Monday, April 20, 2009

Mixed Results

So. The meeting. It was about what I expected. Maybe even a little better, although not as good as I'd hoped. Here's the rundown.

The Bad:

We got a lot of information, but unfortunately, we were not able to get much of a breakdown of AJ's scores -- just a verbal and a math. No explanation. AJ really did not do well on the OLSAT. Or at least that's how it looked to me, although the gifted teacher said that for most kids, these would be really good scores. They're just not good enough for these purposes. And here's the weird part. The thing he really didn't do well on was the verbal section. In every other test he's taken, including the previous aptitude testing, his verbal scores were off the charts high -- 99.98-100th percentile on everything. That I was not expecting, and it speaks even more to the fact that this was a bad test-taking experience. I don't trust the scores at all.

Unfortunately, the school district thinks highly enough of the test that the scores on the OLSAT count twice as much as teacher recommendations and work portfolio (the other components of the "matrix" used to determine admission candidacy) combined. AJ missed the cutoff for the program by one point in both math and language and it's solely based on the OLSAT. Even if he has the maximum scores in all other areas (which have not yet been determined), which seems likely, he will not meet the qualifying numbers. So while the school district is following the letter of Illinois law, which states that gifted programs must use at least three different methods of evaluating each child for the program, the weighting of the test means they are not following the spirit of the law. There is no way to counteract a bad test.

The good:

The gifted teacher is on our side. She is not a fan of the OLSAT for this purpose, she thinks AJ belongs in the program, and she wants to help us.

Next year, he will take the COGAT, which is a much more in-depth and reliable test. Unfortunately, that will not happen until spring. A lot of kids in the past have not qualified via the OLSAT but have qualified on the COGAT (shouldn't that be telling the district something about the testing cocktail?), so AJ would definitely not be alone.

The school district can't retest (there is a narrow window for administration of the OLSAT), but they will accept Stanford-Binet or WISC scores from private testing in place of the OLSAT.

Time is not a big factor. All AJ's teachers and the gifted teacher think this is a glitch and that he belongs in the gifted cluster. The teachers have a lot of say in the classroom organization so we have all but a guarantee that he will be in the right class. Even if we are unable to get done what we need to until the next school year starts, they can add him to the program as soon as the paperwork comes through.

The plan:

However, if we don't deal with either the district policy or the testing, he won't get the pullout program, which is an hour a week each for reading and math and supplements the regular curriculum. The gifted teacher can't fight the test scores. The best she can do is make sure he maxes out every other category, but because of the way the test is weighted, it's not enough to reach the cutoff because of the weighting of the test scores. I can see why AJ's teacher said she'd never known a kid who didn't meet the minimum OLSAT requirements get into the program. It's not mathematically possible.

So we're going to pursue this on two fronts. I will talk first to the school principal (who is probably not going to be able to help, but who needs not to be leapt over) and then to the district director of curriculum about waiving the cutoff, hopefully tomorrow. Since AJ's only down by one point and we have a lot of other evidence, that might work. However, the gifted teacher, after looking up the aptitude test that AJ took last year, which she had not previously heard of (Kaufman Brief Intelligence Test or KBIT-II, done in conjunction with KTEA-II) didn't think it was comprehensive enough to replace the OLSAT scores, so if they're not willing to waive the rules, the only way we can get him into the program is if he has qualifying scores from another test. This means time and expense on our part, but it's worth it if we have to. So I will also be making an appointment for AJ with a psychologist Siren recommended for additional testing.

We still haven't talked to AJ about this. We're going to have to eventually, I think. But it doesn't seem the right time.

The Question:

So if AJ's kindergarten, first and second grad teachers all recommend him without reservation for the program, as does the gifted teacher -- the people who actually work with him regularly -- why can't the school district make an exception?

Because they're still bureaucrats at heart, I guess. More fun and games ahead.


Claudia said...

Hmmm. Well, I would tell AJ. I would explain to him what has happened because he does need to be tested again and he needs to be prepared for that. But, it shouldn't be something that worries him. No matter what happens, you'll be working with his teacher to help find ways to challenge him next year. So, if he doesn't get into the pull-out classes, he'll be okay. He needs to understand that some kids just don't take tests well. Smart kids fall into that category a lot. Tell him that you're doing what you can but there are no guarantees. And, if the process gets delayed due to red tape, the most he'll lose - hopefully - is a year of G&T. Or 1/2 a year. Dusty's test through JHU was not too expensive. Not cheap but not hideous, maybe $35-50, something like that.I don't remember but it's well worth the price to have proof. And, hopefully the private testing will give you information on how to prepare for it. I'm wondering if it's a time issue - if he needs more time to complete these standardized tests. That is sometimes the case and that's where the disabilities act comes in. Of course, that involves time and beaureacrats and red tape. ANd that might not even be the issue. But AJ should know something about what's going on so that he is prepared for what's ahead.

Harriet said...

Without a copy of the actual test or a breakdown of the scores, I can't tell exactly what went on, but I have some theories. 1. He doesn't read directions. We did practice this before the test, but he still doesn't read them. He thinks he knows. When the teacher read the directions aloud, he probably wasn't paying attention and then didn't know what to do and therefore guessed outright. That's what his teacher thought happened. 2. Multiple choice tests sometimes throw him, because he sees multiple options that he wouldn't see if someone just asked him the question. If there is any ambiguity at all, he tends to rule out the most obvious answer because it looks too obvious. 3. It's a 40 minute test. If he was having a bad day or was distracted, he could bomb it without batting an eyelash. I don't think it was likely to have been about time -- if anything, AJ tries to race through things like this. It's about general test-taking skills, I think. If we'd had some information about the test and/or how to prepare for it, I think he would have done much better. The gifted teacher admitted that most kids do a lot better the second year. Why not prep the kids and help them do well the first time?

I think you're right about talking to him, but Mr. Spy isn't ready yet.

My Kids' Mom said...

Why? Because that's the Rule. That's why.

And why I'm not a fan of public schools- working in them or attending them- despite the fact that I've done both and I expect to have my kids both attend.

my word verification is "bungl" I guess that's what the school system did with AJ.

Explain it sometime- but no hurry. Meanwhile maybe do some online games that are test preps so he'll be a bit more experienced.

Anonymous said...

It actually sounds like a pretty big win of a meeting, even if you have another hoop to jump through. The fact that they'll take IQ testing results in lieu of their flawed test is huge. This could have been much, much worse. And he will do very well on the in-depth test administered one-on-one by someone who is trained to know what to do with it.

The other point about IQ testing is that kids like this tend to enjoy it. You don't need to go on and on with him about this being a big deal. Just tell him the first test is kind of a crummy test and it didn't reflect what's going on in his head. Say he just needs to take another one (tell him Unfocused Girl did it too, for essentially the same reason) and you expect everything will be fine, but that if it doesn't go great that's OK too. Unfocused Girl really enjoyed the IQ test. She was totally jazzed by it. She'd go back and do it again every year if I let her. It's not even remotely like the experience AJ had, which was much more like her test for the Chicago Public Schools Gifted Program, and which was also a joke.

Anonymous said...

Glad to hear that there were some positive results in the meeting.