"High Achievement always takes place in the framework of high expectation." - Charles Kettering

Friday, January 28, 2011

To AP or not to AP, That is the Question.

Click on the post for Wisconsin State Journal Columnist Chris Rickert's take on AP programming. Anybody who knows me will tell you I am passionate about this topic. So much so that I wrote a ten page report for the Board in 2009 on funding for Gifted and Talented staff resources in our district as compared to that for Special Education. My premise was that GT students were special needs students and deserved equal consideration even if there wasn't a law with no funding to protect them.

The level of dedicated funding for Gifted and Talented (GT) programming in our district is abysmal. GT students comprise approximately 15% of the student body on average and, coincidentally, in our district as well. Our district serves about the same percentage of special needs students as well. At the time of my report there was only two full-time equivalent (FTE) positions dedicated to GT education in our district serving 266 students. To contrast, there were 52.3 FTE staff dedicated to special education serving 300 students.

The educational buzzword these days to solve this problem is Differentiated Instruction (DI). The comments on Chris Rickert's column indicate to me that the general public has not experienced successful differentiated instruction at this time. It's a mystery to me how teachers are supposed to successfully teach students whose skills can realistically span 3 or 4 or more grade levels. More power to them if they can, but this is expecting an awful lot from a bunch of teachers who are already stretched taut or past the breaking point.

But Chris Rickert struck one note that hit home with me. What's wrong with having high expectations OF EVERYONE? Once my oldest was in high school, she was on the AP English track. But some of her friends took the "regular" English classes. These are bright kids who weren't necessarily as passionate about language arts as my daughter. But the books they read could hardly be considered literature. I would even classify some of it as tripe. After I learned this, I informed my poor younger kid that they will be taking AP English in high school and don't even consider otherwise. Every kid should have the priviledge of reading "the classics." They help form a cultural norm and, especially living in white bread Evansville, can broaden horizons and give world views that kids might not otherwise have the opportunity to have. Classics are thought provoking and fabulous. That's why they're called classics. So Rickert is right in the sense that every child deserves exposure to AP curriculum if the standard curriculum is tripe. Perhaps the expectation of the teacher would change based on the incoming level of student, which again would rely heavily on a teacher skilled in DI.

What do you think? Can teachers successfully navigate teaching students of such a wide variety of skills in one classroom? Does taking AP classes diminish a student's opportunity to socialize with a diverse population? Doesn't gym, art, health and all those other graduation requirements count in the socialization spectrum? I'd be curious to see what Evanston Illinois student achievement looks like in a few years and whether students there believe they are prepared for college under the new curriculum.


Anonymous said...

O.K. I understand your frustration with the lack
of funding for gifted and talented. It would be nice if there was more money for this program.

There are two very big differences in what you would like and what there is.

1. Special needs kids require services way different than gifted and talented. That would be the biggest difference in staffing.

2. There is more time needed to work with the special needs kids, obviously if they picked things up as quickly as gifted and talented there would be no need for special education.

I think you are comparing apples to oranges and that does not even begin to work

If my child were fortunate enough to be gifted and talented, which they are, just not in the same way you are speaking of.

But if they were I would be grateful that my child is fortunate enough to be blessed with academic skills at the level you are talking about.

I think you need to walk a few miles in the shoes of a family with special needs, or special education and you would realize how fortunate you are.

Holding the school, teachers and students to higher standards? My god they can barely muster the testing to pass the NCLB.

It's a great thought, and if they could get the NCLB down that could be the ultimate goal.

When we were in school my parents sent my sister to live with my aunt here in Evansville because they had such a great gifted and talented program.

But within that same year my parents found that Evansville's G&T program still was not up to my sister's skills and they sent her to Edge wood high school, which meant a lot of money, and she lived with a family in the Madison area.

End of the story, she graduated top of her law class, after practicing of over 10 years, is now a Judge.

Some times parents have to stop expecting it all from the schools and do what needs to be done them selves..



Katy said...

