Wednesday, February 11, 2015

When kids qualify for gifted programs, but don't sign up

Given how few districts prioritize gifted programs, one is always suspicious of certain stories. For instance, according to this article, the Moline-Coal Valley school district (in Illinois), plans to alter its set-up from self-contained gifted classes to one that would "mix high performing students with students of various classroom performance levels," according to the story. "The change would create a mix of students who play off of each other, said Matt DeBaene, assistant superintendent for assessment and accountability."

In other words, yet another story of a district setting up a system that may wind up cutting the program while not officially cutting it. Differentiation is very, very hard to do well, and when teachers get busy, it often doesn't happen.

However, the district does have a point that the gifted program was being under-utilized. In 2013-2014, of the 35 kindergartners offered admission to the program, 20 did not enroll. This year, only 17 (of 45 students ultimately offered admission) enrolled.

Why is that?

There are a few reasons families might choose not to participate in any given district's program. For instance, districts might centralize gifted programs at one school, which makes a lot of sense. But, of course, plenty of families prefer to have their children in neighborhood schools that are close by. You get a shorter bus ride, you know the neighborhood, and it might be more possible to drop by for events during the day (if parents work nearby, or are at home).

Another reason might be that a district makes the wise decision to screen everyone. In some districts, parents have to ask to have their kids screened for the gifted program, which means the parents want the kids to participate. If everyone is screened, not all parents might prioritize this. The district can encourage parents to sign up, but probably can't force this.

If your district has a gifted program, do most families that qualify enroll? If not, why not?


Anonymous said...

At our school, there weren't always enough kids to fill the gifted classroom (after district cuts, the gifted classrooms no longer had a reduced class size). The official line was that the remainder of the class was supposed to be filled by the students who scored next highest on the gifted test. Apparently the principal had to deal with many parent requests to be in the class. I don't know if this is cause and effect, but now the teacher who is assigned to teach the gifted class is not necessarily one that most parents want, especially for a combo class where your child may be in it for two years. Many of the kids who qualify for the gifted class opt out because their parents would rather have them with another teacher.

gasstationwithoutpumps said...

Opting out of a gifted program usually points to a disliked teacher, though it may also be a badly designed program that conflicts with other programs at the school (band, sports, theater, … )

nicoleandmaggie said...

When I did well on the SAT as a middle schooler, I was offered a 7th grade algebra class outside of school, as were many other children in my district. Only two kids signed up (and I ended up taking algebra at the community college concurrently with pre-algebra at school because why not).

I have never understood why other than anti-intellectualism. Being "gifted" may be important to people in cities where it's a way of getting away from lower SES (or more cynically, non-white) kids, but it doesn't seem to be something people necessarily want in vast swaths of the rest of the country.

Anonymous said...

I chose not to have a qualified younger sibling participate in the gifted program because the older qualified sibling had a negative experience with our gifted program. He was labeled gifted with a negative connotation. As a quick learner, he was always eager for more critical information. As a result, he was viewed as the kid who required more from the teachers. He wound up spending most of his school time reading books. Our gifted program asked me to differentiate his learning in accordance with the school curriculum and provide that to the teacher. What a disconnect! It proved extremely challenging to meet with the teachers to correlate learning opportunities with the curriculum, to the extent I eventually gave up. To the detriment of my child, teachers tried to say my child had ADHD or Aspbergers, which I am 100% sure he has neither. He is simply a fast learner and wants to keeping moving forward. I have since let go of the "gifted" label for both the older and the younger child, and it has proven more positive, since now there is no requirement for "extra work" on behalf of the teachers or my kids. Extra work in the same area is not what is needed; more learning is what is essential.

Anonymous said...

I live in Seattle and we have a large school district with a disproportionate number of gifted students, perhaps because of the number of high tech jobs in our city. We have a contained gifted program for the top 2% of students (based on the nationally-normed CogAT) + 95%+ on achievement tests. The gifted program works 2 grade levels ahead. We also have advanced programs in many neighborhood schools that work 1 grade ahead within mixed classrooms (usually kids are pulled out for math and work at their own reading and writing level in class).

The gifted (Highly Capable Cohort) program is massively oversubscribed with more people opting in every year. However, it's disliked by the district so it's under-funded and has been in a run-down temporary high school for years. And yet the program is still growing.

Because our gifted program is so huge and under-funded many parents of qualified kids who fit in well socially at their neighborhood school will choose to stay at a neighborhood school that offers the advanced (+1 grade program) rather than moving to the huge centralized gifted K-8 school.

I should note that there's actually a north-south Seattle differentiation here and I'm referring to the north Seattle gifted site. I think the south site is less over-subscribed. There used to be a single location but there was a previous north-south split ~5-6 years ago. There's conjecture that the north Seattle program will split again into NW and NE since it's so over-capacity.

Anyway, I think it's important to look at what the gifted program offered is like and in looking at the specifics of how, where, to whom, and with what quality and consistency the program operates you will get many of the answers of why people opt-out. Then of course add on the intellect stigma and parents' fear that gifted programs don't generate well-rounded children and you pretty much get the whole picture.

-Seattle Mama

Anonymous said...

My childs school wants to sit gifted kids in front of a computer and use Khan and other sites as the gifted program...sorry but my kid already does that in his free time at home, for years, for fun. Kids need instruction and be taught by a person, not sat in front of a screen as a baby sitter. Schools doing this I imagine have a very low amount of parents opting into the "gifted" program.