Updated: No experience with advocacy... ideas?

Posted by: W'sMama

Updated: No experience with advocacy... ideas? - 09/13/12 05:52 PM

Little background: DD5.5 is in her second week of Kindergarten. Here's the contact we've had with the school so far:

1. Several months before school started, I let the academic director know I thought DD would need an ALP. (We are in CO- here's a link to what I found about ALP's here:
http://www.cde.state.co.us/gt/download/pdf/FF_G-Ed_ALP.pdf )
She seemed very agreeable and said she'd like to set up a meeting to talk about it, but it turned out to be a whole lotta nothin' where she said they only had one child on an ALP in the school. This ALP had one social goal and an academic goal of allowing the child to give oral reports in front of the class on a topic of the child's choosing. So I was not super encouraged by this meeting but figured we would let the school assess her and then see what they do.

2. Right before school started parents turned in a "getting to know your child" sheet. I put that she was a strong reader and good at math. (I didn't get any more specific than that with her strengths because we haven't done any official assessments ourselves and I figured they would roll their eyes at my own estimate of her grade level equivalencies.) For goals for the year, I put something like I wanted her to experience challenges with a good attitude while being instructed at a level appropriate for her.

So I asked DD what kind of assessments they've been doing in these first 2 weeks. (Bear in mind this is coming from a 5-year-old, but she does have a good memory.) She said the math assessment had 3 things and she got them all right- counting to 100, sorting some coins, and adding the value of 2 dimes. The reading assessment involved reading a couple lists of sight words, no stories or non-fiction passages.

I think there may be another reading assessment coming, but they sent home letters explaining which math groups the kids would be in. The options were K or 1st grade math, and DD got placed in 1st. The letter said, "Don't worry, if your child is in K math this year they will still be able to complete calculus their senior year of high school".

I guess I was expecting a more comprehensive math assessment that would actually show what kind of things she already knows. The school uses Saxon math, which might work for a lot of kids but I think the incremental, spiraling approach would be bad for her.


Anyway, I'm not sure what to do next. I did ask when we'd find out about the reading assessments and they said not until parent conferences (mid-October).

Should I wait it out until then? Should we pursue some independent testing and hopefully have that ready by conferences? Should I ask again about an ALP or wait until we have some more data?
Posted by: Dude

Re: No experience with advocacy... ideas? - 09/14/12 08:47 AM

Non-specific information like "strong reader and good at math" doesn't communicate anything useful. How strong? How good?

You're right that they won't trust your assessment of her grade level, but you can provide specific examples that can clue them in to the fact that she's not at a beginning-of-first grade level. Some examples might be:

Math
- Tells time to the nearest minute on an analog clock
- Adds and subtracts numbers with more than two digits, correctly utilizing borrowing and carrying
- Can count to 1000 by 1s, 2s, 5s, and 10s.

For reading level, you can list some books she has read aloud.

I didn't find anything like this on the Colorado DOE site you linked, but Louisiana has a fairly comprehensive listing you can use as a guide to help you write these out, as well as come up with your own fairly well-informed assessment of just what her grade level might be: http://www.doe.state.la.us/topics/gle.html

Ultimately, the school has to do some of their own assessments, and they're going to need time to complete them. This is because you're a parent, and as woefully lacking self-awareness is in humans, awareness of the abilities of their own children is even worse. The school has dealt with enough parents with misplaced ideas about the superiority of their offspring that they're not going to believe you. They will believe their own testing, and you can augment that belief with your own, concrete information.

How much time is enough time? I'd let your DD determine that. If she seems comfortable in her school, then some patience is called for. If she starts displaying behaviors that are a cause for concern, then it's time to kick the school in the rear.
Posted by: polarbear

Re: No experience with advocacy... ideas? - 09/14/12 09:33 AM

I second Dude's advice smile

I've had to advocate in both "directions" for my kids at school (2e - advocating for appropriate challenge and help where they need it). This is a brief list of what's been most useful in advocating (and I'll most likely forget something):

1) Examples of schoolwork (it doesn't have to be done at school - if there's something you want the teacher to know your child can or can't do and you don't have an example of their work from school you can have your child do it at home).

