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    #238209 - 05/08/17 09:08 AM Why is advocating so hard??
    HoosierMommy Offline
    Member

    Registered: 07/06/08
    Posts: 174
    Loc: Cincinnati, OH
    Seriously, why is it so hard to advocate for GT kids?

    Why don't teachers and administrators "get" it?

    We have struggled all year to get DD8 challenged in school. She has never had to work much at school, and we've begun to notice she's developed a laziness regarding challenge. If it looks hard, better to skip it or guess.

    We talked to the principle last December about acceleration. Surprisingly, he was all for it. This would have put her in 4th grade for the last half of the year. But there was concern from the school she wouldn't qualify for 5th grade honors math by the end of the school year. So they gave her the placement test to see how she would do. Unfortunately, she didn't score well. Then she was given a 3rd grade math test which she aced.

    So the principle said DD8 clearly understood 3rd grade math and needed to move onto 4th grade math topics. Hooray! But then he delegated duties out and it all fell apart. By the time a plan was put into place for DD8 to learn 4th grade material in her 3rd grade class, it was March. Plus the teacher insisted on re-evaluating her on 3rd grade math concepts even though she demonstrated good conceptual understanding of the material.

    By April, another meeting with the teachers took us another step back. Now DD8 would be doing 3rd grade math lessons when the teacher felt it was a good fit. And all that 4th grade learning she was supposed to be doing in class? Well, now that has to be done at home. Grrrrrr.

    Now it's May. I asked to have DD8 re-tested for placement into 5th grade honors with the hope she can skip grade 4 math next year. I had looked through the 4th grade standards the teacher provided and felt like DD8 would do well. She didn't have a lot of formal teaching on the conepts, but like a lot of GT kids, she apparently picked it up anyway. But the administrator said he couldn't keep giving her the test over and over, so he could give it to her one more time and the results would determine placement next year no matter what. Not that I was going to take this guy's word as gospel, but I decided to wait until mid-summer to have DD8 retested just to make sure (we'll review the math in the meantime).

    So frustrating. Whenever DH and I talk to the teachers, they treat us like we're pushing DD8 instead of advocating. They insist on re-evaluating her on material she already proved to understand. And they fell through on their plan to enrich her during class. Now we have an ultimatum regarding math placement testing: pass the test or stay in 4th grade math.

    Why is it so stinking hard to get through to these people?

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    #238213 - 05/08/17 10:29 AM Re: Why is advocating so hard?? [Re: HoosierMommy]
    indigo Offline
    Member

    Registered: 04/27/13
    Posts: 4224
    In my observation and experience, it became much more difficult to advocate for gifted kids when common core ushered in an era of:
    1) seeking "equal outcomes" for all kids enrolled in US public schools, and
    2) data collection to both measure progress toward, and enforce the attainment of, "equal outcomes".

    Unfortunately, closing achievement gaps and excellence gaps may be accomplished, in part, by capping the growth of students at the top.

    Teachers who do not close gaps in their classrooms may receive negative performance reviews, and ultimately may not remain employed.

    Some schools are very deeply invested in this, others may be following behind. With a focus on "equal outcomes," educational freedom and personal liberty may be circling the drain and slipping away.

    In the scenarios you describe, two things may be helpful:
    1) repeatedly asking for "next steps" and "where we are, in the process"... and documenting this in letters to the school, and
    2) repeatedly asking for dates... and documenting these in letters to the school.

    This may allow parents to:
    1) point out when the process is diverging from described "next steps" and/or when the process has gone backward, essentially repeating steps and/or revisiting decisions, and
    2) point out out when dates have passed, then ask for expedited action.

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    #238214 - 05/08/17 10:29 AM Re: Why is advocating so hard?? [Re: spaghetti]
    polarbear Offline
    Member

    Registered: 09/29/11
    Posts: 3363
    Originally Posted By: spaghetti
    Because they believe what they are teaching is hard stuff. Especially in math. And they've heard that if you skip over anything, the child will not have a good understanding of basic concepts and will fail algebra. The teachers have this drilled into them that kids get math phobia, that kids can appear to understand, but not really understand. This makes them worried about advancing kids unless they are really really sure. And they hear stories about teachers that got it wrong and the kid struggled later. And they don't want to be that teacher. There is nothing that they can confidently look at to say this child has mastered this because there is always a reason in the back of their head why they may not be seeing things clearly.


