Academy.

To qualify for a National Blue Ribbon, a school must be nominated and then is selected either because of overall test scores or the growth in those test scores.

Nusbaum said she thinks the school was nominated by the Arizona Department of Education and was selected because of the growth of test scores. A lot of that growth has to do with the conversion from Weinberg Elementary into a gifted academy.

Students must test into a gifted academy, and the testing starts quite young with kids as young as 4 tested even though they usually don’t read at that age. It’s a cognitive test that identifies gifted students at an early age.

“It’s all graphics-based, not text-based,” Nusbaum said of the test.

All second graders at all CUSD schools are given the test. Then, if they are identified as a gifted student, their parents can decide if they want to move them to a gifted academy or not.

There are 609 K-6 students at Weinberg, but even though all students are gifted, that doesn’t mean they are exceptional in all areas, Nusbaum said.

“They don’t come in tidy little packages, gifted learners. They come with all kinds of asynchrony,” she said. “So, their intelligence in one area might be here, but then their social emotional learning might be quite low.”

Teachers add more rigor at a gifted academy. There’s also more of a focus on STEM education. Have a gifted classroom allows teachers to try new things to help students find what interests them.

“Our teachers are so flexible, they’re not stuck into having to do one thing,” said Carolyn Ragatz, who teaches performing arts for all grades at Weinberg. “We also do so much collaboration and working together. [The students] have a lot more freedom in expressing themselves and finding opportunities to do what works for them.”

Since Weinberg is relatively new, the students have experienced being at both a traditional elementary school and a gifted academy. Sixth-grader Jocelyn Herman said there is definitely a difference.

“We do a lot more fun activities, and we do a lot more group projects,” Jocelyn said. “A lot more hands on. We don’t all have to sit in desks and face forward.”

Another sixth grader, Miko Karp, said the whole school takes pride in the Blue Ribbon distinction.

“It means that we’re one of the best schools in the state, and we haven’t even been a school for five years yet,” Miko said.

Nusbaum credited district officials, teachers and staff and parents for helping the school receive the recognition.

CUSD schools have been named either a National Blue Ribbon School or earned an A+ school of excellence award from the state 95 times since 1983.

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