Friday, October 03, 2014

Screen everyone

Pennsylvania requires that schools serve their gifted students, but to serve students you must identify them. How do you do that?

My district has not had a great system for this. Basically, you had to request to have your child screened. This wasn't advertised, so people learned about this option through word-of-mouth: If you knew people with older kids who'd figured this out, and if you were involved enough in the school to have such lines of communication open.

There are obvious problems with such an approach. I'm not sure that giftedness would be correlated with parents' social capital. So I was pleased to see a notice come home the other day that the district will be changing the approach. From now on, all first graders will be screened.

To be sure, there are limitations with this too. Any screen given to everyone will likely be cursory. Nonetheless, the idea is a good one. Screening everyone is the best way to avoid biases that both parents and teachers can bring to the table.

Does your district screen all students for giftedness? In what grade? Of course, what is then done with the results is often a different matter...


Anonymous said...

I guess I'm surprised this is even in question. The inequalities associated with screening and testing are well-documented.

Our state requires that everyone be screened. Of course, there is no funding or mandate to do anything about the results, but that is a different issue. Kids here are screened in third grade; there used to be a second round of screening in 6th grade but this has been abandoned due to lack of funds (and possibly because people recognized it was kind of pointless if there was no intervention planned).

There is also the question of what modalities are used for screening, also a controversial area. If one, as seems to be common, can substitute private testing, arguably not equally available to all and which some cynics argue can be less than objective, does that undermine the underlying goals of screening everyone?

Kathy Tanner said...

I have gone over this issue several times. We have two daughters and I had to meet with staff to have them screened.
Both of them were then tested and placed in the public schools gifted program, of which we were very appreciative, as it better met their needs than the general curriculum.
As they grew older, the programs decreased until there were no placements for advancement unless you tested in and got teacher recommendation, which didn't happen and our daughters were put back in the pool listening to repeated curriculum and idling in dullness with little chance for finding peers with similar interests or abilities.
This, I find, to be so far from all the possibilities available to schools to meet these needs. Maybe its because I trained and taught when we were still using ditto machines and had to handwrite tests that I find today's opportunities with computers so vast.
How is it that students have to be "labeled" before having a chance at challenging lessons and curriculum? Why does anyone have to wait or be granted such opportunities?
It was part of my understanding that these levels of challenges were to be part of every classroom and school. Some would even say it needs to be part of every community. Having learning opportunities through games, open-ended questioning, clubs, intermural activities, projects, contracts or other methods where there were more choices available for a student to set her own goals and meet objectives is quite possible and it doesn't take testing to do this. Students will eventually self-select their groups and, with guidance, they will also learn how to learn and become more confident in seeking positive learning challenges.
Sometimes it isn't a matter of having our children in gifted classrooms, it is a matter of having gifted instruction, which can be available to all learners. That power is in finding people who are intentional and focused on helping all students grow and tools and resources to do so.

Kathy Tanner said...

Since there are really very few advantages, because there isn't any programming, to being gifted and talented, why would the state screen for these students anyway?
I have to wonder what advantage is there to seeking them out if they aren't prepared to support them educationally. In fact, I am concerned, after knowing and experiencing what happens when people do know about talents and gifts and find ways to use the person and then keep her down to just being able to have just enough to get by while they fill up on the rewards.
Now THERE is a very good reason to support students with gifts and talents!!! Otherwise these people will use their gifts and talents only to survive, never fulfilling their full potential.

Dr.Xu said...

In my CT district, all kids are tested at the end of 2nd grade. There is a gifted program (called "workshop" - the word gifted seldom appearing anywhere) that begins in 3rd grade. My son was an exception, because we got the school to test him during kindergarten and he began attending workshop classes with the 3rd graders while in 1st grade.
The program focused on in-depth learning, inventing, and collaboration, while also working on points that gifted children find challenging, such as waiting for your turn to speak, pay attention to what others are saying, slow down so others can follow your train of thought, etc.
My son liked those classes a lot, unfortunately that was only for 2 hours per week, and the rest of the time he was miserable in class, despite the school's efforts, such as providing him with a private Math instructor, who could accelerate him to his appropriate level.
Even though our family moved to this particular town because it has great public schools and a gifted program, after 1st grade we transferred our son to a private school that offers him the opportunity to attend different grade classes. He is 7 yo now, enrolled in 2nd grade, taking 7th grade Math, 6th grade Earth Science, and his teacher just moved him to 3rd grade for Language Arts.
My husband had tried to make the public school accelerate him or skip a grade, but it is difficult to do so when a student's abilities are not uniform.
So far, this solution is working very well and my son is happy at school.