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D181 Parents: Emphasizing Gifted Means Overlooking Everyone Else

The gifted program, which will soon be reviewed by an outside consultant, is private education for a few, paid for with the taxes of the many.

The following is a letter to the editor from District 181 parents Kristy Brindley and Rebecca Wear Robinson:

On Monday night the District 181 Board of Education heard . The programs to be reviewed have been identified as the ACE program and the advanced courses for high-achieving students in math and language arts. An internal committee was formed that included two gifted specialists to prepare and review the Request For Proposal (RFP). The RFP specified that candidates must have a strong background in gifted education.

All were appropriate actions to review a gifted program.

As two district parents, our primary concern is not whether the existing gifted/talented program is serving the needs of the children who qualify. Instead, we're concerned about whether the program has the effect of lowering standards for the remaining 70 percent of children and we're concerned about the indisputable negative effect that the labeling is having on those children.

Our concern is that the continued focus on assessing the gifted programs is allowing the bigger and more concerning issues to be overlooked.

The district’s stated goal is, “To be a school district where all children experience success.” This goal is admirably supported by our excellent Social Emotional Learning for Academic Success (SELAS) program, and is undermined time and time again by the district’s focus on high-achieving children through a program that has been skewed by pressure from a small group of parents in favor of their children.

It’s private education for a few, paid for with the taxes of the many.

While recently speaking with fellow fourth-grade parents, the topic of our kids' curriculum night letters came up. One fourth-grade parent said her child, who is in advanced math, wrote to his parents in his curriculum night letter, “I hope that I do OK in math this year.” Another child, who is learning at grade level, wrote, “I am good at math, but not as good as other kids.” Children refer to “smart math” (advanced) and “dumb math” (grade level). Nine years old is too young for children to doubt their ability at math—a skill they will need their entire life.

We are suggesting that the truly gifted children, defined as the three to five percent of children who not only possess extraordinary intellectual capacity but who also have social and emotional needs that differentiate them, receive both the intellectual challenge and the additional help they may need in channeling those skills effectively.

We are suggesting that the children at the other end of the spectrum who have learning disabilities, or social and emotional needs that require additional help, have their needs met.

We are suggesting that children who possess exceptionally strong intellectual capabilities be challenged appropriately.

We are suggesting that the remaining 70 percent of students also be challenged and given the resources to reach a high level of accomplishment academically that is supported by the emotional satisfaction derived from being challenged and succeeding.

We are suggesting that District 181 truly be “A school district where all children experience success.”

We request that in reviewing the work of the outside consultant, special attention be paid to recommendations that focus on a system of differentiation in the classroom, which would allow our excellent teachers to do what they have been trained to do and are paid to do—bring all of our children to the highest level of academic achievement within their capability.

We request that all of our children be put first.

Another D181 Parent October 27, 2011 at 12:24 AM
Building up your own at the expense of the majority of the students is exactly what happened in this district. A small group of parents pushed through their own agenda to benefit their children. What we are left with is a program that is social and emotionally damaging to children and has lowered the standards for the majority of students in D181. This is a public school district where every child should be challenged, not just a select few who happen to meet a test score cut-off when they are only seven years old. The program in this district is not a gifted program and is not a program based on needs. It is a program that has negative effects on so many children. It is a program that is leaving the students in the grade-level classes at a distinct disadvantage. It is a program that is not even meeting the needs of the truly gifted children. In a the spring of 2011 D181 reported that 41.5% of students on MAP tests fell into the category "below typical growth". Catering to a few at the expense of many.
Craig Hoffend October 27, 2011 at 02:13 AM
Mr Raymond, please excuse me if I am wrong - but I believe you aren't even from the D181 area. Rochester, MI? Do us all a favor and stay out of our affairs and education. I am left to wonder what your motivation is... Could it be that you are involved promoting programs such as this? Since you are the founder of SAGE (Supporting Advanced & Gifted Education), I believe your view point to be highly biased and unwelcome. If you don't know about towns like Wilmette or Winnetka, you obviously aren't from this area. By the looks of the postings, you are completely out numbered and uninformed. Please keep to your own affairs and out of a situation which you know nothing about... Especially when you are promoting your own self interest and not the interest of our children.
John Public October 27, 2011 at 07:17 PM
Joshua, you truly are the voice of reason (and logic) in this debate. I gotta laugh when I read statements like "The 800 kids benefiting from the million dollar program are not gifted."
chet everett October 27, 2011 at 09:58 PM
The notion that Mr. Hoffend would put forward, that the view of experts should be set aside because they are not from around these parts / outnumbered is exactly what is wrong with the discourse in so many of these online "communities" -- the know-nothings shout louder and demean the well reasoned arguments of the minority. The fairy tales that people make up are not amusing. To arrive the that fictitious sum of "$1M" the story tellers multiple the 9 teachers by $100k and those in some equally poorly documented transportation data. Well that sort of horseshoe tossing budget make believe does not work by a long shot. That would be like saying given the total district salary and benefits expenditures of $43M there must be 430 teachers. Not even close: http://iirc.niu.edu/District.aspx?source=About_Educators&source2=Teacher_Characteristics&districtID=19022181004&level=D The foolish whining of angry tax payers and uninformed parents is an embarrassment...
Another D181 Parent October 28, 2011 at 12:02 AM
What is really embarrassing is that D181 has 41.5% of students showing "below typical growth".

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