My husband and I have a child in the 3rd grade in a Portland Public School (PPS). Our child was identified as TAG at the end of the second grade.
We concur with many of the statements here about the problems with TAG in the Portland Public Schools. Following are some things we have seen or have done that have worked, as well as some ideas worth considering to improve the problems.
The Portland Public School District has a program called ACCESS, which falls under its alternative programs. ACCESS is currently located at Sabin Elementary. ACCESS admits students who perform at the 99th percentile on nationally-normed tests for aptitude and/or achievement in any or all of the following areas: reading, math, or general intellect. When we learned our child scored in the 99th percentile on the mathematics portion of the Iowa Basic test, we immediately submitted an application to the ACCESS program. We felt it would be hard to meet his needs over the long term in the regular classroom, especially since most elementary teachers don?t come from a math background.
ACCESS wants to grow, but can?t at the current location because Sabin, the neighborhood elementary, is growing from K-5 to K-8. So our child, and others in the district are on a waiting list, while the district considers what to do with ACCESS. District administrators and elected officials seem to be interested in growing ACCESS, especially if it can serve more children from a variety of socioeconomic and ethnic backgrounds. This is a place where children who might not otherwise get extra support through their families can develop their potential. But the district is also trying to conduct a major facilities review, with possible remodels and new buildings. This makes it harder to decide where to place this program. It?s not clear when this decision will be made. We remain hopeful that a good location will be found soon, and new children will be able to enroll. Maybe as soon as this fall.
Meanwhile, we have been working with our child?s teacher at the neighborhood school. At our conference last year, we asked her if she would read a book we had bought, ?Teaching Gifted Kids in the Regular Classroom? by teacher and educator, Susan Winebrenner. The book is on the hoagiesgifted.org website, which serves TAG children and families. The book offers some excellent descriptions of the habits and capabilities of the TAG students, and suggestions on how to modify lessons to meet their needs. His teacher has since given our child a 5th grade assessment for math, which showed he knew 50% of that material already. Now she has a better idea of where to aim his classroom work and homework. This has taken some time?which is hard with these children?because they are so eager to learn new things. If you have a teacher who is willing to look at this book, this might be a way to start a conversation.
One strategy the Portland Public School District could do with little or no cost would be to have grades in elementary/middle and k-8 schools teach the same subjects at the same time. This would facilitate single subject acceleration, so that a student in 3rd grade who is ready for 6th grade math could attend math with those students. This is not now the practice at many schools. It is something for which the PPS Parent TAG Council is advocating.
As parents we plan to be in contact with our legislators, to encourage more funding for TAG students. It wouldn?t take much. We believe it makes sense for a district like Portland to have a program like ACCESS, but also to provide options for those parents who decide to keep their children at the neighborhood school, a choice we have seen some parents make, even though they are not satisfied with TAG efforts at the neighborhood school. More money could help strengthen a program like ACCESS and provide more professional development for teachers at the neighborhood schools on how to teach these children.
The issue of schools aiming the curriculum too low is something that is gaining attention. In September 2007 the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation issued a surprising report about high-achieving low-income students in the U.S. schools. It found that 3.4 million lower-income high-achieving students steadily lose ground in the public education system and are ultimately less likely to attend the most selective colleges and less likely to graduate when they attend the less selective colleges. The report states: ?As schools and other educational programs for lower-income students have been pushed to increase the number of students who achieve proficiency [to meet No Child Left Behind], few have targeted services at high-achieving students or even assessed the effects of their programs on the number of lower-income students who reach advanced levels of learning. This reality is unlikely to change as long as proficiency alone remains the lone achievement mandate. If such policies allow schools to ignore the seven percent of the student population who are form lower-income backgrounds and achieving at advanced levels, we must ask whether the incentives under the law are the best they can be?.policy makers and educators should begin a discussion at the federal, state, and local levels about whether and how to develop incentives that encourage schools to advance high achievement among lower-income students.? The report can be downloaded at: www.jackkentcookefoundation.org
posted 5 years, 4 months ago
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