Friday, January 2, 2015

Parents hear draft of gifted program revamp

Tuesday December 23, 2014 9:28 AM

Page A2 of 12/25 issue

The Dublin City School District presented a Gifted Service Delivery Draft to community members recently and then listened to their feedback.

About 60 community members gathered Dec. 10 in the Wyandot Elementary School Library to listen to Kimberly Pietsch Miller, the district's chief academic officer, present the draft and answer questions.

In the fall, the school district convened a task force to review the current gifted service delivery model.

The district is responding to new and more rigorous content standards for all students, Miller said. In addition, the community provided feedback to the district during the 2013-14 school year indicating Dublin should review gifted services for possible improvements

In addition to reviewing the current model, which has been in place for eight years, the task force studied the research about service delivery, reviewed the ability and achievement of the current student population and considered the needs of different groups of students.

One of the goals of the task force is to ensure all students reach calculus by 12th grade.

In the draft, students in grades K-3 would receive group testing and gifted intervention specialists would visit classrooms to offer extension activities.

Students who are high achievers in math or reading in grades 4 and 5 would receive differentiation in the classroom.

Differentiation is an approach in which teachers give slightly different assignments to groups of students to best fit their learning needs.

For high achievers in math, numeracy coaches would be available and so would single- and double-accelerated options in sixth grade.

Miller assured parents the district "doesn't want to accelerate students too quickly and risk them missing out on foundational skills."

The task force also took into consideration students' maturity levels when thinking about when to begin acceleration.

"In this model, we would bring the high school math classes to the middle school so students can stay in their building and be with students their own age," Miller said.

The draft stated that fourth- and fifth-grade students who are identified as having superior cognitive skills would receive more "pull-out" and "cluster grouping in the regular classroom."

From the 12/25 issue
Pull-out instruction is when students are taken out of their usual classroom for a period of time so they can work on different material.

Cluster grouping refers to placing small groups of superior cognitive students in each classroom.

In middle school, superior cognitive students would receive "social-emotional skills support."

The current draft does not address gifted high school students.

The state of Ohio requires school districts to identify students who score above the 95th percentile on standardized testing. However, the state does not mandate service, once students are identified as gifted.

In Dublin, 22 percent of students scored above the 95th percentile in math and 16 percent scored above the 95th percentile in reading on standardized tests.

About 8 percent of Dublin students have been identified as gifted in the area of superior cognitive ability, Miller said.

During the meeting, parents asked questions about the current middle school gifted delivery model, whether test scores from elementary would be taken into consideration and what changes they should expect next year.

Miller reminded parents the only time a child would "fall out of the gifted education program is if a parent, teacher or principal suggested it."

The first part of the service model plan would be implemented next year, Miller said.

This first stage would likely include name changes (for example, LEAP would be renamed) and changes in the elementary schools.

The task force will meet in early January to revise the draft, taking feedback from the meetings into consideration.

Additional community meetings will be held in January to gather feedback on the revised draft, Miller said.

A final plan is expected to be reached by March.

Sara Hallermann, a parent of three gifted students, said the meeting answered her questions.

"I think the Gifted Education Task Force is doing an excellent job in revamping the service model to better meet the needs of gifted students," Hallermann said.

She said the meeting was positive and helpful, even though sometimes the content was controversial.

Hallermann appreciated that Miller explained the rationale of each decision and assured parents that everything is grounded in research.

Another parent, Rae Kroger, said the meeting was informative.

"They did a really good job at answering diverse questions," she said.

Kroger said the district is moving in the right direction.

At the end of the meeting, community members were given an opportunity to write down what components of the service model they liked, components they want to see included, any questions they had and any additional input.

"We don't want to glaze over anything," Miller said.

"I want all students to achieve at high levels."
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Deb's Details: This article happened during a crazy moment in my life. I was on my way to where the meeting was held when I was rear-ended! I'd never been in an accident before. I was a little late to the meeting because of that but I don't think it affected my ability to get the facts. At the meeting, it was clear that the parents were very concerned and passionate about the gifted education program. The meeting lasted almost three hours.
I wanted this article to explain to those who couldn't attend any of the three meetings what was discussed and emphasize how it's not too late for them to give their suggestions to the school board.