Home > ADHD & Gifted > Quandary: 2005-2006 School Year

Quandary: 2005-2006 School Year

The gifted coordinator tested Halle about two weeks ago, and she scored 98+ percentile on the Ravens. Our district uses the Ravens test because it’s non-verbal and less biased than most other IQ tests. The highest percentile ranking is the 98th percentile, so if a child does better than that, they can’t get a score of the 99th percentile… they are said to have scored 98+. Tyler took this test when he was six years, 4/5 months and in the first grade, third month? I think, and scored (pre-meds, mind you) in the 92nd percentile. Halle is 5 years, 9 months, and just finishing kinder. I had expected her to do well, but I really hadn’t expected her to ceiling the test. The gifted coordinator told me she doesn’t know what to do for Halle next year and suggested she and I meet with the principal. I sent the principal an email last Wednesday requesting a meeting but haven’t received a response. To be honest, I don’t have very high hopes of an acceptable placement. Out of the four 1st grade classes, one is a bilingual classroom (and the teacher is retiring) and one is ESL. In the two traditional classrooms, one teacher took a administrative job at another school, so there is a sub and no permanent replacement as of yet. And in August I witnessed the teacher of the other ‘regular’ classroom ‘disciplining’ two or three little boys who were being sent to lunch detention and I was really bothered by her tone and body language… as well as her volume. I didn’t hear every word she said, but far more than I think I should have heard given the distance between where they were and where I was standing. I would not be comfortable working with her because that incident would always be in the back of my mind and I would always be concerned about her addressing Halle that way. And if Halle is bored now, I can’t see how she’ll be challenged in a bilingual or ESL classroom. Tyler was in a bilingual classroom for first grade and I felt he grew so little as a student in that environment.

Last Wednesday I also visited one of the charter schools I mentioned last month – based on what I’ve read at their web site it seemed to offer the most of what I would be looking for. I toured with the school’s community relations person, and was really impressed with the philosophy and that the school had the student’s work displayed everywhere, bio’s of all the existing teachers. The staff is very diverse, which is important to our family. There are a handful of staff members who are Muslim and from the middle east (three from Turkey), one is Jewish, and another is from Venezuela… and then there is a teacher from Kansas, which from personal experience is really almost like it’s own little country (or planet). They incorporate character development into their curriculum. They use Saxon Math, and let the kids go as far with it as they can. Their sixth grade students are doing calculus. No classes more than 24 students. They do math placement tests for all incoming students… with beginner/intermediate/advanced levels in each class, and offer free tutoring to get kids who are behind at grade level and to give extra attention to kids who are needing extra challenge. They have a mentor program, also free of charge.

After the visit I was thinking about it a lot more seriously. That same night, I went to the ‘open house’ at Julian, where Tyler is supposed to go for fourth grade. I was hoping to meet the teacher and discuss their math curriculum. I had looked at Julian’s report card, and the AIMS %ile is in the teens for both 5th and 8th grade last year, and just 3 years ago was less than 10. I was further concerned to read the following, which was listed as an achievement for the 03-04 school year:

70 students in the RSD tested into Honors Algebra on the Phoenix Union School District Math placement test. Of those, 12 were from Julian. Nine of those 12 were not enrolled in the  gifted program and three of the 12 tested for placement in Geometry.

I think this is great for the nine students from traditional classrooms, but I find it alarming that only 25% of the students were gifted. Not that there should have been fewer ‘traditional’ students, but that I would certainly expect for a gifted program at a school that feeds into a high school with an Aerospace Magnate, to have at least as many gifted as non gifted students achieve placement into honors math. This furthers my concern that the math curriculum for the gifted classrooms is not accelerated.

Well, the event was basically a band showcase where there was not a dedicated opportunity to meet the gifted teachers, and that it had already been performed at King Tyler had already seen the entire performance. I was even further disappointed to learn that there would not be any kind of open house for the gifted program or in general for transitioning third graders and their parents. I attempted to speak with the gifted teacher for 4th grade, and inquired about the math curriculum. She asked if I wanted to know what my child needed to know for fourth grade. I clarified that I was asking what differentiated the gifted curriculum from the traditional curriculum. I was told that there wasn’t really any difference, she just usually finishes the book (I guess the other class doesn’t?) I then asked what concepts she would be covering and was told that there would be a lot of review because the incoming fourth graders wouldn’t be up to par in math. She assured me that this was a district wide problem and included the students coming over from King’s gifted program. The other teacher (whose name I didn’t catch but she may be the ‘math chair’) seemed to concur. Based on feedback I’ve gotten from multiple educators about my son’s math skills, and considering that King’s 3rd grade math AIMs rankings are twice that of Julian’s 5th grade math rankings, I was pretty skeptical of that claim, and downright dismayed at this clear expectation/culture of mediocrity. As I pondered the futility of asking what would be done to challenge students who were not needing remediation or who excelled she invited me to visit her during her planning period at 2:15. We discussed my work schedule, she indicated she was usually on campus until five and perhaps I could come by then. I was about to suggest perhaps a conference call, when she wandered away from the conversation without excusing herself, and never returned. The other teacher remained and indicated that there would be an open house about a week before school starts. I told her very candidly that I had reservations about my son attending school there and that their math program, while the largest concern, was only one of them, and I was not comfortable waiting until school was about to begin to address them. I mentioned the excerpt I quoted above from their scorecard and expressed my concern about the complexity of the curriculum and asked why more gifted students hadn’t placed into honors math. She appeared surprised, as though the disparity in the numbers hadn’t occurred to her, and suggested that was a good question and one that might be good to ask the 8th grade math teacher. I didn’t know whether to laugh or to cry. Preparing students for an 8th grade honors placement exam is not the sole responsibility of the 8th grade math curriculum, it begins when the child enters the school, as each grade builds the foundation for the next. I don’t want to hear what is being done to prepare kids in the 11th inning! I pictured posing that question to whoever teaches 8th grade and being told that the seventh graders weren’t prepared… and then that the sixth graders weren’t prepared, and so on until I reached Ms. Dunn to hear that the third graders are not prepared. The phrase ‘passing the buck’ rang through my mind. The next morning I inquired with Tyler’s current teacher specifically about his math skills, and whether a) I should anticipate that he will need remediation for fourth grade math or b) that he will languish in a classroom where most of his peers need remediation. She assured me that she felt Tyler’s math skills were above par and he is well prepared for fourth grade math. She says she has never gotten any feedback indicating her students were unprepared, and that she watches their test scores and that her students have done very well in math. The teacher also indicated that she keeps in touch with several students who have gone on to Julian and has specifically inquired if there was anything that they were struggling with and that none of them have indicated having trouble with the math curriculum.

I’ve talked to both Joel and Ro about the school situation, and they’re both open to the change. I have a few more questions for the school and I should probably visit at least one of the other schools that looked like possibilities to get a comparison. But at this point it’s pretty likely the kids will be going somewhere else for school next year.

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