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Gifted Education / PACE

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Gifted Education /PACE
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What is PACE?

PACE stands for Plano Academic and Creative Education and is the cornerstone of the district's gifted and talented education program and serves students in kindergarten through graduation. Students may join at any grade level. PACE is more than a course; it is a motivating and challenging experience that lasts over multiple years of a student's education. The PACE program provides an invigorating, creative, and rigorous learning environment to nurture the unique academic and social - emotional needs of students requiring gifted and talented services.

The PACE program focuses on gifted academic experiences and personal development.  Although many PACE students also possess artistic or musical talent, courses exist outside of the PACE program for students talented in speech, the performing arts, and/or the visual arts.

How do students participate in PACE?

Students participate in PACE based upon the results of standardized tests and observation / performance in the classroom. Parents, teachers, and/or students may make referrals for PACE assessment by completing the appropriate grade level referral packet (below) and returning it to the campus Gifted Specialist by the stated deadline. No referral is declined unless it is unsigned by a parent or submitted after the published deadline. Kindergarten students are assessed in January/February for services beginning in March. Students in first through eighth grade are assessed in the spring for participation the following fall. High school students are assessed at the start of each school year for immediate participation.

Referral Packets

PACE serves students who, based upon a preponderance of the evidence gathered during the assessment process, perform at or show the potential to perform at or above the second standard deviation from the mean on standardized ability and achievement tests. After reviewing the data and information collectively for each candidate, decisions are made on an individual basis by a trained campus committee. The district does not place a 'cap' on PACE enrollment. Plano ISD is unable to use assessment conducted outside of a school environment such as that conducted by a private counselor or clinician when making decisions for Plano ISD students.

May students transfer into PACE from another school district?

Public school gifted education programs are designed around the local student population. Consequently, there are no specific national or state test scores that readily indicate the need for advanced services between school districts. However, based upon a school district's local norm, the concept of two standard deviations above the norm tends to be the prevalent philosophy behind gifted educational services, so as the local norm changes, so would the second standard deviation. All decisions regarding PACE participation are made at the campus level.

Students formally identified as requiring gifted services in the previous district must provide a letter or document on official school stationary acknowledging that the student was a participant in a gifted program in another district and must provide the test scores used to make that decision. Within five to six weeks of receiving that information or sooner as schedules permit, the campus PACE Specialist will review the data to determine whether or not the expectations of the previous district equal, exceed, or approximate local expectations.

Plano ISD will honor test results from other districts provided they are not more than two years old, were group administered, and were nationally normed ability and/or achievement tests. Plano ISD is unable to honor assessment conducted outside of a school environment such as that conducted by a private counselor or clinician. The campus PACE Specialist will adminster any additional testing needed to complete the PACE Assessment and Referral Process, if any is required.

Students not formally identified as requiring gifted services in another district are assessed according to the regular assessment and referral schedule except for those students who meet the criteria outlined in the document below.

What do students experience in PACE?

PACE in Elementary (Grades K-5)

While all students requiring gifted and advanced services receive differentiated lessons in the general education classroom , the elementary PACE program is a pull-out program. Beginning in the second semester of kindergarten, participating students step out of the general education classroom for a defined period of time that increases as the student moves through the grade as follows:

  • K = 30 minutes each week
  • 1st through 3rd grade = 2 hours each week
  • 4th through 5th grade = 3 hours each week

Elementary PACE students within a geodesic domeDuring this time, students are exposed to district designed curriculum based on the academic and developmental needs and attributes of the individual. The PACE Specialist is the campus gifted specialist for all grade levels and is trained in the nature, needs, and social and emotional development of students requiring gifted services.

In the general education classroom, PACE students are clustered together in groups of 4-10 students and are taught by teachers trained according to state standards for general education teachers of students requiring gifted services. PACE students and any other student who shows the need for specific advanced learning experiences, have the opportunity to experience differentiated curriculum at advanced levels in math, language arts, and the integrated curriculum (science and social studies).

PACE in Secondary (Grades 6-10)

In grades 6 through 10, PACE becomes a daily academic course in the student's schedule also frequently referred to as the Humanities. In middle school (6th-8th grade), the Humanities is embedded in the required Social Studies course taught by teachers trained in gifted education.

Middle school PACE students campaigning in a mock revolutionary-era electionMiddle school Humanities curriculum emphasizes above-level cognitive experiences, opportunities to practice advanced problem-solving, interdisciplinary learning, extends and enriches selected grade-level TEKS and aspects of the district's middle school curriculum, and explores aspects of human creativity in the arts in a variety of intellectual fields.

Humanities students focus on connections between literature, history, art, and the human experience.

The premise behind studying the Humanities is that analyzing human perspective and creative expression broadens understanding and fosters intellectual openness. Students often explore questions such as: “Why does one person see the world differently than another?

High school PACE students during a Sparta vs. Athens symposiumIn high school (9th and 10th grade), PACE Humanities is provided in a two-year interdisciplinary course that combines Pre-AP English I with AP World History.

The basic content is a historical study of the commonalities of the fine arts, including literature, the visual arts, architecture, and music. Humanities I examines topics through the Renaissance; Humanities II examines the period from the Renaissance to modern times. Students will learn and practice the craft of writing through various products. Literature from a variety of world traditions will also be a key focus.

Ninth and tenth grade students will sit in the same class while earning credit in separate courses; ninth graders earn Pre-AP English I credit while tenth graders earn AP World History credit.  At the conclusion of Humanities II, students may take the AP World History Exam to possibly earn college credit.  Humanities does NOT fulfill the fine arts requirement for graduation and is not recognized as a fine arts course by TEA.

Gifted Services in Upper Secondary (Grades 11 & 12)

While the formal PACE program ends in 10th grade, gifted services continue through additional opportunities. Students may continue to have their academic and developmental needs met through American Studies (designed as an interdisciplinary experience reminiscent of the Humanities experience) and/or a variety of Advanced Placement (AP) and International Baccalaureate (IB) courses offered in all core disciplines. American Studies combines AP US History and English III AP Language to create a daily two-hour cultural experience simultaneously enabling students to explore the connections between literature and history. Students explore the history of the United States with special emphasis placed on the study of rhetorical styles and structures of important historical documents and readings.

This course also focuses on the cultural accomplishments as manifested in art, architecture, literature, music, and other visual media. Students learn and practice the craft of writing through various products, building the cognition necessary for success on both the AP US History and AP English Language exams. American literature of all genres is incorporated into the curriculum within the structure of the historical study and used as a method of enhancing the depiction of historical time periods. At the culmination of the course, students may choose to take both the AP US History and the AP English Language exams in the hopes of earning college credit.


Theresa Biggs, Coordinator of Advanced Academics
Theresa.Biggs@pisd.eduopens in new window
(469) 752-8172 / Fax (469) 752-8031