I know we disagree completely on this issue. Poor parents of GT students cannot send their child to Edgewood to challenge their student, nor should they have to. When GT students are not adequately nurtured and challenged, they get bored and act out, then get labeled disruptive, ADD or unstable. Worse case scenario: they drop out of school. An opportunity to nurture minds that have the capacity to solve the problems our world faces is lost forever, possibly. The bottom line is that I am not advocating for reducing funding for special education, nor am I saying that special education is not important. Rather, I advocate FOR the GT students: they too have special needs and deserve adequate consideration and funding. Just like parents of special needs children are not expected to provide exceptional programming for their child at their own expense, neither should parents of academically gifted children be expected to pay thousands of dollars annually to provide adequate programming for their child. Parents need a very strong constitution to challenge the status quo of a government bureacracy to successfully seek and obtain help for their gifted child in Evansville. For various reasons, not all parents are able to do this. That is where the problem lies for me. Every gifted child deserves to be encouraged. Our current system discourages finding students outside of the second standard deviation on the bell curve.

You know as well as I do that the Special Ed. system at ECSD fails students on a regular basis. In light of all the extraordinary funding allocated to it, this seems to be the true heart and soul of the matter. I expect routine failure in the GT sphere in our district given the historic lack of priority it has been alloted. Considering a 5.7:1 ratio of students to dedicated special ed teachers, I have a much higher expectation of success for this program than for the GT program. Yet I continually hear of families who transfer out of the district because their child's exceptional needs aren't being met both gifted and remedially. Don't even get me started on the "twice exceptional" children, those with documented special needs AND who are academically gifted. They just get screwed twice.

I turn your own phrase back to you. Until you walk a mile in the shoes of a parent of a gifted child, you shouldn't make assumptions about which you are underinformed. The premise that Gifted Children "can do it without help" is false. Ask GT educators, who will passionately tell you about the social-emotional needs of these kids. Gifted children are often emotional because they are hypersensitive to the world around them. They constantly face issues with hyperstimulation, like a kid who is overtired. They are mislabelled and misunderstood. There are rare cognitive peers their own age and this emphasizes their "differences." Instead of revelling in their gifts, some teachers are jealous and make their already challenging life more miserable. The needs of a GT students aren't exclusively academic rigor, just as the needs of the special ed. students aren't exclusively academic remediation. There are enormous psycho-emotional hurdles to surmount for both.

Katy said...

I thank God every day for my precious children, but their academic achievement isn't the reason I am thankful. I am very proud of them because they all work very hard, not because they get straight A's. But it sounds like you're asking parents of gifted children to shut up and be grateful for what they have and not advocate for what it should be. Where would the ADA be if advocates in the '70s listened when they were told to be grateful for the crumbs of special education they already had?

I reiterate, the proposed solution, both in the article and in Evansville, is Differentiated Instruction. Those who have experienced this failing in their own cases have commented on the article. Is it possible that this is another educational model that can work in theory, but in reality only a very small percentage of exceptionally GIFTED teachers are capable of successfully delivering to all levels of learners?

Mike said...

Has the district ever considered other means to fund AP classes? For instance using local colleges to enroll our students and take courses. We could then save money by paying for individual students. Of course this would require a partnership with that local college at a reduced tuition rate. Thoughts?

Katy said...

There are contingencies in place for students who exceed the high school offerings to attend college classes on the district's dime. There is also a program called Porter's Scholars that teams with Beloit college to give Senior honors students the chance to take college classes. I agree that a formalized program would be better understood by all.

Anonymous said...

Special education in our school does fail, and fails to often for the amount of money given. You will not get a argument from me on that . We have talked a lot about this.

But it fails not just in failing to make progress with special education kids, but also too many parents with kids of special needs have had to fight tooth and nail and foot and whatever to get services for their kids.

I give Theresa Daane a lot of credit, she has brought change. But not enough.

HOWEVER Evansville is guilty of saying ' NO your child does not qualify for services. When certain students have come from other districts where they received the very services that Evansville says they do not qualify for.