2) Reports or letters from outside private professionals. School staff can be very stubborn about agreeing that another professional's opinion is valid, but having the documentation is still very helpful - if it's questioned, in return you state simply "Are you questioning the opinion of a professional with __(fill-in-the-blank)__ credentials?"

3) Be familiar with your local school district policy and with what's available. School staff are not always going to inform you of what they can do or offer your child, and on the flip side of that if you're asking for something pie-in-the-sky that other equally deserving children aren't ever getting, you're most likely going to get a "no" as well as potentially create negative feelings in your relationship with school staff.

4) Really know your child well. Cover all your bases. Be confident that what you are saying about your child is true and real and grab all the data you can to back that up.

5) If you have the resources and are interested in private testing, I would get it.

6) You might find in researching what is available in your district that parents can request that their children be tested for gifted program or gifted id - if this is the case, make the request in writing now.

7 Make a list (have it in writing) of everything that you have seen your child capable of doing and all the reasons that you think he needs accelerated curriculum. Also make a list of what you think he specifically needs - and prioritize the needs. You might not ever turn those lists over to anyone, but having it in writing and carrying it along to meetings helped me a lot in terms of keeping focused on priorities and also remembering key points to use when teachers or school staff were trying to debate ds' capabilities.

8) Remember that it's important to do everything you can to approach advocacy in a positive manner. The teachers and school aren't your foes in a battle, they are your partners in educating your child. Each time you need to contradict something the school staff tries to tell you, stick to your facts, stick to the data you have, and politely restate what you need to say. Every time you have a meeting or a conversation with a teacher, send a brief and nicely worded email as a follow-up after the meeting stating what you understand was discussed and what you and (whoever) agreed upon.

A few other thoughts for you - the beginning of school is a crazy-busy time. Our school has been in session for four weeks now and kids and teachers and schedules are just now really getting into the groove. The start of a new school year is especially challenging in kindergarten because the teacher has children who have no track record in school - the teacher is learning about their abilities while the kids are learning how to navigate the whole school thing - keeping boots in their cubbies, sitting in circle, getting excited about snack time or the library or being around big kids, learning to line up in a line to go to lunch, figuring out when they can go to the bathroom, meeting other kids.... it's basically a bit of a zoo for awhile. Your child may have all that down pat, but she's in a classroom with a wide variety of kids and experiences, and his teacher is juggling all of it. So patience for the teacher's sake (and ability to fit everything in) as well as patience in knowing (for you) that even if your child isn't challenged right now in the first months of school that doesn't mean it will always be like this.

The other thing about kindergarten that happened from what I saw at our schools (and it may or may not be happening where you are) - is that there are a *lot* of parents who want their child to be challenged, and your child is most likely not the only child coming into school already reading or doing math. I can't tell you how many moms of my kids' classmates back in K-1 I heard who were frustrated with the pace of school, wanted more challenge for their kids... and also were convinced their children were highly gifted. Years later (our gifted pullouts start in 3rd grade) most of those parents who were so out-there talking to me and other fellow parents about it in kindergarten had kids who qualified for the gifted program. So think about what might be happening from the teacher's side of things - I was hearing that from a lot of parents who, quite honestly, I can't imagine why they'd even be talking about it to me - I'm a person who doesn't really talk about those things with other people unless someone asks something specific about my kids.... and I'm guessing there have to be other parents of gifted kids out there who are like me. Those parents who are talking about their kids to other moms like me are most likely also pushing the teacher for challenge/enrichment/testing etc - so the teacher (and school) may very well be conditioned to hearing parents ask for extras for their children and may have a propensity to not weight those requests very high simply because they get a lot of them... and many of them may not rest on any substantial and true need. Leaving things to sort themselves out in the classroom over time takes care of a lot of the parents who are pushing for gifted services when their child doesn't really qualify. The note from the teacher about children who are placed in kindergarten math will still be able to take calculus in high school sounds to me as if your school is used to having a lot of parents pushing for more for their kids.

I think for now I'd work on informally building up your relationship with the teacher and continue to monitor how things are going for your dd. If there is a procedure in place in your district to request testing for gifted id in K, turn in your request in writing. If you can afford or have access to outside private testing, and can do it before you have conferences, move forward with that for peace of mind and to have data to document your dd's needs at the conferences in October. In the meantime, you can also after-school your dd in any area she or you want to.

