Friday, May 1, 2009

Holding Pattern

We're at the end of the line with the school district, for the moment anyway. And yet, the news is, I think, cautiously positive. Mr. Spy and I each spoke this morning with the district Director of Curriculum, who is, among other things, in charge of admission policy for the gifted program. I'm finding that talking to everyone, from the teachers on up, tends to result in their talking very fast over you, as if to anticipate problems before they happen. They all use the, "I understand -- I'm just like you" kinds of lines. These are mostly defensive, but still well-meaning. For the most part, anyway. And I don't think it's necessarily a conscious manipulation. I do think, however, that as a parent-advocate, you need to know how to push through it. Otherwise, when you get out of the conversation, you are left scratching your head and saying, "What just happened?"

Good point number one -- every single person we've dealt with, from the classroom teacher to the district administrators -- has done when that said they would when they said they would do it. This is huge. It means good communication in the district. It means they're taking us seriously.

Good point number two -- the Curriculum Director is talkative, but she is also friendly and smart and we were largely in agreement on matters of educational philosophy. However, she still couldn't tell us what we wanted to hear. But she didn't say no either.

We heard more about the district's reevaluation of the criteria for gifted program admission that our school principal had mentioned last week. It is not just an idea, it's actually happening and it's supposed to be in place this fall. The new policy will add two more criteria and take the weight off the one test. They're still trying to figure out what criteria will be included and in what weighting. They will likely include test scores, portfolio, teacher recommendations and parent recommendations. The goal is to get more kids what they need. It also sounds like the district may be reevaluating the pull-out program. The C.D. is on the fence about it. She has been looking at districts that use a gifted label, but not a gifted program and focus on training and supporting classroom teachers. I think this is a great direction, if it works. What we want is not a label, but the extra challenge AJ needs. But when there is a label, when there is a pull-out program, we need that too. Because if we don't, he is unlikely to get what he needs. When there is a pull-out program, teachers rely on it.

The C.D. seemed to think that it was likely that AJ would be included by the new criteria, especially since he's only 1 point away by the old criteria. But she can't promise -- there are others who, like us, are advocating for their kids. She promised to get him what he needs in the classroom and to call her any time if I needed help. But she couldn't guarantee the pull-out. All she could do is say it looked likely. If we want guarantees, the only thing left is testing -- assuming the test scores are high enough. And so we will be spending the $500 to have him tested later this month and hope it helps.

One thing that worries me slightly, though, is that we're getting mixed messages about how much the test scores will help. The gifted teacher had told us that they will substitute the private testing for the OLSAT score. But that's not what the C.D. said. She said it would be included in the things they look at, although she also said that it was the only thing that really has made a difference in the past. This does not sound like a guarantee to me either, but at least it sounds promising.

While we didn't get what we'd hoped to get, we did get what we expected to hear, more or less. And now we know to focus our energies on learning about the IQ testing on May 19.

I hope all these stories about the process are not too tedious to read. My hope is that others can learn from our experience, that it will help others learn how to advocate for their kids. Since we have a lull in the process, I'm working on a more general post on advocacy and another one on how to approach IQ tests with your kids. I would love to hear some more voices on this subject. If you're interested in posting here on these or other subjects of giftedness, please email me at harri3tspyATgmailDOTcom.


Claudiab said...

Cautiously optimistic. Sounds like things are moving in the right direction and that the folks in charge are smart people who have realized where the cracks are in the system.

My Kids' Mom said...

The hardest thing for kids on an IQ-style test is understanding that the questions will continue until **they get more wrong than right** He will have to get many questions wrong before they stop asking harder and harder questions. He might get three in a row wrong, one right, but the criteria are to get all four in one category wrong, for example. So, make sure he understands that NO ONE can get all the questions right, because NO ONE is perfect. It can be very frustrating when they're clearly over their head but they guess correctly here and there and the examiner must keep going even though the kid is frustrated.

kb said...

Process posts are definitely not boring. I've been working with my kid's teachers and higher-ups too and your comments are helpful. Good luck on the 19th, and in the fall.

Harriet said...

Thanks for your comments. Claudia, I think you're right about that. I'm glad they've already spotted a problem. I'm less glad that they won't override it given the stuff we have already, but whatever. It's bureaucracy. I'm a great believer in working from the inside, not antagonizing, so we'll do what we have to do. MKM, that's a good point. Although since this is a one-on-one test, the tester will explain that to him as they go (she told me she would). But it wouldn't hurt to mention it to him as well. KB, thanks so much for weighing in. I'm so wrapped up in the middle of this that I don't have much perspective. But my hope is that the stuff we've done to figure out how to help will save someone else some steps. I hope to post something a little more analytical about it sometime soon.