In Which More GT Hilarity Earns a Post

6 10 2009

Jay Mathews has provided me with the opportunity for fun yet again, but this time by being right and provoking a hilarious response from the target of his article.

First, the backstory can be found here.

Read it? Good. Now, the response. Oh my, the response.

“Dear Jay,

First, let me stress how irresponsible it is to generalize about an entire school system’s commitment to meeting the academic needs of its students based on the alleged experiences of one child. Educators in Howard County are committed to providing all students with a rigorous, challenging education experience.”

How very irresponsible of you, Jay! You took a well documented case, added it to other similar cases of which you had knowledge, and drew a reasonable conclusion! Horrifying!

“And we are hardly “clueless” about the importance of the total high school experience in the student’s intellectual and personal development. By the tone of this piece, it is obvious that you have already determined that the information provided by the parent is accurate and that the school system is a heartless bureaucracy, rather than a group of dedicated professionals committed to serving the best interest of children.”

Importance of the total high school experience in intellectual development? Did you even read what he wrote? The whole point is that the district refused to allow itself to be a part of the kid’s intellectual development at all. And again with the attacking his journalistic integrity. Jay Mathews is many things, but lazy in his reporting is certainly not one of them.

“Central and school-based personnel for the school system have spent an overwhelming amount of time working to address the needs of this particular student. The school system has offered numerous opportunities and accommodations to no avail. We respect the laws governing the confidentiality of student records and therefore, we will not comment further on this child’s circumstances.

Education involves more than simply scoring well on tests. The standards we have implemented are designed to uphold the integrity of the high school diploma; another responsibility we do not take lightly.”

The integrity of the diploma my foot. A student with straight D’s gets a diploma. It’s not some sort of high honor that we’re talking about, here. In addition, yes, education is more than mere test scores. However, you’re working quite diligently against the true nature of education (learning). Might want to fix that before you go on about what education really is.

“The Maryland High School Assessments are end-of-course exams. In order to meet the Maryland Graduation requirement a student is required to successfully complete the course as well. Howard County curriculum is far more extensive than the baseline knowledge required to pass the HSA in each content area. Class discussions, group work, research, and other activities that take place in the classroom enrich and enhance the educational experience.”

Hehehehe. Yeah. Those rigorous tests that absolutely aren’t a joke. And we provide so much more! Really! What’s that you say? He did college level work? WELL WE’RE GRAD SCHOOL LEVEL THEN! GET IN LINE!

“Education also involves more than just intellectual development so when deciding whether to move a student to an advanced grade, educators consider (and discuss with the parents) the following factors:
· Academic achievement level
· Age of the student
· Previous accelerations
· Attendance record
· Parental concerns
· Developmental factors
· Health factors
· Emotional factors
· Report card
· IEP
· 504 Plan”

That’s nice. You’re providing a list of all the things you ignored. How helpful ^_^

“The HCPSS does award credit for home schooling and college courses provided those experiences cover the same objectives as a comparable course offered in our high schools and the student demonstrates mastery of the content. Credit will only be awarded if the student completes the college course.”

He did.

“We take great exception to the statement that “Howard has been slower than other districts in this area to embrace acceleration…” Grade skipping is not the only way to accelerate instruction. Since the early 1980’s the HCPSS has offered comprehensive Gifted and Talented programming and enrichment opportunities in all schools.”

Jay to the rescue! “Howard has lagged in AP participation for some time for a district with so many affluent, well-prepared students. But it has, as I said, gotten better, from an AP participation rate of 0.649 (ratio of college-level tests to graduating seniors) in 2000 to a rate of 1.670 in 2008. That is still below the rate of 2.692 in Montgomery County, very similar to Howard demographically.”

Currently over 40% of our students participate in our Gifted and Talented program offerings across all grades.

Explaining all the things wrong with this would literally take weeks, so I’ll stick with the most obvious: “What the ****?!” Her argument is quite literally “we do not know what the words ‘Gifted’ and ‘Talented’ mean, so clearly we are in the right!” GT, madame, is not a tool for boosting self esteem. GT is not a way to get large numbers that your district can brag about to potential tax payers. GT, madame, is providing adequate education to children far beyond the normal range. Far, far fewer than 40% of people are significantly above average in at least one area. Less than 16% of people are even one standard deviation above the average. Only about 2.5% are above the 2 standard deviations that generally qualifies as “gifted.” This is absolutely basic. Why is the district conducting PR via its pet donkey rather than, say, a mouth?

“In elementary schools, our GT mathematics curriculum is accelerated by at least two years. Other enrichment opportunities are provided through school wide enrichment programs general exploratory activities, instructional seminars, curriculum extension units, and research investigations. In Middle Schools the school wide enrichment programs continue and students also have access to advanced course work in Geography and World Cultures, US History, English, Science, and Mathematics as well as an after-school accelerated G/T Mathematics Program.”

Any time you see “enrichment” in a GT context, it becomes a fairly safe assumption that the school is lying to you. This is certainly the case here. The relevant parts are the GT math, which is their only real acceleration, and the APs. The problem with claiming APs as GT courses…they aren’t. The way APs are conducted, the classes are tailored to moderately above average, hard working students. I got a 5 in AP US history essentially without opening my textbook for anything after about 1850. AP World is proving no more difficult, and neither are AP Chem or Govpol. Same for English.

“Our high schools address the needs of our most gifted students with G/T, honors and advanced placement courses, college-level independent research and a well-established Intern/Mentor Program.”

You’re just too lazy to make them work for anyone who hasn’t fit neatly into your tracking.

“Should you have need for clarification of any of the above information, please feel free to contact me.

Sincerely,

Patti Caplan

Director of Public Relation”

I’d like to clarify: why do you think that we are stupid?

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“Everyone is gifted”

11 03 2009

“Everyone is gifted”

It’s a common phrase whether you’re talking to educators, parents or just about anyone else who has an opinion on education. It’s also flat out wrong or nonsense (take your pick).

If it’s nonsense, that’s because it’s rendering “gifted” meaningless. If everyone is gifted, then isn’t saying that someone is gifted the same as saying that they’re a human? Is gifted education created with the intent of every child going through it when they go through school? No? Then not everyone is gifted. Gifted doesn’t mean that you’re better, but it absolutely means you’re better at. That’s the point. The two are not the same thing, and people need to stop acting as if they were.

If it’s wrong, it’s fairly self evident why. Not every child is intellectually above age level. I mean, I understand not everyone is good at math, but this isn’t a difficult concept. It isn’t possible for everyone to be above average. It doesn’t work that way. And yet, amazingly, we get told otherwise by people with a straight face and, even more amazingly, with good intentions.

This is one of the biggest red flags parents of gifted kids should watch out for, I think, because when you hear this line, the problem (whether it’s ignorance of the subject or an active antipathy to gifted education) likely runs very deep. If you hear someone in charge of your child’s education say this, make sure you watch what they do very, very closely.