Monday, June 21, 2010

Itinerant teachers: expanding access or scaling back?

The Davidson Institute graciously sends me a round-up of gifted headlines from around the world every week. This past week, two articles caught my eye because they seem to show an interesting trend in gifted programs. This trend is to do away with a full-time stand-alone gifted classroom, and to substitute a roving teacher.

This is largely budget neutral. Kids still have to be transported, whether to a gifted classroom/school or another school. Teachers still have to be paid whatever the wage is for their tenure and expertise, whether they are in one classroom 5 days a week, or in one 3 days a week and roving for two, or roving for the whole time. But both a Johnson County, NC school district, and a district in British Columbia, have elected to do this sort switch in order to, as an NC official said, be "using these teachers better, more efficiently." A roving teacher can bring gifted services to more students.

It is hard to know what to think about this. If a district has 100 gifted students, but only 20 are in a stand alone classroom available at one school, then this doesn't seem like a good set-up. On the other hand, serving 100 students 1 day a week is not equivalent to serving 20 students 5 days a week. Ideally, there would be full-time services for all 100 kids. That could also be budget neutral, as long as the class size for gifted students is no smaller than for other classes. But for a variety of reasons, this full-scale readiness grouping does not seem to happen many places (possibly because of the attitudes discussed in our previous post on the "stupid class").

I'm curious about Gifted Exchange readers' experiences with roving teachers. Is it better than nothing? Quite good? Or not really worth it? Is it a stealth way to get rid of gifted education?


gasstationwithoutpumps said...

Based on the on-line comments I've seen from roving teachers, the main effect of that practice is to marginalize the teachers of gifted students, so that the rest of the faculty can ignore them as "outsiders". As a result, the "gifted" class has no relationship to the rest of school.

Anonymous said...

I'm curious about others' experiences, too. We have 2 part-time gifted teachers, who each teach 1/2 time at our school and 1/2 at another in the district. So even though there is one position, it is divided between 2 teachers. They also are roving during parts of the school year, doing what is called 'push-in' classes for all students. To me, it is a way to keep the program under the radar, making it harder to know who to contact, ensuring that the kids do not get to know one particular teacher, etc. While I have to say that it is better than nothing, one wonders why they go to such lengths to conceal and obfuscate the program.

Anonymous said...

Since you mention British Columbia and the Salmon Arm program, which was only started up fairly recently, I thought you might be interested to know that in this Canadian province our gifted identification/designations have fallen by half in less than a decade after a decision by the government that there would no longer be specific funding for gifted education (there's an interesting comment here:

What the district in Salmon Arm was trying to do--after much advocacy by parents--was get something in place to support kids who are, all too often, receiving "funded" designations of emotional/behavioural disorders when they don't fit in to regular classrooms. What's taking place here is a disgraceful waste of potential of many children, mostly young boys, whose strengths are not being recognized.

Like many recent gifted education initiatives, the idea of itinerant teachers reaching more students sounds democratic, but in practice these teachers are vulnerable to being laid off and the positions are not highly desirable to many teachers, who prefer to have a home school base.

Anonymous said...

Having been a roving G/T teacher, I don't think it is the best service option. As several have pointed out, it makes that teacher less a part of either school. I think it marginalizes the teacher more than the students or the program itself, but it will not help the necessary G/T services expand or grow.

Troy said...

As a former gifted student, my only opportunity for gifted learning was provided by a local cooperative. I lived in a rural area, and attended a very small school. If the district didn't use roving teachers, there would have been no gifted program. However, I do agree that the ideal situation would have been to have a full-time teacher, for some districts it just isn't possible.