The setting: An elementary school classroom anywhere in Montgomery County, Maryland.
The actors: The parent of a second grade student, a teacher.
Parent: Thank you for taking the time to see my today, Ms. Smith.
Teacher: Thank you for coming in, Ms. Jones. What can I do for you today?
Parent: Well, I recently received the letter about the second grade GT screening and I have some questions about what it means. For example, the letter doesn’t include what the benchmarks are for the InView. In fact, it doesn’t say if Emily met the benchmarks. The letter did give the benchmarks for the Raven—but it doesn’t say what it means to score well above the benchmark. And while it does give a percentile for the Raven, what does the percentile mean? Is that a national standard? A county standard? Something else?
Teacher: Hmmm. Er. Umm. Well, you should know that Emily is doing very well. She’s reading above grade level! You have nothing to worry about.
Parent: Umm. Okay. But I have some other questions as well. Can you tell me—anonymously of course!—how these scores compare to the rest of the second graders with whom she’ll be receiving GT services? Not just how many others “met the criteria”—no, no, I don’t want to know to show off! (pre-emptively conciliatory)—but to get a sense of how the kids are clustered. In other words, does she have true peers, or not? And can you share with me what the other teachers and staff said about her? Even though she’s met the identification criteria, I see that some of her teachers have rated her below the criteria in some other areas, such as leadership. As a parent, I’d like to know that. That will tell me something about the services she’s receiving and any areas we need to work on with her.
Teacher: Um, uh, well, um. We really can’t talk about other students or share those teacher evaluations. But I can tell you that she is working above grade level and there are lots of other students who are also above grade level, so you have nothing to worry about. As for services, (teacher brightens) we do Jacob’s Ladder and Junior Great Books, and in the second half of the year some students will get William and Mary…
Parent: But it’s my understanding that Jacob’s Ladder is not a program for gifted students. It’s “scaffolding” to help bring students up.
Teacher: Hmm. I see you’ve done your homework (frowns slightly).
Parent: And I’ve also heard that Junior Great Books and William and Mary are being offered to all students at all schools now.
Teacher: Really? (Purses lips.) Well, our understanding is that it’s encouraged but not mandated. Emily will get Jacobs Ladder and Junior Great Books starting next year in third grade… Oh, and of course we’ll accelerate in math….
Parent: But if Junior Great Books is appropriate for all students then it isn’t really a GT “service,” is it? Can you tell me what GT services will she be getting? She’s not a particularly mathy kid. However she loves history and science…and she’s very creative….
Teacher: Emily will receive William and Mary and we’ll accelerate in math. You know we have this new initiative, The Seven Keys….
Parent: But William and Mary doesn’t start until until after January, right?
Teacher: Yes, we do William and Mary units in the spring.
Parent: And the kids identified as GT do this?
Teacher: Well, all students can benefit from William and Mary and will rotate through, starting in spring of third grade.
Parent: (Sensing annoyance, goes in new direction) That’s another thing I’ve always wondered. Is there a reason our school doesn’t offer Junior Great Books in K through 2? I know from a friend that at some other schools they do. In some cases parents do it as volunteers. I know there are some parents here who might be willing–I know I would….
Teacher: (Coolly) You’ll have to take that up with the principal. I am sure there are reasons why we haven’t done it. Though with so many students it wouldn’t be fair for only some to receive it. We start William and Mary and Junior Great Books in third grade and there will be lots of opportunities for Emily to receive rigorous instruction. My, look at the clock! I do need to go now. But thank you so much for stopping by Ms. Jones and if you ever have any questions please do feel free to ask.
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