The Miseducation of Jack and Jill
It’s been a minute since we first learned of T-One’s fate regarding SOMA school district’s gifted and talented program. Since then, there hasn’t been much movement on getting her into the classes. We have gone through the proper channels but the administration has been, shall we say, slow to respond. Although we finally have a meeting with the Assistant Superintendent, our patience is already thin.
In the last few weeks we have sent a few letters, made a few phone calls, paid a couple of visits and talked to other parents. What we discovered is we are not the only parents upset about how our district identifies and addresses the needs of children. At least one lawsuit has been threatened. We also discovered a heavy layer of lip service in regards to closing the well publicized achievement gap in the district. It is the district’s alleged number one priority but all that has been done is putting together a 50+ member panel to “make recommendations”. Seriously? C’mon. Does it really take that many people to screw in a light bulb? Commentor, davidfrazer, said it well:
“…I am not optimistic that a 55-member task force with a charge that, as I understand it extends for a year, will reach any sort of meaningful consensus. If experience is any guide, such task forces fall into three categories. Either they are stacked by the powers that be to justify a predetermined policy outcome or they produce a watered down “consensus” report that is of little real value (see, e.g., prior strategic planning process) or they break down into warring factions with “majority” and “minority” reports.
Call me cynical but I don’t see how the task “solves” the eqiuty and excellence conundrum on its own. What we need on this issue is not a “blue ribbon” panel. What we need is leadership.”
Why mention the gifted/talented program with the achievement gap? Because in my view they are joined at the hip. Is it not the responsibility (perhaps not sole) of the school system to prepare our children for academic achievement and raise each child’s educational expectations? SOMA seems settled on dumbing down educational expectations instead of raising them. This is best exemplified in the rate of participation in advanced level courses by students according to ethnicity/race (link: page 10). White students participate in these courses at a rate of almost five times that of Black students. SOMA seems to just shrug it’s institutional shoulders when questioned how to address the issue.
Perhaps the solution is simple. SOMA should focus on more participation in preparatory/advanced classes across groups, potentially raising student scores on standardized tests across those groups, and as a result the achievement gap will be un-gapped. By not doing this, how many Jack and Jill Student is SOMA underserving and miseducating? But in order for SOMA to un-gap the gap, it must properly identify children who show academic promise and address their needs. When contemplating this issue, I first thought the district’s definition of a gifted and talented child needed to be expanded. But when I read how the district characterizes those children (listed below), I changed my mind. It is:
The characteristics of exceptionally able learners (why not just called these kids “gifted and talented”?) may include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Show a high degree of intellectual, creative, and/or artistic ability and demonstrate this ability in multiple ways;
- Intense curiosity about principles and how things work;
- The ability to grasp concepts rapidly and/or intuitively;
- The ability to generate theories and hypotheses and pursue methods of injury;
- Pose questions beyond those present in the regular District curriculum;
- Make connections;
- Produce products that express insight, creativity, and/or excellence, and;
- Possess exception leadership skills.
Clearly, measuring the above characteristics is a highly subjective pursuit, but I would say the definition is pretty well thought out. So it must be SOMA’s identification method that is flawed. This brings me to the purpose of this post. I ask, if you have read this far, please share what methods you would use to identify children who possess the above traits? Please share the first thing that comes to mind in the comments.