Tuesday, October 6, 2009

School District changes gifted ID matrix

In the last year, I've learned a lot of educational jargon like "cluster" and "matrix." If only "matrix" were as exciting as it sounds. It's actually just a fancy word for the cocktail of test scores, recommendations, and school work portfolio that results in a score that determines whether or not a given student is admitted into the gifted program.

As we discovered last year when AJ had a bad testing day, the matrix in our school district has included 2nd grade OLSAT scores, teacher and parent recommendations and a portfolio of work. This sounds good in theory, but the OLSAT scores were so heavily weighted that the other things didn't really make any difference. The district knew there was a problem, but hadn't been able to put through changes. Last year only one person in our school tested into the program the normal way. AJ got in because we had him privately tested. Several other children who should be in there were not. The school said they'd retest in January when the next testing cycle began, but most of us think that is far too late. Kids should not have to wait for appropriate material.

I knew something was up when we went to the gifted program orientation meeting a couple of weeks ago and they mentioned offhand that the district would not be using the OLSAT anymore.

Today I got a call from the mother of one of the kids who, like AJ, had been informally identified but hadn't met the OLSAT requirement. I've been helping her navigate the advocacy process for her son. She heard from the gifted teacher that instead of waiting until January, they'd be using the MAP scores and, where necessary, administering the ITBS (Iowa Test of Basic Skills) and it would be happening in the next week or two. The ITBS was what I had asked for for AJ last spring. I knew they could do it -- they administered it to all the kids who'd been identified (all two of them at AJ's school). There's no reason other than money that they couldn't do it for others. I even offered to pay for it, but was told it wasn't an option. I'm glad they've come to their senses. I'm not sure what changed to make this possible, but it's definitely a step in the right direction. So it sounds like AJ's challenge class will be getting a little bigger. I'm not sure how he'll feel about that, but I think this is a very good thing.

I know this is not all due to my work. I also know the work I've done in the last year -- in advocating for AJ and others, in taking the time to get to know the curriculum policy makers, in teaching others how to advocate for their kids -- would not have gotten this far this fast if the school hadn't recognized the problem and been willing to change. But nevertheless, it feels like a personal victory. The schools may still think of me as a pain in the ass, but at least I'm a pain in the ass who got something done.


FreshHell said...

Good for you! And AJ! When are you running for Congress?

My Kids' Mom said...

good job- leave behind a legacy