    One thing I'd add to spaghetti's insight above.... we found that most of the teachers we dealt with in elementary school (at my ds' first school) weren't people who had a core strength in math themselves; they were often people who'd found math challenging when they were students, and they didn't really understand that math is easy for some people.

    polarbear

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    #238215 - 05/08/17 11:03 AM Re: Why is advocating so hard?? [Re: HoosierMommy]
    Saritz Offline
    Member

    Registered: 09/06/12
    Posts: 80
    We are feeling the pain of equal outcomes. It keeps getting worse each year. Endless drilling for testing and a complete lack of differentation.

    I have to second Polar Bear's observation. My DS' teacher actually told me that she can't help him with what DS is working on in IXL in free time because she doesn't understand it.

    People who love math don't usually opt for Elementary Education as a career choice. Thankfully, there are and always will be a few exceptions.

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    #238225 - 05/08/17 05:20 PM Re: Why is advocating so hard?? [Re: HoosierMommy]
    HoosierMommy Offline
    Member

    Registered: 07/06/08
    Posts: 174
    Loc: Cincinnati, OH
    1. The "equal outcomes" ideology is new to me so I'll have to look into that. And kind of scary, actually. I'm not sure if our district is operating that way but definitely something to examine.

    2. Spaghetti, thank you for your insight. DD8's teacher does act like what she's teaching is difficult. At the last meeting we had, the teacher said she'd have DD do the 3rd grade math lesson on measurement because they were going to measure to the 1/4-inch--and she said this like it was a huge deal. Like using a ruler to measure was difficult to master. Sigh.

    The other teacher we've been in conversation with is the math curriculum leader for the district. He originally told us DD8 has a good conceptual understanding of 3rd grade math, then a month later told me DD needs to be re-evaluted on 3rd grade concepts to make sure she understands. What?!

    And the teacher keeps talking about going deeper into the material. I understand that there's surface understanding, and then there's understanding at a deeper level. But they get so focused on this "deeper learning" stuff that they don't get that DD8 has gone as deep as she can go with the knowledge they've given her. If they would teach her new stuff, she could go even deeper! But when the pool is shallow, you can only go so deep!

    How exasperating!

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    #238227 - 05/08/17 06:36 PM Re: Why is advocating so hard?? [Re: HoosierMommy]
    Cnm Offline
    Member

    Registered: 04/23/17
    Posts: 68
    Loc: Nevada
    Re: The ruler thing... DD8's teacher taught her class to line the end of the ruler up at the end of the line they were measuring, instead of lining it up at zero. Worked fine up to nearest half inch, but no one could figure out why the answers were suddenly all wrong for quarter inch...
    This teacher has been teaching third grade longer than I've been alive.


    Edited by Cnm (05/08/17 06:37 PM)

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    #238229 - 05/08/17 07:36 PM Re: Why is advocating so hard?? [Re: HoosierMommy]
    indigo Offline
    Member

    Registered: 04/27/13
    Posts: 4224
    Originally Posted By: HoosierMommy
    The "equal outcomes" ideology is new to me so I'll have to look into that. And kind of scary, actually. I'm not sure if our district is operating that way but definitely something to examine.
    You may wish to begin your search with the common core official website: corestandards.org. Unfortunately, the website contents have changed frequently, and may continue to do so. Statements in favor of equal outcomes can still be found. At present, there is a page titled "statements of support". One example is from the Council of the Great City Schools.
    "Public education is supposed to promote a level playing field for our young people. Instead, the standards now in place do the opposite by institutionalizing uneven expectations and outcomes,"
    Other references to equal outcomes may be found throughout the common core website and the websites of linked affiliates.

    Originally Posted By: HoosierMommy
    The other teacher we've been in conversation with is the math curriculum leader for the district. He originally told us DD8 has a good conceptual understanding of 3rd grade math, then a month later told me DD needs to be re-evaluted on 3rd grade concepts to make sure she understands. What?!
    When you receive information such as your DD having a good conceptual understanding of 3rd grade math, do you document this in a ring binder at home (date, person, context, etc)? Do you also document this information in an e-mail to the person, thank them for their time, ask about next steps, dates/timing, etc? Basic advocacy info and resources here.

