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January 20, 2009

Comments

Brad Jolly

I like the micro-blog approach, John. It allows you to touch on more topics than a long entry allows. I also appreciate the tinyurl links.

Gaythia Weis

Regarding the last item above on Gifted and Talented programing, I think it is a mistake to think that starting academic instruction ahead of one's peer group is likely to be the right answer. I speak from the perspective of someone whose offspring are now in college, at a college where meeting the requirements of being a national merit scholar or other high achievement is only average.

Yes, my children could have enrolled in school early and they did come home from kindergarden highly disapointed. One thought that they would be given substantive academics and homework right away. I regret that I was not able to find a school that truely challenged them and met their real needs.

However, I think it is important for children to be in groupings where, at least some of the time, they are able to see that there are other children of approximately the same age who have much the same abilities and interests that they do. I don't think that being with children who just happen to be a year or two older is going to help that much.

In play for example, the average 5 year old may not have been able to play hide and seek by closing their eyes and counting down from 100, but the older children may not have wanted to play hide and seek. When they found the right peer, my children were able to play some wonderful fantasy games accessible only to another child as well read as they were.

Besides, every parent of a precocious preschooler needs to realize that they won't want to rush their darlings out the door at age 16.

Early enrollment sounds to me like a measure developed by a school system STILL unable to accommodate real differences.

Brad Jolly

I applaud the district for offering this option. It may not be for everybody, but it is certainly appealing to some people.

I have a friend whose son enrolled in college at 13. In his late teens/early 20's, the son became a millionaire based on a product he developed. He is now a highly successful software developer, happily married, with bright, well-adjusted children of his own.

Andrea Mackey

John,
Even though I have been a teacher in the district for many years, I don't always know what is going on at the board level on a monthly basis. This format is very informative. I have, however, been enjoying your longer posts for several months now. Both are great. Keep up the good work.

Jo Charlton

Regarding the gifted and talented information and allowing children who qualify to enter school early--I can only shout HOORAY! Consider a child who started kindergarten reading at a 5th grade level. The awesome kindergarten teacher tried to differentiate for this child but the child resented having work different from the ABC's the age peers were working on. This child shut down and school became a horrible ordeal. This child was not allowed to move into the first grade classroom half way through kindergarten simply because they were not yet 6. Once they became 6 they were allowed to skip a grade. John talks about this situation in an earlier post too--some kids go through the curriculum much faster than others. We would never dream of grouping children by age in a swim class--so why do we do it as a society for academics? I do agree that social aspects are important too. The Iowa Scale of Acceleration is a great tool looking at all aspects to see if a child is a good candidate for a grade acceleration. I urge people to read: A Nation Deceived at http://www.accelerationinstitute.org/Nation_Deceived/ if they think acceleration is harmful. I am also very much relieved to see that gifted children are included in the RTI. They are an at risk population too. Thank you John for your blog. Sometimes I have to miss the TV school board meeting--I appreciate your links and your microblogs of meetings

Gaythia Weis

I agree with the two posts about gifted and talented programs above that all children should be able to progress at their own rate. I do not believe that acceleration is harmful, nor do I believe in rigid age categorization.

But I do think that the district's plan for grade acceleration is an inappropriate or at least inadequate answer.

Since the children already recognized as in this category generally come from an enriched home environment, I don't think that the issue is as much about where should they be at age 4 as it is what is appropriate at higher ages.

(Unless taxpayers are to cover education of all 4 year olds I think that it is reasonable that the first focus be on students who could be at this advanced level IF their lives were enriched).

Parents are correct in being concerned that putting their already reading or otherwise academically advanced 5 year old into the average kindergarten may be a bad idea. These students should not be required to sit around waiting to see if everyone else catches up.

However, putting a kindergartner reading at 5th grade level into the first grade doesn't strike me as actually accomplishes much of anything, except that for that particular year, they get to go to school full time. They are still not likely to be grouped with peers whose abilities and interests match their own. Nor are their classmates likely to progress at the same rate as they are. It is not as simple as 5th grade reading level = 5th grade even if you drop consideration of the social aspects and only look at the academic ones.

Additionally, if the district started to actively search for, and foster this level of expectation, I am convinced that they would discover that having a kindergartner capable of a "fifth grade" reading level is not that unique.

The needs of the truly gifted and talented are only partially, and sometimes only temporarily accomidated by promoting them to higher grades. This may not meet their needs more than the needs of special education students can be met by repeatedly flunking them.

Of course students go through the curriculum at different rates. It is about time we did more to develop flexible structures that recognize that fact in ways that address the needs of the whole child.

Teachers can't be expected to teach everybody at every level all the time. Therefore, If the district is going to meet the needs of its students, they are going to have to figure out ways to group students by abilities and interests.

I believe that most of the time, this can best be done with students of about the same age.

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