Evansville Special Ed program does not give services easily. Parents have to fight, and at times dispute the findings of the school to get services for their kids.

The difference is Special Ed children need services just to learn.

I take offense at your comment that your kids work hard. So are you suggesting that if kids are not gifted and talented they do not work hard?

I get that just because a child is labeled gifted and talented does not mean they do not work hard for that A.

I know many kids who work their butts off to get a C, and they work hard. That is a major win for them.

I have heard you make that comment before and it is offensive to those who really struggle and are proud of that C. Because one can work just a hard for C , as those who get the A.

Anonymous said...

As far as "poor parents of gifted an talented." .,, my parents were not rich, they were/are frugal. There are also scholarships and grants one can get.

I know of several parents in the district who have sent their kids to beloit college or blackhawk tech for advanced classes.

You more than anyone are well aware the money is just not their to fund everything , everyone wants.

By law the school has to provide special education classes/services.

Emotional needs of gifted and talented? I think any teenager has emotional needs . The school has a counselor, and guidance counselors that anyone can use.

However they need to hire another school counselor, have you ever tried tracking down Mrs.Hannibal she is way over loaded.

I also take both my kids to a counselor on my dime. I do not expect the school to do it all. . I take my time from work, gas money, expense of the counselor, on my dime.

We started taking my son to a counselor because he stresses big time about not getting A's or at the least B's. He puts a lot of pressure on himself, and then he stresses and shuts down.

If a gifted and talented child has a I.E.P., have it written in they meet with Mrs. Hannibal once a week, every two weeks just to chat . I know other parents who have that written in to their G&T I.E.P.

Anonymous said...

We also take our child for private tutoring for reading. The level at many of these students DO NOT READ at is unbelievable . The school blew it, they test kids year after year, and it takes them how long to decide your child should be reading at a higher level. That is just un-excusable.

If it was not for NCLB testing they never would have mentioned it I completely believe that.

I have other parents tell me 'The Evanville school district did not teach my child how to read. " Many parents have gotten their average grade, no special needs child help out side of the school because the district is just not doing it.

I do understand your point, it does not seem right for any parent to have to pay out of pocket for college classes for their well deserving child.

That being said I think this MONEY that Heidi wants to spend on 4k could much better be spent else where within the district. There are too many needs that not are being met.

Like I have said before work with what you have, before adding more.

I would love to see more/better curriculum for college bound students, I have long said that.

We just do not match up to other schools for the amount of money we spend.

Example in Cross Plains, they have 3 math classes Junior High students can choose from , one of them being advanced math. What do we have in our Junior High?

This is a reason why I think virtual schools are going to end up hurting Evansville big time, they offer a lot more options than Evansville does.

Advanced students can move right along and not have to wait for the rest of the class, on the opposite end students can take their time until they understand a subject and not get run over because the class is moving to fast.

So I do understand your point, its not even that I disagree. But having walked the path to getting services for a child, it can be a nightmare in the Evansville school district and they should be a shamed of them selves.

As far as staffing and the numbers. They have cut the number of special education aides. They did not replace the special ed teacher at the h.s. this fall or at the T.R.I.S. school.

Because of the fact it seems to be the special education area that struggles the most with passing NCLB I think they need all the help they can get.

However I do believe for as much help as they do have they should be passing with ease..

Other schools do it, schools with more special education students, pass year after year, with out being in the 'safe harbor' area.

Well you got me going.. I think we are both very passionate about these issues. At the end of the day it is important for both of us to continue to advocate for what we believe , for our children and others children all in the hopes of making our district a great district for our kids and one we can be proud of.


** I had to post three x get it all on here. It said I exceeded how many characters it could be.

I also never told you to shut up, but to look at the other side of the issue as I do for your opinion.

Katy said...

I too had to split up my comments to get all I wanted to say written down. "Exceeds character limitation" was my error code.