Hope some of that made sense! Good luck!

polarbear
Posted by: HowlerKarma

Re: No experience with advocacy... ideas? - 09/14/12 09:54 AM

Quote:
How much time is enough time? I'd let your DD determine that. If she seems comfortable in her school, then some patience is called for. If she starts displaying behaviors that are a cause for concern, then it's time to kick the school in the rear.



Yes. Afterschooling/enrichment is fine for a while-- but only if the school environment isn't slowly becoming toxic at the same time.
Posted by: Dude

Re: No experience with advocacy... ideas? - 09/14/12 10:55 AM

Originally Posted By: polarbear
8) Remember that it's important to do everything you can to approach advocacy in a positive manner. The teachers and school aren't your foes in a battle, they are your partners in educating your child.


I'll second this, but only in a qualified manner. This is a solid way to approach the relationship with the school in the beginning, but individual results may vary. If this approach fails to return any positive results, another method is called for.

It's important to realize that your child's school has hundreds of other children's needs to attend to. It's very easy and convenient for them to brush your child under the rug. You are the only one who can hold them accountable for that. If that requires an oppositional approach, so be it.

The squeaky wheel gets the grease.
Posted by: st pauli girl

Re: No experience with advocacy... ideas? - 09/14/12 11:57 AM

I guess the ALP itself isn't as exciting for me as what the school will do for your kiddo. It's really quite early in the year to expect that the school will do anything, so at this point I would just start making lists of things that you want. I agree with polarbear that the letter home re: calculus indicates that there are lots of parents who want more for their kiddos. Whether that means there are other kids like your own, and if so, if there will be awesome cluster groups of kids with similar abilities, you will have to wait and see.

Are you getting the sense at this point that your DD needs more than what's going on? Again, in the first few weeks of kindy, I'm guessing there's a much bigger focus on how things work in the classroom with all the other kids, how to get from one place to another, etc.

I also recommend starting out very cooperatively, trying to create a partnership with the teacher. It doesn't help to get started on the wrong foot. When you bring things up, sometimes it helps a lot to frame things as requests for advice from the teacher ("I'm not sure what to make of this - my DD just picked up this chapter book intended for 3rd graders and read it in a couple hours. Should I be doing anything at home? Should I send books like that with her to school?")

Another thing that I liked to do was volunteer to help in the classroom. Then you get to see what's being taught and what the other kids are like. Sometimes your offer of volunteering can free up time for more one-on-one time with your kiddo, for purposes of differentiation. If you have that opportunity, I'd recommend it.

ETA: I also agree that the squeaky wheel gets the grease, but being squeaky and likeable at the same time works best!
Posted by: W'sMama

Re: No experience with advocacy... ideas? - 09/14/12 01:55 PM

Thanks so much for these responses. I'll have to read through them carefully. I appreciate it!
Posted by: W'sMama

Re: No experience with advocacy... ideas? - 10/11/12 09:17 PM

An update- hope this will be helpful for other parents looking to begin advocating for their kids. And I'm always open to comments/advice from those who've been through this. smile


Parent/Teacher conferences were tonight. I got the results of the assessments the school uses and it was about what I thought. Here's what they use:


DRA2: Teacher said she tested at a level 26. I thought that seemed pretty low for her, so I asked to see the paper- she didn't get anything wrong. I asked when she would be given the rest of the assessment to determine her reading level. Teacher said she doesn't have access to that and wouldn't be able to do it. Next step: contacting academic director again, ask for full assessment to be given to determine actual DRA level.


AIMSWeb: Again, she was only given the Kindergarten level assessment, which is identifying letters ("She knows all her letters, both upper and lowercase!") and also identifying letter sounds. Only thing she missed was she said the sound "u" makes is "you", like the long U sound. Well, I guess she should have figured they were asking for the short vowel sound since that's what she answered for the other vowels, but "u" does make the sound "you" a lot of the time so to me that's not really a miss. Next step: also ask academic director if they can give her the next level of this assessment.


