“Dr. Fall”

Memphis City Schools has a “gifted and talented” program called CLUE – Creative Learning in a Unique Environment.  A mom recently asked for feedback on this program, and I’ve been meaning to write about it for a while now, so a perfect opportunity!

The program has been around since 1970 and I think it’s the longest running gifted and talented program in the country (assuming my notes from last fall are correct).  It is locally funded through the third grade and state funded in later grades.

I first heard about this program when my older son started at Grahamwood in the first grade.  I was told the requirement to be accepted into this program was to be reading at a third grade level (two grades above your current grade) and knew he was not there yet.  I was surprised at how many kids in his class were in this program.  Shocked in fact.  At the end of the school year he was tested again and got in!  Wow!  When I told his first grade teacher she got so excited as it was certainly a reflection of the work she had done that school year.

So this past fall my second grader started going to CLUE.  Two days a week he goes to a separate room for 2.5 hours.  His CLUE class is split between students from his regular class and from another second grade class.  They do brainteasers, group work, creative thinking, research, problem solving, brainstorming and other “outside the box” things.

There are no tests, no grades, and no homework.  Well, he did have homework once.  His first task was to eat at a fast food restaurant and bring the non-food trash into school.  Huh?  We thought maybe a lesson on recycling?  Nope!  They were broken into groups and each student came up with a design to turn the trash into a scarecrow.  Each group had to pick one design and build it as a team.  My son’s group named theirs “Dr. Fall” because he kept falling over.  It was a great lesson in teamwork and troubleshooting.  At the end of this unit they took a field trip to the Lichterman Nature Museum to see the scarecrows exhibit.

Your child can get into CLUE as early as age 4. I’m not exactly sure what the qualifications are at this age but reading isn’t one of them.  Four year olds attend CLUE classes at Downtown Elementary or Chimneyrock Elementary (Cordova) two days a week for 2.5 hours each (at least those are the two school options one mom I know was given).

Once your child is in kindergarten they need to be reading two grades above their current grade to get into the program.  In the third grade CLUE students are screened based on achievement scores, an IQ test, checklists and parent input. I’ve been told that a lot of kids stop CLUE at this point as they do not qualify as “gifted” based on these measures. 

Here is what some other moms (and a CLUE teacher) in East Memphis had to say about the CLUE program and the testing process:

It can be parent or teacher initiated – talk to your child’s teacher. To be placed in CLUE, a child must read 2 grade levels above. My kindergartener got in halfway through the year, but she was the only kindergartener that year. It is her absolute favorite part of school. Creative thinking, problem-solving, research, and great field trips. They explore a topic (like unit studies) from every aspect. For example, the study might be about chocolate: they read “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” research the history of candy, create artwork, do logic problems about candy, and go on a field trip to the botanic garden for a class about how candy is made from natural sources. One of the gems of the Memphis City School system.

My son got into clue at the end of K (was not ready at the beginning of the year at all)- he was tested in Feb at the teacher’s recommendation b/c he was reading on a 2-3rd grade level. You can have a really smart child but unless the reading is there they don’t get into CLUE. After 3rd grade they go by TCAP scores.

Ask his teacher to do a STAR assessment & see if he is there. It’s possible she has already requested he be tested & MCS hasn’t caught up yet.

My son was in CLUE, and I strongly support it. I just wish more of the whole teaching/learning process was based on the same methods, it’s captivating for the children!

My son is in K and participates in CLUE at Idlewild. He was placed as a 4-year-old last year and attended the preschool CLUE program at Downtown E. He loves CLUE, it’s one of his favorite things about school. And I cannot say enough good things about the preschool CLUE program! It was just what he needed last year! Students are usually recommended by their teacher and must be reading 2 grade levels above their current grade. They are also tested in 3rd grade with an IQ test. My son was placed based on IQ because he began as a preschooler. However, his fellow K students must be reading 2 grades above to be placed. The requirements can get a little confusing.

I don’t feel like I can say it any better than the above moms, but I definitely think it is a great addition to my sons education. I highly recommend it. By the way my son was tested in preschool and he didn’t have to be reading at all yet. They based it in Star and IQ scores. If you wait until Kindergarten then reading 2 grades above Is required. 

Yes to everything the above moms have said! Mine started CLUE at the beginning of 1st grade and loves it. It’s his favorite part of school! I was in CLUE ages ago in grades 4-6, and I still remember a lot of the cool projects we did and trips we took!

Thanks moms! I’ve taught it since you were kids. You couldn’t have said it better. We take pride in CLUE and work hard to meet your kids’ needs in all ways