Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Time marches onward

So I've had a few days to think about the testing. I'm still not sure how we're going to use it. And I'm holding off on decision-making until we get the written report, which I hope will be more comprehensive than the minute and a half verbal review we got in the office. Here is what we know for sure: AJ is working at least three grade levels ahead of the norm. AJ's school only goes to up to the 4th grade, therefore there may be limitations on appropriate curriculum available from within the school next year.

Here are some variables: The gifted teacher at AJ's school also works with the middle and junior high schools, so while the basic school curriculum may not be advanced enough, she should be able to provide materials. Also, the math curriculum, Everyday Mathematics, seems tailor-made for a kid like AJ. It keeps cycling through concepts big and small, so it looks to me like it's relatively easy to adapt what's going on in the classroom by asking more complex questions about the same material. This year, AJ's been going back and forth between the regular curriculum and what they've been calling the "challenge" materials. The challenge materials are terrific and interesting and definitely challenging (even for me sometimes, not that math is my strong suit). But the drawback with them is that they are not tied into any kind of classroom goals. Challenging work is great, but next year, I'd like to see if there can be more of a focus so that AJ can feel like he's mastering some skills and not just like he's playing games. If this stuff is replacing curriculum material for him, I want to make sure someone's still holding him accountable for the skills he needs to know. I'm mostly concerned about this with math, where I feel I'm not as competent at overseeing the process. I've also been able to see that with math, he's been jumping around a lot. He needs more accountability, particularly with rote exercises, where he doesn't always pay enough attention. I see him doing a lot of things I did -- boredom makes him slack off on the easy stuff. It's understandable, but someone still needs to be letting him know that it's important to be paying attention to the easy stuff too, because if you don't do it right, then the hard stuff doesn't work either.

I emailed AJ's teacher about the test results and to ask her advice. My plan, as I posted here a few entries back, was to make appointments with the school principal and the gifted teacher. I still may, but AJ's teacher is thinking that the principal meeting may not be necessary, as we've filed the paperwork and he has seen it and AJ's teacher has already spoken to him. I may go ahead and do it anyway, though, because my reason for meeting with him has more to do with the issue of classroom size than the other stuff. But I may defer to AJ's teacher's judgment, because I'm not really sure how involved the principal is in this stuff anyway. The School Board will ultimately make the decision about the number of second grade classes and the principal is the one who has to deal with the fallout (i.e., angry parents). I'm going to think about that one for a day or two.

AJ's teacher also suggested that I think about what we might want to ask the gifted teacher for. Are there any particular things we want AJ to do next year? I think I'm going to have a talk with Mr. Spy and AJ about this. What do we want him to accomplish next year? Should we create a math contract the way his teacher wrote up reading contracts this year? A document that explained the goals to AJ and laid them out for his teacher as well? This would be so much easier if we knew who AJ's teacher was going to be. I would love to sit down with the classroom teacher and the gifted teacher and hammer this out in person. But by the time the classrooms are assigned, it is too late.

Still, things are happening. I'll be interested to see where this ends up.


My Kids' Mom said...

Put some goals in writing. Just like an IEP (individualized education plan) for other special needs students, he needs long and short term goals along with a plan for achieving them. You may have ideas for the short term goals or they might, but you should start with something global like "AJ will be performing math at the 6th grade level by 5/09" Then plan out what areas of math he should cover: "AJ will understand the fundamentals of algebra at the 6th grade level" and then a plan to get there. "AJ will complete the first chapter of the 6th grade math book by 9/30/08" or "AJ will show mastery of algebra concepts by passing by 80% or more on the exam on chapter 1 of the 6th grade math book". IF you have a curriculum, like a math book, this is much much easier. If not, decide details yourselves. "AJ will understand the use of "a" in multiplication and division problems and be able to solve problems such as "a x16=32 using division." Then, be prepared to follow up regularly on the progress and change the goals as needed.
hope that helps

harriet said...

Very helpful! Thanks, J! I'm meeting with the gifted teacher tomorrow morning. I'm not going to be ready to provide my own draft of an IEP (and thanks for reminding me of that terminology -- I don't think his school has dealt with gifted kids in this way before (at least that's the impression I'm getting), but we started the ball rolling by filing a Special Needs Request Form), but I'm going to ask for her advice in getting one started. I feel like I can articulate reading goals easily enough, but I'm less familiar with the standard math curriculum, which is organized very differently than the norm. Rather than a linear conception of progression through topics, this program seems to spiral through topics, returning to the same series of subjects with more complex approaches with each return. This is great in that it's easy to work AJ's work into the curriculum the rest of the class is doing. But it's harder for me to figure out where he stands. I know that the gifted teacher knows the program well, however, and I believe math is her area of particular expertise, so I'm hoping she'll be able to help me figure out some goals there. So far the curriculum seems to use worksheets rather than a book, so I only see things as they come home. I'm not sur e if that will change next year or not. I might be able to borrow some materials from AJ's teacher, however.