Thomas County Schools Introduces Area’s Most Comprehensive and Flexible Program for Gifted, Talented, and High Achieving Students

The Thomas County School System has introduced a new program for gifted and high achieving students in grades 5-12. Dr. James Rehberg, the Thomas County School System’s director of gifted and talented instruction, will direct the MERIT program in conjunction with middle school and high school building administrators.



Known as the MERIT program (Maximizing Education to Realize Intellectual Transformation), the program consists of an academic team of students at each grade level in grades 5-8 and a series of advanced courses for students in grades 9-12.


MERIT students receive advanced content and accelerated instruction in academic subjects with “Honors” classes for students in their identified area(s) of strength. MERIT offers the most comprehensive and flexibleacademic options for gifted and accelerated study in our area.


The program allows MERIT students to enroll in accelerated classes and select up to four areas for advanced academic study while continuing to be part of the same exploratory or elective schedule as their peers who are not in the accelerated program.


Gifted director Dr. Jim Rehberg stated, “The purpose of the MERIT program is to challenge students to achieve their maximum academic potential while providing a supportive learning environment for advanced study and recognition for outstanding academic achievement.”


The MERIT teams offer students in grades 5-8 the option to take “Honors” level classes in their area(s) of identified strength. For example, there is an accelerated class offered in mathematics for students who score at or above the 90th percentile in their grade in mathematics. This class is intended for students with a very strong interest in math or science who are interested in seeking admission to highly competitive science or engineering programs after high school. Students who enter this course sequence in fifth or sixth grade will be able to take two courses of college calculus before high school graduation. While this may not be a goal for every student, the path is available for those who have the ability and interest to work at that level.


Beginning in sixth grade, students are receiving an academic course in Spanish each year, allowing students who begin the program in sixth grade to earn two full years of high school Spanish credit while still in middle school. Middle school MERIT students have the opportunity to earn high school credits in English, math, foreign language, and science


At the high school level, the MERIT Program consists of a program of study which includes a series of Honors, Advanced Placement, and College Level courses. To be considered a high school MERIT student, a student must complete a prescribed number of designated honors or Advanced Placement courses. Students who qualify may enroll in a program to earn a full college associates degree by the time that they graduate from high school.

“The MERIT program of study fosters an increase in academic rigor and, in turn, an increase in student achievement. It will provide ambitious and motivated students with opportunities to accelerate and excel while recognizing and celebrating academic accomplishment, community service, and extracurricular involvement,” Rehberg said.

Back to School News      Print News Article