Why is advocating so hard??

Posted by: HoosierMommy

Why is advocating so hard?? - 05/08/17 09:08 AM

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?
Posted by: indigo

Re: Why is advocating so hard?? - 05/08/17 10:29 AM

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.
Posted by: polarbear

Re: Why is advocating so hard?? - 05/08/17 10:29 AM

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
Posted by: Saritz

Re: Why is advocating so hard?? - 05/08/17 11:03 AM

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.
Posted by: HoosierMommy

Re: Why is advocating so hard?? - 05/08/17 05:20 PM

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!
Posted by: Cnm

Re: Why is advocating so hard?? - 05/08/17 06:36 PM

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.
Posted by: indigo

Re: Why is advocating so hard?? - 05/08/17 07:36 PM

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.
Posted by: HoosierMommy

Re: Why is advocating so hard?? - 05/09/17 08:32 AM

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.
Posted by: HoosierMommy

Re: Why is advocating so hard?? - 05/09/17 08:35 AM

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
Posted by: indigo

Re: Why is advocating so hard?? - 05/09/17 09:26 AM

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.
Posted by: ashley

Re: Why is advocating so hard?? - 05/09/17 09:51 AM

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?!


BTDT. I typed up a long reply on what the conversation between the Math Curriculum Leader and the Administrator might have been in order to make this person change his mind - and then, because sarcasm, stinging critiques etc might offend forum rules, I deleted it.
Paraphrasing politely, this math curriculum leader will keep stalling for a long time because he has been told to re-evaluate his opinion of your daughter.
Our local school district talks nicely to parents (they are public servants and are obligated to look friendly to me, after all), tests kids and then makes fake promises that they never deliver on. Later, we found out that many parents whose kids did not qualify for gifted services hired lawyers to sue the school district and claimed in the suit that the testing itself could be challenged as it was neither an accurate measure of IQ nor was the testing environment fair. I am told that the outcome was not favorable to the district. So, the district decided to offer "in-class differentiation" based on teacher's observations, which never really worked out for anyone in my child's elementary school (there were 4 PG kids in my son's class). Needless to say, my child is not educated in that system anymore.
You are better off getting outside validation of her math proficiency (Talent Search, competition wins etc) and then re-advocating. After schooling in math is a good option until this is resolved.
Posted by: HoosierMommy

Re: Why is advocating so hard?? - 05/09/17 11:52 AM

Originally Posted By: ashley


BTDT. I typed up a long reply on what the conversation between the Math Curriculum Leader and the Administrator might have been in order to make this person change his mind - and then, because sarcasm, stinging critiques etc might offend forum rules, I deleted it.


That would have been entertaining.

Quote:
Paraphrasing politely, this math curriculum leader will keep stalling for a long time because he has been told to re-evaluate his opinion of your daughter.


He told me he wants to see data that she has done the work and understands the 4th grade math concepts. DD has done a little 4th grade math at school and some at home (trying not to do a ton at home because I want her to have plenty of time to play and be a kid), but the math curriculum leader doesn't understand that DD doesn't necessarily need classroom instruction to pass his test. It's hard to explain that to someone who doesn't share that ability.

Quote:
Our local school district talks nicely to parents (they are public servants and are obligated to look friendly to me, after all), tests kids and then makes fake promises that they never deliver on.


I'm starting to get that feeling from our district. However, the principle was all-for acceleration, and our problems didn't start until he handed off duties to other less-evolved educators. By the time we talked to the principle last Dec., he had already skipped around 5 kids up to 4th grade. He said 5 years ago he would never had done that, but he's read the research and understands it's better for them.

Our district is supposed to be good with GT kids; it's the main reason we came here. It's a high socioeconomic town with a lot of identified GT kids. Maybe that makes me even more amazed that the teacher and administrator don't get it.

Quote:
You are better off getting outside validation of her math proficiency (Talent Search, competition wins etc) and then re-advocating. After schooling in math is a good option until this is resolved.


We are considering an individual assessment/IQ testing. I'm on the fence about it: is it really worth it? Will it help us advocate? Any experience with that?
Posted by: ConnectingDots

Re: Why is advocating so hard?? - 05/09/17 12:08 PM

What's your relationship with the principal like? If it is really good, it might be worth requesting another meeting and talking through the presented options. (I'm basing this on your comment that he's read the research and acted accordingly.)

