Frequently Asked Questions

Q: How is the ATLAS Academy different than what is currently offered for my child?

A: The ATLAS Academy will provide gifted students with accelerated learning, compacted curriculum, and interesting field experiences. The compacted curriculum will allow students an opportunity to study unique topics and to develop college readiness skills in an environment that interfaces daily with technology.

Students will have opportunities to use technology daily through interactive lessons, online discussion groups, and independent study.

Students in the ATLAS Academy will have the opportunity to accelerate through concepts in a unit of study or to accelerate through a subject area by meeting the requirements of credit by exam as outlined by district policy.

Students in the ATLAS Academy will participate in "mini-courses" that will focus on skills that will prepare them for the "global" world in which they live and will be able to participate in independent studies with a mentor to produce professional level products to be evaluated by experts in that particular field. Academy students will be able to suggest topics for mini-courses.

Students in the ATLAS Academy will be able to interact with their intellectual peers in all of their core classes, with opportunities to discuss what it means to be gifted and to be with peers and adults that truly understand this concept.

Students in the ATLAS Academy will receive support in dealing with giftedness, asynchrony, perfectionism, friendship development, stress, and time management.

Q: Where will ATLAS Academy be?

A: Tennyson Middle School

Q: Will transportation be available?

A: Transportation will be available from your child's home campus.

Q: Will my child be able to participate in Co Curricular activities?

A: Yes, you child will be able to participate with the same Co Curricular activities as the other Tennyson MS students.

Q: Will my child be required to take additional testing?

A: No. Students identified as GT in Waco ISD applying for the ATLAS Academy will not need additional testing.

Q: Does my child need a teacher recommendation?

A: No. No teacher recommendations are required.

Q: What are "mini-courses"?

A: Mini-courses are interest based courses that will be developed by the ATLAS Academy teachers based on student interest and relevant global issues. The purpose of mini-courses is to give ATLAS Academy students the opportunity to explore a variety of topics for in-depth study on relevant issues, including opportunities to apply what they have learned to real-world experiences. In addition, students may have the option to conduct independent studies under the supervision of a mentor.

ATLAS Academy students must participate in mini-courses or complete a research project in the Co Curricular course they are taking instead of the mini-course.

Q: Does a student need to re-apply each year?

A: No. Once the student has selected the ATLAS Academy and is successful in the academy, he/she remains in the academy. A student will be asked to sign a letter of intent to return to the academy.

Q: What if we accept, and then decline. Can we return to our home school?

A: Yes. We expect all accepted students to complete at least one year of the program before returning to their home campus. Transition between schools can be stressful for the student. It’s really not in the students' best interest to change schools frequently.

Q: How will the teachers be chosen?

A: Teaching positions for the ATLAS Academy will be posted on the Waco ISD website in accordance with Waco ISD’s Human Resource Services policies and procedures. All qualified applicants both in Waco ISD may apply for posted teaching positions.

At a minimum, teacher applicants must have the required certification to teach at the middle school level in their specified content area, have obtained the 30 hours of GT training as required by Texas law (19 TAC§ 89.2 (1)).

Once a pool of applicants has been established, qualified applicants will be interviewed by a selection committee and recommended for hire per Waco ISD Human Resource Services protocol.

Q: Will academy students be able to participate in field trips?

A: Students will participate in field trips that are appropriate and are considered a critical part of the curriculum.

Q: Will ATLAS Academy students have classes with non-ATLAS Academy students?

A: Depending on the schedule created at the school and the electives selected by the students, students may have elective classes and lunch with non-academy students.

Q: Will the ATLAS Academy cause my child to have MORE homework than other GT students in Waco ISD?

A: Gifted children have many interests; therefore, the intent of homework is to either extend or enrich classroom learning. Students at the academy should have about the same amount of homework as other students throughout the district who are in the same grade and may possibly have less homework.

Q: Doesn't this program develop an elitist attitude among students and families?

A: The Waco ISD ATLAS Academy is providing students with an exceptional learning and appropriately challenging education. Contrary to popular belief, when the gifted are placed in classes together, they do not come to the conclusion that they are better than everyone else. Rather, they are humbled by finding peers who know more than they do. All efforts are made to ensure students, families, and the community are aware that this academy is about "educational need" not "better treatment."