Advanced Academic Programs

Rockford Public School offers a varied array of academically advanced services and programs for students and teachers in the Rockford school district. Programming provided by Advanced Academic Programs (AAP) includes:

  • Kindergarten-2nd Grade Reading Interventions
  • 3rd-5th Grade Explore Class pull-out program
  • 6th Grade cluster grouping and AAP Specialist support
  • K-8th Grade teacher consultation and support
  • 6th-8th Grade testing, placement, and accelerated classes

9th–12th grade honors and Advanced Placement classes are offered by RPS. Information on these classes can be found at the high school counseling offices.

Contact: 616.863.6370

A young girl next to a man and a woman holds up a certificate and a trophy plate

Kindergarten – 8th Grade

Programming Offered

Kindergarten – 2nd Grade Reading Interventions

Reading interventions are provided by an AAP Specialist to qualifying students at their home school once per week. Intervention lessons are designed to develop exceptional critical thinking in reading.

3rd – 5th Grade Explore Class

Students in Explore Class demonstrate high reasoning ability and high achievement and are students whose academic needs cannot be met solely through classroom differentiation. Placement in Explore does not identify a student as “gifted”.

AAP Specialists provide differentiated and targeted programming for the range of students in Explore Class through several methods:

  • Classroom Accommodations: The classroom teacher is the primary provider of differentiated classroom work. Teachers with participating Explore Class students receive support and training from an AAP Staff.
  • Explore Class Pull Out: An AAP Specialist will also pull students out of the regular classroom each week. This time is used for development of critical thinking and problem-solving skills. Third grade students aren’t placed until second semester, therefore begin Explore Class pull out mid-year.
  • Cluster Grouping: Students are typically placed with one teacher at each grade level at each school (4th and 5th only) who has been trained in differentiation best practices. Cluster grouping is an effective and widely used method of differentiation.
  • AAP Staff Building Assignments:
    – Sonia Andrews (Explore Class) – Parkside, Meadow Ridge, Roguewood, Valley View
    – Melissa Pischner-Stull (Explore Class) -Belmont, Crestwood, Lakes, Cannonsburg
    – Nancy McPhee (K-2 Reading Interventions) – All elementary schools

6th Grade

Students who participated in 3rd-5th grade Explore Class receive differentiated experiences in 6th grade:

  • Cluster Grouping: Students are typically placed in one of two selected magnets at each middle school. Teachers in these magnets have been trained in differentiation best practices. Cluster grouping is an effective and widely used method of differentiation.
  • AAP Interventions: Students meet with an AAP Specialist for one class period typically every 2-3 weeks.
  • AAP Staff Building Assignments:
    – Sonia Andrews – North Rockford Middle
    – Melissa Pischner-Stull – East Rockford Middle

6th Grade Pre-Algebra

Students can test for placement in the 8th grade pre-algebra class as a 6th grade student. This is a very rigorous math track intended for 3-5% of students. Testing takes place in the spring of the student’s 5th grade year.


7th/8th Grade ROCK Classes

Advanced classes, referred to as ROCK classes, are offered at both middle schools in English language arts, social studies, and science. Students participating in 6th grade advanced math continue into further advanced math coursework.

ROCK Course Descriptions

Placement Methods

K-2 Students 

  • Students can be recommended by their teacher for screening for reading interventions if they are 2+ grade levels above in fiction and non-fiction reading. Recommendations are accepted in late fall for K-2 and again in early winter for K students who have made significant gains since fall.
  • Recommended students will be administered the verbal subtest of the CogAT.
  • Qualifying for reading interventions does not identify the student as gifted and does not grant placement in 3rd-5th grade programming.
  • Participation in K-2nd  AAP programming continues through the end of 2nd grade without additional testing.
  • Students may only be re-tested one-time for K-2nd grade AAP programming.
  • New enrollees to RPS must wait until the next scheduled testing window to be screened. Students may be recommended for testing by their teachers only and only if they meet the qualitative and quantitative criteria for recommendations.

3-5 Students

  • All students are first tested in the winter of their 3rd grade year using the NNAT (Naglieri Nonverbal Ability Test). Students scoring within the accepted range qualify for further testing using the CogAT (Cognitive Abilities Test).
  • 4th and 5th grade students may be recommended for testing by their teachers only and only if they meet the qualitative and quantitative criteria for recommendations.
  • Students may only be re-tested one-time for 3rd-5th grade AAP programming. One year must lapse between administrations, according the test guidelines.
  • Qualifying for 3rd-5th grade programming does not identify the student as “gifted”, though select Explore Class students may meet the criteria for giftedness.
  • New enrollees to RPS are given a transition period of up to 9 weeks. After the waiting period, teachers can recommend the student be screened if the student meets the qualitative and quantitative criteria. The only exception to this transition period is commensurate standardized testing that warrants early screening.

6th Grade Pre-Algebra

  • Students must test for placement in pre-algebra in 6th A nationally-normed, timed, above-level math test is used.
  • To participate in testing, students must score in the district top 5% in NWEA math in both fall and winter. Teachers and parents may also recommend students for testing.

7th/8th Grade ROCK Classes

  • Placement in ROCK English Language Arts, Social Studies and/or Science is based on NWEA scores and teacher input.
  • All students’ NWEA scores are reviewed each spring for ROCK class placement in 7th and 8th
  • New RPS students can be evaluated for placement upon teacher request after current fall NWEA testing. The only exception to this is recent commensurate standardized test scores that warrant early review.

Parent Resources

Suggested Reading

  • Raisin’ Brains: Surviving My Smart Family by Karen Isaacson
  • Smart Talk: What Kids Say about Growing Up Gifted by Robert Schultz, James R. Delisle
  • Parenting Gifted Kids: Tips for Raising Happy And Successful Children by James R. Delisle
  • Life in the Fast Brain: Keeping Up With Gifted Minds by Karen Isaacson
  • Living with Intensity by Susan Daniels
  • When Gifted Kids Don’t Have All the Answers: How to Meet Their Social and Emotional Needs by Jim Delisle, Judy Galbraith, and Pamela Espeland
  • The Gifted Kids Survival Guide: A Teen Handbook  by Judy Galbraith, James R. Delisle, and Pamela Espeland
  • The Survival Guide for Parents of Gifted Kids: How to Understand, Live With, and Stick Up for Your Gifted Child by Sally Yahnke, Ph.D., Walker and Caryn Pernu
  • Keys to Parenting the Gifted Child  by Sylvia B. Rimm

Suggested Websites