Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Waiting some more

First of all, I would like to apologize for the ads that are appearing on this site. I'm not sure how they got there or how to move or eliminate them. Until I have time to figure it out, you'll have to put up with them. On the plus side, they earned 6 whole cents last night. Just doing my part for the economy.

A couple of more things have happened on the testing front. We have an appointment with the school principal, but not until Friday. I don't want to talk to anyone at the district level before I talk to him, so having to wait a few days will slow us down, but hopefully not too much. I think maintaining the goodwill of the school is too important to mess around with, so we're back in waiting mode. I've also contacted a psychologist about testing. Depending on the cost of the tests, we may just go ahead and do it. Or we may wait and see what we can accomplish with the school. Either way, though, I'm going to talk to the district about waiving the minimum scores. I feel that the weighting of the test as compared to other methods of evaluation is problematic and it doesn't do what the state statutes aim to set up, which is to give students with test-taking disadvantages (the state is particularly concerned with disadvantages caused by language barriers and socio-economic class, which often fall along racial lines) an alternate route in. It would appear that the weighting will probably maintain the status quo -- a gifted program full of wealthy white kids (While we're not wealthy, we're not impoverished either. Despite my own opinions about my personal finances, I count us in that category. We have the know-how and means to find private testing. Not everyone does).

We did talk to AJ about the situation last night. He brought it up. He knew we'd met with the gifted teacher. He also knew something we didn't -- his friend got an envelope from the gifted teacher in class yesterday and he didn't. AJ, probably rightly, assumed that it was about getting into the gifted program and he wanted to know why he didn't get one. So we told him the whole story. We emphasized that the test was not a good test for him, that it wasn't a problem with the way he took it, but with the test itself and the way the school made decisions about it and we assured him that we and his teachers were doing our best to make sure he got into the program. But he still felt bad, like he did something wrong. "Why was it so easy for him?" he asked about his friend at bedtime last night. "Why did he get in just like that and it's so hard for me?" It was a sensible question. AJ often works with his friend, but AJ is working at a level above him in both math and reading. We talked about how people's brains work differently. How comparing yourself to others doesn't really work that well. AJ's friend is quiet, a good listener, and a follower of instructions. AJ is loud, easily distracted, and a questioner of everything. They both belong in the program, but they are not going to get there by the same road.

But I am worried about the toll this may be taking on AJ. He has always been called "the smart kid." And no matter what we say, he's not feeling like the smart kid right now. He is a kid who needs a lot of outside validation. He is suspicious of reassurance. He thinks it means we're hiding something. Before we keep going, I want to make sure he's up for it. He says he is, but I'm not sure if he's thought about his options. And I need to figure out how to help him trust himself to give himself his own feedback. He's been going through a very difficult time lately -- getting argumentative at home and disobedient at school. I want him to be confident and challenged, to know his abilities even if others deny them. If I had the formula for that, I'd be a wealthy woman.


Claudiab said...

I wonder. Does AJ respect the opinion of other adults? Is he suspicious you're withholding information because you're his parent and don't want to hurt his feelings? Would it help him to talk to the school counselor or an outside counselor - in general. To have someone listen to him and help him sort out his feelings who's not invested? I don't mean to suggest he needs help but the worrying - particularly misplaced worrying - made me think about this. Or, would taking such a step worry him more ("they must think there's something really wrong with me if I have to go talk to Mrs/Mr XYZ")? Sometimes it helps to have a third-party to bounce your worries off on, help him realize that he's perfectly fine and smart but that "smart" comes in different flavors. We can't compare ourselves to others because they aren't us and we aren't them. Just a thought.

Harriet said...

I'm not sure, Claudia. For now, I think he needs some time to digest. I think, in the event that we go for more testing, which is looking likely, the psychologist or even the testing process might help. I don't know the school counselor, but that might work. I think someone he knew already might be more effective. Like his classroom teacher. Or his first grade teacher. I gave him that smart speech last night, but I'm not sure he was convinced. Maybe it would help for someone else to give it. I know it's helped me to read other people's struggles with this same issue.

Claudia said...

That's kind of what I was thinking, that maybe just hearing someone else say it might make him believe it.

Jeanne said...

You probably know this, but I haven't seen anyone say it here. The reason the school can't make an exception when it establishes a cutoff for the gifted program is because so many parents come in and fight for little Johnny or Mary-- who works hard to please mom and dad but who doesn't need the gifted program the way other kids do--to be included. I'm a fan of cutoffs, but that's because my kids haven't been on the wrong end of one. I get irritated at the parents who view their kid's inclusion as some kind of status.

You know he's gifted. He knows he's smart.

Did you know we call today's college parents "bulldozer parents"? They're worse than the helicopter parents, who hovered. These parents come in and move obstacles out of their child's way.

I think you need to continue your fight to get him in the gifted program, but give him some space to figure out that he's smart no matter what one test says. Maybe the other kids will tell him, too. He's only in what, second grade? He has time to figure out what "flavor" of smart he is, as Claudia puts it.

Jeanne said...

Just to clarify, I don't mean I'm in favor of the cutoff in this case. It's just that there are so many nutjobs who think their little darlings deserve to be in the gifted class that I can see why schools get inflexible about their guidelines.

Sometimes it helps if you sympathize with why they have to be so unreasonable about it, while showing them that including your kid who really needs the program is actually in their best interest.

Harriet said...

I am extremely sympathetic with cutoffs. I have exactly that problem when grading my college students. I have to have cutoffs otherwise they will just keep pushing. But I don't weight tests so highly in my courses. It's too easy for one bad day to ruin a grade. I prefer to use regular quizzes to check on knowledge acquisition and base most of the grade on papers, because that's where they learn the most and they have the most control of the product. Also, they are more fun to read. I hate grading tests. But I digress. I am very sympathetic, but there are two reasons why I think it is still important to talk to the school district. The first is selfish -- I think this is an unusual case and that there is so much evidence to refute the test scores that they should waive it. But I will understand if they don't. The second reason is more important. I think the matrix is flawed. It doesn't do what it should, which is to take variance into account and allow multiple routes to the path for people who, for any number of reasons, might not test well. And in this case, I'm not worried about us. I'm worried about people who do not have the educational background that AJ does, or the family support or knowledge to fight for them, or the money to find ways to circumvent the system. There are numerous studies about how the system of gifted identification in most school systems is strongly biased toward wealthy white children. The state law explicitly states that the reason they require three different methods of identification is to help give minorities and children from lower socioeconomic backgrounds a fair shake. Weighting the test this heavily does not allow that to happen. Again, this part doesn't apply to us. But if I'm in there fighting anyway, if there's anything I can do to help someone else benefit from our fight, I'd like to see that happen.