We found that having outside data helped us. YMMV. In your case, it sounds as though it might be really helpful to have test results showing where your daughter is at in math. (Objective tests, not the one that she might be given again at the school.) Also, be aware that some educators think a passing score to move on needs to be 100% in these circumstances. We were fortunate that the educator who gave end-of-year tests to our DS thought that 80% was the bar. (DS scored higher than that, but the tester said if it was in the 80s, we would discuss a plan to accelerate while we would fill in "gaps" at home.)

You may also find that test results could qualify your child for gifted programs (weekend camps, etc.) outside the school district.
Posted by: ConnectingDots

Re: Why is advocating so hard?? - 05/09/17 12:12 PM

BTW, we are also in a school district which is highly regarded and where many of the children are "above average." Our conversations there indicated that it made them reluctant to move outside their primarily differentiation in the classroom + pullout model, because other parents would ask for the same... Also, they only wanted to make acceleration-type changes in the summer, when they were less visible to other parents. When you are the parents trying to meet your child's needs, it is sometimes hard to believe that other parents see acceleration as some sort of prize. But those parents are out there, wreaking havoc.
Posted by: indigo

Re: Why is advocating so hard?? - 05/09/17 01:46 PM

I was thinking along the same lines as ConnectingDots... wondering whether it might prove helpful to consult once again with the Principal on a possible acceleration (full-grade acceleration or subject acceleration).

The Iowa Acceleration Scale (IAS) can be very helpful when considering the PROs and CONs of a potential grade skip. As an added benefit, using the IAS process can also diplomatically assist with parents who might like to entertain the idea of a grade skip for their child... when the child would not be a strong candidate for acceleration at this time.
Posted by: indigo

Re: Why is advocating so hard?? - 05/09/17 01:51 PM

Originally Posted By: HoosierMommy
... amazed that the teacher and administrator don't get it.
They may get it, but their incentivized priority may be staying employed and having a positive performance review, when assessed and held accountable for "closing gaps" and creating "equal outcomes".
Posted by: knute974

Re: Why is advocating so hard?? - 05/09/17 03:42 PM

Originally Posted By: polarbear
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


I'd like to add that it's probably worse because you have a girl instead of a boy that is gifted in math. I have two girls who are very gifted in math. We fought the perception that "gifted boys do well in math and gifted girls do well in language arts" for YEARS. We did not find a teacher who truly understood our girls until high school. BTW, that teacher is male and I am so thankful for him.
Posted by: dreamsbig

Re: Why is advocating so hard?? - 05/09/17 04:00 PM

Originally Posted By: HoosierMommy
[quote=ashley]

We are considering an individual assessment/IQ testing. I'm on the fence about it: is it really worth it? Will it help us advocate? Any experience with that?



I had DS tested with the WISC-V and am very glad that I did. What I found most helpful, was that it gave me confidence to advocate for my child. Before the testing, I was wondering if I wasn't being objective because it was "my child" or some wishful thinking on my part. Also, I if didn't have DS's WISC scores, I would have been much more inclined to accept/believe whatever the school told me.

If you do get testing done, be prepared that schools are often resistant to outside testing. Both the school principal and the director of gifted services at our district, insisted that they don't accept outside evaluations. However, to make a long story short, I was able to get them to accept the WISC-V and did get DS accelerated in math and reading but it took a lot of work and persistance on my part.
Posted by: marigold82076

Re: Why is advocating so hard?? - 05/10/17 07:00 AM

Originally Posted By: dreamsbig
Originally Posted By: HoosierMommy
[quote=ashley]

We are considering an individual assessment/IQ testing. I'm on the fence about it: is it really worth it? Will it help us advocate? Any experience with that?



I had DS tested with the WISC-V and am very glad that I did. What I found most helpful, was that it gave me confidence to advocate for my child. Before the testing, I was wondering if I wasn't being objective because it was "my child" or some wishful thinking on my part. Also, I if didn't have DS's WISC scores, I would have been much more inclined to accept/believe whatever the school told me.

