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    #218928 06/28/15 08:52 PM
    Joined: Feb 2014
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    I am sending 2 DD's to middle school this Fall. One I feel confident about (most organized MG kid on the planet), and one, DD10, who I worry about (grade skipped with executive function issues that I wrote about on the 2E forum just a bit ago). Well, we all met with the AG teacher, and I came away a bit concerned. After talking with the girls a bit (DD11 all polite and quiet, and DD10 quiet until some of the sarcasm came out, sigh). Ms. AG stated that the guidance counselor is strict about kids advocating for themselves. Now, I know middle school is not grade school, but warning bells went off when the Ms. AG felt the need to give me a heads up with a certain look on her face. Ms. AG also mentioned the phrase, "Velcro parents" which is a new and improved (!!) version of helicopter parents phrase. Yikes. Next (after my kids left) we discussed how kids are assessed, and Ms. AG stated that the teachers follow a differentiation model in which they test the kids and divide the class into thirds - kids who need help, middle level kids, and finally kids working ahead. She said the school does not tell the parents in what level the kids are placed. She suggested that if DD finds the work too easy that DD would have to go to the teacher and ask for projects. Ms. AG informed me that this middle school is all about creating the "well rounded student" vs. the middle schools which are AG focused. Finally, she mentioned something about how she thought this school would be a good fit for older DD, and we would have to see how DD10 does throughout the year.
    So, is that how most classes are divided? Is it the norm not to tell parents where the kids are placed? My mom (former AG teacher thought it was strange). Once again I am hearing that DD might have to create her own curriculum. Do kids do that in middle school? DD is somewhat timid, but getting better, and I just don't know if she will approach a teacher about this. I warned the AG teacher that DD will rise to the level expected of her. Give her grade level work, and she will do it. Give her above level work, and she will do fine on that as well (and easily). So I don't come off as a "Velcro parent", I'd like to hear about middle school reality. I am also hoping we made the right school choice.

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    Our middle school is almost entirely about teaching EF, self-advocacy, and team spirit, with a bit of study skills such as note-taking. Academic content is light; most grading is on effort, such as coloring projects neatly and homework completeness, rather than on knowledge, as might be demonstrated by items correct on homework or tests. Parents who assist their kids are seen as crutches, not scaffolds, and encouraged to back off. This does make it hard for families where there is an actual challenge. This is particularly true in 6th grade, when no new content is introduced as far as I could tell - they just reviewed all of elementary.

    To tell the truth, I don't think they differentiated at all, except for offering extra ungraded challenge work to all students. I am certain no one would have told me if there was grouping going on.

    Others will advise on advocacy; all I can offer is a middle school reality check.

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    Don't let Ms. AG intimidate you with phrases like "Velcro parent." Advocate for your child if you have to. Let them self advocate if they are ready. You aren't going to cripple your children for life.

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    You've received great information and advice above. I'll just add a few thoughts and resources.

    Originally Posted by greenlotus
    sarcasm
    You may wish to reflect on whether the sarcasm and/or how it was handled may have affected the tone of the meeting. How the sarcasm was handled by you during the meeting may role model the manner in which you may wish to have teachers address sarcasm.

    Quote
    Ms. AG stated that the guidance counselor is strict about kids advocating for themselves.
    Some thoughts on this:
    - You may wish to coach your daughters about their self-advocacy efforts.
    - In order to do this, you may need to be aware of:
    --- state laws,
    --- school policies,
    --- the school's desired process for self-advocacy (for example - does a student request an appointment to speak with someone? ... come to school early to speak with guidance counselor? ... with teacher? Does student use e-mail to contact? Does student speak up in class?),
    --- what type of "projects" students are allowed to ask for (for example - whether these projects replace regular work, are in addition to regular work, and whether these projects are graded),
    --- and what is occurring in your daughters' classes (for example, you may wish to explain to your daughters the importance of them keeping you updated on daily events, and ask clarifying question when they share their day with you).

    To help parents teach their children effective self-advocacy skills, the Davidson Institute for Talent Development offers free resources including:
    - Article: Preparing Your Gifted Child to Leave Your Nest (excellent list of resources, including The Power of Speaking Up)
    - YouTube video: Davidson Discussions - Self-Advocacy

    Quote
    teachers follow a differentiation model in which they test the kids and divide the class into thirds - kids who need help, middle level kids, and finally kids working ahead. She said the school does not tell the parents in what level the kids are placed. She suggested that if DD finds the work too easy that DD would have to go to the teacher and ask for projects... Is that how most classes are divided?
    Kids can be very astute and realize what group each student is placed in. I would ask a clarifying question about "kids who need help": in this context, does this mean academic help and/or IEP/504?

    One source of information about grouping students is found in this article from the Davidson Database.

    Quote
    Ms. AG informed me that this middle school is all about creating the "well rounded student" vs. the middle schools which are AG focused. Finally, she mentioned something about how she thought this school would be a good fit for older DD, and we would have to see how DD10 does throughout the year... hoping we made the right school choice.
    Was this information shared with you when you made your school selection? Did you receive any input from this individual when making your school selection? Do you have another option, a Plan B, if this school is not a good fit for one of your daughters?

    Summer may be a great time to prepare your children for positive self-advocacy experiences.


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    Originally Posted by spaghetti
    My 2E DS is in high school.
    I can tell you that 6th grade was the worst. Very boot campy sink or swim. But once your kid sinks, suddenly, they want you in there. If your kid is swimming, they don't want you anywhere around. They even told us not to schedule parent conferences unless our child was failing. BUT, my friend who has a child in special ed and it's a different story there.
    7th grade was much better. And 8th even better.
    6th grade was still in elementary for us. But we had the same experience. 6th grade the teacher wanted DS16 to be a lot more independent & have a lot higher executive function than he did and then only brought me in when it all started falling apart. Things were a lot better in 7th & 8th.

    Good Luck.

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    I think different schools are different. At our middle school, there are GT classes, standard classes, and special education classes so no real differentiation as far as the teaching within an individual class. However, kids can and do certainly differentiate themselves by performing more extensive research and creating a more sophisticated paper or multi-media product.

    I would not be too worried with the teacher not announcing to the parents which of the three in-class groups she assigned their kids. By 6th grade, it would be very strange for the kids not to be able to figure out their own assigned group and many likely can figure out the assigned group of every other kid.

    At our middle school, EF is huge but that is partly because the level of instruction is substantially higher than it was back in elementary school, at least in the GT classes for sure.

    Don't panic yet. Middle school is a huge transition for all the kids and it is surprising to see how much their EF develops as a result of the challenges they tackle successfully without their parents. I think that is the point. Most kids rise to the challenge before the end of 6th grade while others figure it out sometime in 7th grade. It is my understanding that the school does focus their attention on the relatively few remaining kids who don't succeed and parental involvement would be welcome for those kids, but only after the kids show they can't succeed on their own.

    Of course, if your DD has an IEP or sometimes even a 504, some allowances will be made, particularly if she struggles. Your DD may surprise you so let her take the lead at least for a little bit.

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    My take away from all this is-

    Advocate if need be, but let younger DD try. She might surprise me.
    8th will probably be the best grade.
    My kids will figure out which level they are in (and probably know everyone else’s).
    And yes, if this school doesn’t work, we have a back up school for DD10. I just hate to think we might have to do 2 schools.
    Finally, I may post again later just for more support. It is hard to let my babies go to middle school!!!!


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