Saxon Math: DD was wrong (not surprising) about what this assessment contained. It was part A of this: http://www.learningthings.com/samples/SAX/SAX_Placement-Inventory-Math-K3.pdf
She scored 10/10, and right below where the teacher had written her score, it says, "If the child scores 810 in Part A, give Part B of the assessment." So I asked if she had given her part B of the assessment and she said, "Oh, no- because we knew from this that she'd be in the highest group anyway."
(The highest group they offer is one year ahead- she's doing 1st grade Saxon math with other K kids. It's super easy, but the plus is her homework takes her about 30 seconds to complete.)

And guess what? I gave DD the rest of that Saxon assessment and it placed her in Grade 3 Math. I'm not saying she could thrive in a 3rd grade math classroom at this school, but she's definitely capable of more than what she's getting right now.
Next step: Not sure- 1-year subject acceleration in math is very common at this school, but I think there's only 1 kid out of 800+ who's accelerated 2 grades in math. The principal & academic director were strongly against it but the parent had gone through the whole next year's curriculum with the student over the summer, asked the AD to test the child, who passed, so they relented. At any rate, DD could not do 2nd grade math with the 1st graders because it's after lunch and she's in AM K which ends before lunch. I'm not keen on having her stay at school an extra 2 hours just to do 2nd grade math which I could do at home with her in maybe 15 minutes a day.


The meeting was pleasant and cheerful, I feel like we expressed ourselves kindly but firmly so I'm happy about that. The teacher said DD is "way out there" above the others in the class by every measure, including spelling/writing. She said she'd do what she could but there was no way she could give DD private instruction at her level for various reasons- no time, no access to higher level materials, etc. I said we really need to know where she is achieving right now so we can be sure she makes a full year of progress this year. Teacher thought it was a great idea to have the AD assess her further. We've also decided to pay to have the WJ-III achievement test done privately. I was hoping they could get her in in time to have the results for this meeting but it won't happen until next month.


So there it is, what do y'all think of our next steps?
Posted by: W'sMama

Re: No experience with advocacy... ideas? - 10/19/12 09:53 AM

Thanks for the response!

Originally Posted By: master of none
1. VOLUNTEER.
Does the teacher accept parent volunteers?


She's just starting to offer some limited volunteer opportunities. I'll be in the classroom one day this week for an hour during "centers". From the work they've brought home, sounds like this is crafts and worksheets straight from their language arts curriculum- cut out the pictures and sequence them based on a story the teacher read earlier, circle the pictures that begin with the letter "M", that kind of thing.

Originally Posted By: master of none

You know you have an advanced kid. Is she mature? Advanced in all areas?


Mature... ha! She was very, very mature as a toddler/preschooler, remarkably so. Now, at 5, she's kind of a mess. Tantrums about every little thing. As for academics, she's at least somewhat advanced in all areas- hopefully testing will soon answer how much.

Originally Posted By: master of none

5. Use this year to get a glimpse into how your dd handles it when the work isn't reaching her level. Does she feel insulted?


So far, she's a little put out by the "baby stuff", but not miserable, and her teacher says she has made a "few comments" to that effect. She'll tell me, for example, "during rug time the teacher asked us what sound the letters made but I didn't play, I just sat there." She does love recess and talks about that a lot. smirk
Posted by: HowlerKarma

Re: No experience with advocacy... ideas? - 10/19/12 11:09 AM

Yes. My DD tends to 'shut down' when she's in a grossly inappropriate environment. Sometimes that isn't pretty.

What is really true in those situations isn't a relative LACK of maturity compared to agemates-- it's a lack of maturity relative to ADULT expectations, actually. We wouldn't expect a middle schooler to behave him/herself particularly well at a nuclear physics conference during a long afternoon session... nor that same middle schooler to remain pleasant and attentive to, say, basic phonemic awareness training or tracing letter worksheets. Any of those things, most rational people would expect trouble from that young adolescent.

Somehow there IS an expectation that a 5yo who has algebra readiness to put up with being taught number sense and not throw tantrums. An adult might be capable of that kind of self-restraint and patience, but few children are.
Posted by: W'sMama

Re: No experience with advocacy... ideas? - 10/19/12 02:20 PM

True... to clarify, she doesn't have tantrums at school (yet). She saves all those fun behaviors for us at home. Maybe because she tantrums at the slightest little challenge she faces, and she hasn't faced anything challenging at school yet.