    Originally Posted By: HoosierMommy
    ... the teacher keeps talking about going deeper into the material
    Could you ask for specific examples of "going deeper" on the particular math concept being taught? It may be what is commonly called make-work, busy-work, spinning wheels, marching in place, treading water, etc... designed to create equal outcomes for all students in the class, rather than create growth and learning for each student.

    Originally Posted By: HoosierMommy
    How exasperating!
    Please set emotion aside and be an investigator, documenter, strategist, and advocate. The book From Emotions to Advocacy can be very helpful.

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    #238242 - 05/09/17 08:32 AM Re: Why is advocating so hard?? [Re: HoosierMommy]
    HoosierMommy Offline
    Member

    Registered: 07/06/08
    Posts: 174
    Loc: Cincinnati, OH
    Indigo, again, thanks for the info. I will look into it more. As for documenting each comment, no, I haven't done that. This is our first time advocating at this level, and I wasn't aware I may need to tackle this challenge like a lawyer. Maybe it's naivete or my good-hearted nature thinking I didn't need to hold everyone accountable in such a strict manner.

    DD8's teacher has told me more than once she feels she teaches to the higher learners in the class. I think our fundamental problem is that a higher learner does not equal gifted, so there's a disconnect between what I know my daughter needs and what the teacher feels she is providing.

    At the end of the school year, DH and I are going to sit down with the principle and give our feedback on this whole process. The idea of teaching DD8 a grade ahead in her current class was new to the district, and well, they didn't do a very good job. Maybe educating the educators on giftedness would help fill some gaps... or perhaps that's my optimism speaking.

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    #238244 - 05/09/17 08:35 AM Re: Why is advocating so hard?? [Re: Cnm]
    HoosierMommy Offline
    Member

    Registered: 07/06/08
    Posts: 174
    Loc: Cincinnati, OH
    Originally Posted By: Cnm
    Re: The ruler thing... DD8's teacher taught her class to line the end of the ruler up at the end of the line they were measuring, instead of lining it up at zero. Worked fine up to nearest half inch, but no one could figure out why the answers were suddenly all wrong for quarter inch...
    This teacher has been teaching third grade longer than I've been alive.


    That's horrible and somewhat comical at the same time.

    The longer I live, the more I'm amazed at how little the "experts" know. When we first moved to the district, I put more trust in what the teachers said versus trusting my gut. After all, these people had graduate degrees in education, and I don't. But I've come to realize more and more that just because they have a degree doesn't mean they know what they're doing in regards to what's best for my daughters. And so we keep on fighting. smile

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    #238247 - 05/09/17 09:26 AM Re: Why is advocating so hard?? [Re: HoosierMommy]
    indigo Offline
    Member

    Registered: 04/27/13
    Posts: 4224
    Yes, unfortunately, many parents begin by believing a school:
    1) knows what is in the best interests of their child, and
    2) has the will to follow-through
    ... only to learn much later that the school's main interests are:
    1) being insular (protecting itself, defending its policies, etc), and
    2) gaining funding (whether through government allocation of taxpayer dollars, private donors & foundations, business partnerships, etc).
    Gifted outlier children generally do not fit in with these priorities.

    To prevent a meeting from devolving, you may wish to prepare yourselves well. Work closely with your spouse on this.
    Because these things can change over time...
    - Read, print, place in a ring binder: Your State education laws.
    - Read, print, place in a ring binder: Your school's policies, especially anything related to "gifted", acceleration, and/or growth of each student. Also locate any published policies on teacher evaluation, equal outcomes, closing gaps, etc. Do not plan to speak on these topics, but do be familiar with policies regarding them.
    - Have a plan for what you wish to say in the meeting, including suggestions, requests, "next steps", timing/dates, etc. Stay positive and solution-oriented, and focused on meeting your child's needs and how the laws and policies make this possible.
    - Know what your goals are.
    - Know what your other educational options are, if you choose to leave this school or if the school declares it cannot meet your child's educational needs.

    At the meeting:
    - Take notes.
    - Ask for definitions, detail, and clarification when needed, to ensure that you understand what the school is saying.

    Some possible resources to share:
    - Davidson's Educators Guild
    - Article: What Kids Don't Learn (without appropriate academic challenge)... know the list of 10 things!
    - excerpts from Article: Gifted Children: Youth mental health update (kids need both academic challenge and academic/intellectual peers)... study this and know it well!

    After the meeting, follow-up with a friendly, professional recap of the meeting... a letter of understanding (which may be e-mailed). More in the roundup of advocacy info.

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