If you do get testing done, be prepared that schools are often resistant to outside testing. Both the school principal and the director of gifted services at our district, insisted that they don't accept outside evaluations. However, to make a long story short, I was able to get them to accept the WISC-V and did get DS accelerated in math and reading but it took a lot of work and persistance on my part.


Same experience here! I was resistant to testing at first but I was so glad we did it. It really put things in perspective.
Posted by: HoosierMommy

Re: Why is advocating so hard?? - 05/10/17 09:02 AM

Thanks for the perspectives on testing.

I'm more for it, but DH is not. When the teachers keep shooting me down, I start to doubt whether I'm crazy or if DD is more gifted than what they see. We all get a little starry-eyed when it's our own kids, and I don't want to be "that parent" who thinks the sun rises and sets in her daughter. Having concrete numbers would settle a lot of doubts for me.

But DH doesn't have those doubts; somehow he possesses an unshakable firm position even in the face of opposition. So he's reluctant to spend the money, time, and energy in testing.

Any other anecdotes about testing would be appreciated!!
Posted by: HoosierMommy

Re: Why is advocating so hard?? - 05/10/17 09:12 AM

Originally Posted By: ConnectingDots
What's your relationship with the principal like? If it is really good, it might be worth requesting another meeting and talking through the presented options. (I'm basing this on your comment that he's read the research and acted accordingly.)

We found that having outside data helped us. YMMV. In your case, it sounds as though it might be really helpful to have test results showing where your daughter is at in math. (Objective tests, not the one that she might be given again at the school.) Also, be aware that some educators think a passing score to move on needs to be 100% in these circumstances. We were fortunate that the educator who gave end-of-year tests to our DS thought that 80% was the bar. (DS scored higher than that, but the tester said if it was in the 80s, we would discuss a plan to accelerate while we would fill in "gaps" at home.)

You may also find that test results could qualify your child for gifted programs (weekend camps, etc.) outside the school district.


The principal is pretty awesome. He's all about accelerating kids who need it.

The problem is that our district offers honors math in 5th grade. It's a compacted math curriculum including all of 5th and roughly 2/3rds of 6th grade. The program is great (DD11 did it this year in 5th grade and qualified for a math skip next year), but the principal was concerned DD8 would not qualify on the honors test given at the end of 4th grade. He wants her to be at the top of her class still and be doing the honors math. I agree. I think she can handle the honors curriculum.

The math curric. leader already gave DD8 the honors test back in Dec. when we were deciding whether or not to skip to 4th grade for the last half of the year. She didn't score as well as they liked to see, but passed all the 3rd grade material. The math curric. leader said he can't keep giving DD the test over and over, so when she takes it again, that's it. And it will solidify her placement next year.

I think she would pass it if we gave it to her right now. But I want to be certain, so I opted to test this summer after we review the math. I didn't want to jeopardize her placement or create a stinky situation where I had to fight to get her re-evaluated in the case she didn't pass. It's been a sticky situation.

If we had followed the IAS, I believe she would have qualified for a skip. It was just the honors math test that held her back. Hindsight is always 20/20, you know, so looking back I wish we had subject-accel her for the last half of the year, then re-tested for honors placement by May. I think she would have done fine. Instead, she had wishy-washy "enrichment" in class plus some teaching we did at home here and there, and I think she STILL would pass it.
Posted by: indigo

Re: Why is advocating so hard?? - 05/10/17 03:28 PM

In case it helps to run through a checklist, here's a link to common core 4th grade math.
The 5th and 6th grade math can also be found from the linked webpage.

BTW, some may say that for a child who is being grade-accelerated at a critical juncture, the placement in high math could be a foregone conclusion, without need for going through the regular route to qualify. This would be based on the federal definition of gifted, as read from the NAGC website:
"The term ‘gifted and talented,” when used with respect to students, children, or youth, means students, children, or youth who give evidence of high achievement capability in such areas as intellectual, creative, artistic, or leadership capacity, or in specific academic fields, and who need services or activities not ordinarily provided by the school in order to fully develop those capabilities."
Her alternative path to high math placement may be a service not ordinarily provided by the school.