Originally Posted By: master of none
Classroom routines- can she follow rules and be attentive to others?


Oh yeah she seems to be doing fine with classroom rules & routines so far, other than that she sometimes refuses to participate in group activities if she thinks they're too babyish. Sounds like the teacher has not insisted that she participate, which is probably a good idea.


Posted by: W'sMama

Re: No experience with advocacy... ideas? - 10/19/12 07:20 PM

Originally Posted By: master of none
Are you thinking about grade skipping (yet)?


Well, she's essentially skipped a year already for math and it's not enough. I wouldn't want a full grade skip this year because I'm very happy with the fact that she's only in school for 3 hours, plus she's got a bunch of friends in her class.

I would love to homeschool. DH is not on board yet but I think he's coming around already. We'll see.
Posted by: W'sMama

Re: No experience with advocacy... ideas? - 11/02/12 03:43 PM

Got her achievement scores today, posted here: http://giftedissues.davidsongifted.org/B...html#Post142094

I loved working in the classroom last week. The teacher had me pulling kids to listen to them read individually. Sounds like the rest of them are pretty much on grade level for K. I knew my DD was way ahead of K level achievement, but I guess I thought there might be several kids in her class who would be 1-2 grade levels ahead... just because it's a charter school in a high SES, SuperZIP area. As far as I can tell, that doesn't seem to be the case.
Posted by: Quantum2003

Re: No experience with advocacy... ideas? - 11/02/12 07:15 PM

Consider meeting with the principal and asking how the classes are assigned. For my oldest DS, the school had segregated the classes into very high with some high, high with some average, average with some low average, and low average and very low. That system was somewhat changed by the time my two younger children entered K, but I asked the principal to pick the K teacher for DS/DD who would be the best fit for DS. Interestingly, the number of GT identified kids from DS/DD's K class is more than double that from the other five K classes. Is it possible that your DD was placed into a class with a high percentage of average or lower kids? It just sounds odd that they are all reading at K level.
Posted by: Cricket2

Re: No experience with advocacy... ideas? - 11/03/12 07:27 AM

I'm sorry that I completely missed this post up until now. I'm in CO as well. Just so you know, ALPs are rarely written in K b/c the schools often state that they don't yet have all of the data to support a GT identification that soon. Often the approach is to given everyone the CogAT or some other group test in 3rd grade and then use that combined with achievement scores to decide who they deem gifted. Depending on your district, they may also throw in all kinds of other things to support a GT id if the CogAT or achievement scores don't meet the 95th percentile in one area state requirement.

While the state does offer broad guidelines for identifying and serving gifted students (http://www.cde.state.co.us/gt/download/pdf/GT_ECEARules_July2012.pdf), it looks rather different from place to place and, honestly, I wouldn't hold out massive hope that an ALP will be a silver bullet. I recall when my dd14 was in 2nd grade and I thought that coming in with WISC-IV (IQ) and WJ-III (achievement) scores would solve everything: they'd realize what they were dealing with and now meet her needs. Instead, the district GT coordinator told me, and I quote, "highly gifted students don't last long in the public school system. Have you considered homeschooling?"

We've made public schools work reasonably well for dd, but it has involved a few school switches, a grade skip coupled with her already being the youngest in grade pre-skip, subject acceleration on top of the skip, placement in pre-AP/honors/GT classes (depending on what was available that year), and extracurriculars that met her specific interests.

ALPs we've seen work somewhat and we've seen be nothing but words. Last year, for instance, my dd12 (who has PG VCI scores on the WISC-IV) had the same language arts ALP goal as did her entire LA class: improve vocabulary. There was no intervention on the school's behalf and no pre and post test. As I pointed out to them, dd consistently tests in the 99th-99.9th percentile on vocab (she's taken the WISC twice and other achievement tests with vocab measures). What, exactly, were they aiming to improve especially if the onus what entirely on her to make the improvements? The kid is also 2e and doesn't read a lot b/c she gets headaches, words move on the page, etc. so it was unlikely that she was going to pick up words on her own through extracurricular reading.

