Gifted Issues Discussed
PRINCE EDWARD -County school board members approved a revised local plan for the education of the gifted at their August meeting that factored new state regulations.
It was, however, a long and winding road of discussion before final action and one that afforded an opportunity for members to discuss the selection of students for the program.
Board member Dr. Ellery Sedgwick, for example, questioned why the 95th percentile is the cut-off, assessing that it “seems awful high” and questioning, “…Why wouldn't we try to be a little more inclusive…?”
He asked if it would make sense to expand it to 10 percent.
Director of Exceptional Programs Tara McDaniel noted there is a best practice (recommendation from the state) as far as identifying cutoff-which is at 98th percentile for K-1 and 95th percentile for grades two-12.
Dr. Sedgwick would later offer that if it's best practices “it's OK with me.”
Still, what generated the most discussion was whether grades and classroom behavior (as well as attendance) should be considered as factors in the student selection process.
The proposed plan, specifically, included a list ranging from individual or group-administered, nationally norm-referenced aptitude test or tests to appropriate rating scales, checklists or questionnaires-though it was clearly indicated in the plan that no single instrument, score or criterion may be used to exclude or include a child for eligibility.
After much discussion, several motions including a substitute motion, and a divided vote the school board opted to include the list of criteria that will be looked at when considering a student as originally proposed (and developed with input from the gifted advisory committee), agreed with one abstention to add the additional measurement of GPA, and also with one abstention approved a revised plan.
In other Talented and Gifted (TAG) news, Ms. McDaniel presented a report on the Longwood Summer Gifted Program, which provides enrichment opportunities for rising students in grades four-seven for area schools.
More than a third of the students (44) represented, she cited, were from Prince Edward. The school pays 100 percent of the cost for the school district's children who participate.
One speaker, addressing the school board in public comment time, informed the board that her granddaughter has been taken from advance classes this year. She noted that the child is a TAG student in art, an honor roll student and has been placed in general classes.
“And I've listened to you all talking about the TAG program and I do not think it's right for her to be removed because of-so they tell me-an SOL score,” she said. “And, from my understanding, the reason they are cutting down on the TAG is because there are not enough teachers to have another advanced class.”
Good grades, she suggested, have not been taken into consideration. The grandparent asked that the child be placed back in the advanced class.
The board does not usually engage speakers at the time of public comment but discusses the comments and respond in writing. The board later indicated in interest in seeking additional information.
High school teacher Michael Browder noted that he's observed people working very hard-from students up through the administration.
“I think we have…great people here from the top down,” he said. “I'm happy to be a part of that.”
<!– 1upcrlf2 –>Browder, however, highlighted the issue of teacher retention.