I am sorry if I offended you with my remark about how I was proud of my kids because they worked hard, not because they got straight A's. The sentence I took out to meet the character limit was "I would be equally proud of them if they worked this hard and achieved all C's." A strong work ethic will get people through a lot of life misery. I sort of figured those who knew me would understand the inference. I do not for a minute believe the hard working kids whose best effort produces C's are slackers. But there is a very large contingent of folks out there that labor under the impression that high achieving and GT students never have to work for their good grades. I'm sure both factions have their fair share of slackers, but they are few and far between. It took my own sister 20 years to understand and acknowledge that the reason I got good grades was because I worked hard, not because I was some wunderkind. Coincidentally, her revelation came when she started going to college at age 40 to be a nurse. When she spent time with me over the phone helping her with her math and science classes, she realized I didn't know it all either, but I knew how to find out the answers. It was a real bonding moment for us both.

This year my son has chosen to put his nose to the grindstone and work to the ability I knew he had all along. It was part maturity, part getting rid of an abysmal teacher, part seeing his sister achieve NHS and part not worrying about his Dad having heart surgery anymore. His recognition of how important it is to work his hardest to achieve his goal of being an engineer like his Dad is also part of his maturity. I tell him every day how proud I am of his hard work. He has proven to himself that he is capable of achieving the level he wants to and that is the best part.

As I stated in other comments here, there are numerous out of district options for GT students once they have exhausted the "capstone" (highest offered) classes at EHS. Porter's Scholars at Beloit College and various Blackhawk Tech classes come to mind. There is also online and other electronic and face to face options. The district relies heavily on these options. As a result, I believe they have become complacent regarding other needs of the GT students.

Katy said...

OK, here we go again with the comment split up thing...

I'm sure you didn't mean to, but it seemed like you pooh-poohed the social-emotional needs of gifted kids and lumped them in with "all teenagers." There is a big difference between advanced learners and gifted learners. I'm here to tell you that these high needs begin when a kid is very young. Their hypersensitive nervous systems, one of the reasons they are gifted, can also be an Achilles heel for many. They are not just advanced learners. That is simply one of many facets of these kids. They experience the world in a sensory way that is foreign to most of us "averages." When they are tiny, they can act like they are overtired all the time. They are hyperstimulated every waking moment. It can overwhelm them if they are not provided adequate guidance. Sinking rather than swimming is the result. Most concerned parents of GT students in this boat recognize they are out of their own depth. After numerous attempts at the "everyone should be happy" guidance counseling model at the elementary school fails, professional counseling is usually sought. The mere fact that our district isn't capable of identifying giftedness as a root of these issues and guiding parents toward professional counseling when they need it is troubling in the extreme.

The district official position is that "no child in elementary school is gifted." What a crock of malarky. A child doesn't suddenly appear in 3rd grade fully gifted, like Venus on the half-shell. Prior to 2002, they didn't even test kids until 4th grade. Now they have to test them in 3rd grade and MAP testing begins in 2nd grade, I believe. So since they now have evidence of giftedness, they simply declare "these kids are not gifted, they are simply ahead of their peers." This approach ignores the many challenges parents face and by the time parents are fully informed, there are many bad and sometimes self-destructive habits to undo.

And I do know you never told me to shut up. I said it sounds like you're asking parents of GT students to shut up and enjoy the few crumbs the district chooses to prioritize now. Oh, and since the district is so poor, don't expect to keep this level of programming either! That's what I'm hearing. I think I DO hear your side of the issue and I show it in my posts and comments. I don't want to take away from other deserving programs, but the mere fact that the district can consider the EHS GT coordinator position on the chopping block this year after just adding her last year with promises to make a 2 year committment (bringing up to 2.5FTEs serving ECSD gifted community) shows exactly how little priority the board and administration places on this aspect of education.

The changes in Special Education staffing last year were in part due to student redistribution. More staffing went to the MS where enrollment increased, less to the HS where enrollment decreased. The teacher at TRIS was hired with stimulus funding and was known to be a short term solution. The enrollment has decreased and the need has as well. But I'm sure there are serious deficits that still need to be addressed, especially since TRIS met NCLB regulations with a "Safe Harbor" stipulation.