In your instance, I'd see if you can get IQ or other ability scores to pair with those WJ scores you posted on your other thread. Then I'd look into a grade skip for next year (put her in 2nd in the fall) if you're going to keep her in public school. We homeschooled for a bit in elementary, but I also had decent luck once we realized what we were dealing with by personally interviewing all of next year's teachers and being pushy to make sure that we got the one we wanted.

Unfortunately, getting ps to work often entails work every year to get the right teacher fit as well as acceleration moreso than just finding the right school. I've found that the "right school" often doesn't exist for HG+ kids where no extra work is needed on my part.
Posted by: W'sMama

Re: No experience with advocacy... ideas? - 11/05/12 09:03 PM

Originally Posted By: Quantum2003
Is it possible that your DD was placed into a class with a high percentage of average or lower kids? It just sounds odd that they are all reading at K level.


Hmm... I don't see how they could have assigned the classes based on either aptitude or achievement since they just didn't have any of that kind of info before the year started. All they had to go on to make up the classes was sex & birth date (plus parent preference for half or full day K.) Most of the class is older than DD, partly due to red-shirting of several boys.

Some of them may be reading higher than K level, but if they are it wasn't apparent to me in the 3-4 minutes I had with each of them. Even the best readers were mixing up small sight words like "do" and "did".
Posted by: W'sMama

Re: No experience with advocacy... ideas? - 11/05/12 09:16 PM

Originally Posted By: Cricket2
the district GT coordinator told me, and I quote, "highly gifted students don't last long in the public school system. Have you considered homeschooling?"


This is both sad and hilarious to me that a GT coordinator would come right out and say that. Mind sharing what district this is? I'm actually very open to homeschooling but I'd be ticked to hear something like this from a GT educator just because it sounds like giving up. Would a special ed coordinator get away with counseling out a student in this way?

Originally Posted By: Cricket2
In your instance, I'd see if you can get IQ or other ability scores to pair with those WJ scores you posted on your other thread.


If we can get it done affordably (Is that a word? Spell check doesn't like it) we might try for that sometime next year after she turns 6.
Posted by: knute974

Re: No experience with advocacy... ideas? - 11/06/12 11:27 AM

sent you a PM.
Posted by: W'sMama

Re: No experience with advocacy... ideas? - 11/06/12 01:52 PM

Originally Posted By: knute974
sent you a PM.


Thanks!
Posted by: Cricket2

Re: No experience with advocacy... ideas? - 11/06/12 03:35 PM

Originally Posted By: W'sMama
Originally Posted By: Quantum2003
Is it possible that your DD was placed into a class with a high percentage of average or lower kids? It just sounds odd that they are all reading at K level.


Hmm... I don't see how they could have assigned the classes based on either aptitude or achievement since they just didn't have any of that kind of info before the year started. All they had to go on to make up the classes was sex & birth date (plus parent preference for half or full day K.) Most of the class is older than DD, partly due to red-shirting of several boys.

Some of them may be reading higher than K level, but if they are it wasn't apparent to me in the 3-4 minutes I had with each of them. Even the best readers were mixing up small sight words like "do" and "did".

We may be in totally different parts of the state (I'll pm you), but what we found when our dds were in K was that the higher achieving kids were often in the full day classes b/c the parents of kids who had attended academic preschools and/or who came from more educated households tended to select the full day K with the assumption that their kids would learn more (although I know that they really can't teach more academics in full-day K). I saw the half day K teachers rave to parents of kids who were barely sounding out basic words like "dog" about how incredibly advanced their kids were.

I wonder if there might be a split like that at your school as well. None the less, it sounds like your dd would be advanced academically based on those WJ scores even in a high achieving K class.
Posted by: W'sMama

Re: No experience with advocacy... ideas? - 11/13/12 03:42 PM

Originally Posted By: Cricket2
I know that they really can't teach more academics in full-day K).


Full-day K at this school just adds in the fun stuff like another recess, lunch, and specials like art, music, PE, computer lab. But yes I can see that maybe the more advanced K'ers may have ended up in full-day classes. It actually costs $$$ to "upgrade" to a full day, but our choice to do half-day was based more on our desire to have more time with DD and to allow her to participate in her various activities without having such a packed schedule.