We do fundamentally agree on many things. I often sense you feel like you have to explain why you are against gifted education expenditures. Along the way, I also sense that you agree with the vast majority that gifted kids can fend for themselves while disabled kids cannot. This is where we disagree. Having witnessed extreme depression in a child at age 8 is very sobering. A school that was equipped to recognize the signs of giftedness and help the parents instead of blaming them for their unruly kid could have reduced the misery of that childs life for the following four years.

Anonymous said...

No I never intended to sound like I was pooh-poohing the social and emotional needs of the gifted or advanced.

My kids are good students, and I have witnessed for my self how emotionally and social issues can really throw a wrench into academic success. It does most certainly play a big part.

It was not so much offended about the fact you are proud of your kids. I would expect you to be proud of your kids, you should be.

I have at different times felt like you were saying if kids worked their butts off anyone can get a A.

Like I said many kids work their butts off and a C is the best they can get, but they work hard for it.

As you said good work ethic in life goes a long way.

I am worried not just for special education, but for gifted and talented, because it looks like the money is just going to get tighter.

It is frustrating.

It would be interesting to hear from some of the potential school board candidates where they stand on gifted and talented funding.

You would be best to pick their brains on this because you know the issue well.

We do need to have teachers and board members, administrators who are dedicated to improving this program.

I do have a question for you . Where does the money for the gifted and talented program come from? I realize ultimately it comes from taxes.

But how does the board go about setting money aside just for this program?

I am not against Gifted and Talented , but I have watched the numbers grow and grow for special education, and think WOW, that is a lot of kids for one district.

As far as gifted kids being unruly. Really? The kids that I know that are gifted and talented are pretty well behaved.

Typical kids, but not swinging off the lights in the class room either.

Where as kids in special education some times you do see more behavioral issues that main stream classroom students.

That may also be a reason for more staffing in the special education dept.

I feel like I should end with a Amen, but as I said before its important for each of us to continue to advocate for students and these issues.

I would like to hear how the board decides how much money goes for gifted and talented.

Did they get any of that stimulus money?

I am curious if you could explain it would be appreciated.

Once again,


Anonymous said...

I would also like to add that I realize Theresa does the best she can.

Some times her hands are tied, there is only so much money.

Katy said...

Thanks for your passion on this subject. I'll try to answer your funding questions. Funding for GT programs comes from the general Fund 10 education money. Stimulus funds two years ago were set up so that only special education could use those funds. Schools were encouraged to use these funds to purchase capital or non-recurring expense items, like our new van and various equipment for the program. They knew when they used these funds to hire the TRIS staff person that the assignment was temporary in nature. The enrollment figures were projected to decline at TRIS this year and the reduction in staffing would have less impact.

The decision to hire the new GT director at the HS this year was in part due to Mrs. Hanson taking a 50% maternity leave (the GT 50%), so they could hire a full time GT person for "half-price" because Marissa's full salary was still in the budget. Those funds came out of the Fund 10 budget.

The stimulus funding for special education created a "trickle down" effect for the rest of the budget. The Fund 10 money that did not have to be spent for special education training and materials funded by the stimulus was spent on general programming. You'd have to look at the priority lists to see what things they did fund to the tune of about $300,000. The board was very careful about hiring teachers because they knew it was temporary largesse. But there was at least one, maybe two elementary teachers hired in the last two years because of the high grade 4-5 enrollment over the last few years. After next year, I think the numbers will go down and the teachers will be flexible to go where the need is, as long as they are licenced for the grade level at which they are required. That is the kind of thought process you see during hiring decisions.

There is not pot specifically designated "GT funding." It is a line item on each building's budget. Kitty VerKuilen has a small budget (I don't know how much is set aside for it. A good question) to use at her discretion. I know this because she has offered to subsidize a percentage of my kid's enrollment in WCATY programs over the years. It was really appreciated. She is our GT program coordinator for the district. She is considered an administrator. We share her 50% with McFarland.

Each building has a person dedicated to GT at 50%. The other 50% of their time is dedicated to remedial programs.