Pilot First Grade Gifted program at Dr. Howard

After being notified by a parent, I did some digging into the heretofore unannounced pilot first grade gifted program at Dr. Howard. With permission from the Director of Curriculum Trevor Nadrozny, I am reposting some of his emails that describe the “what”, the “why” and little bit of the “how”. Much of the concern I initially heard from parents was that families transferring in from private schools were not allowed to partake in the testing; applications were sent out to Unit 4 Kindergarten families and due last Friday – testing is taking place “now” or ASAP.

 

Thanks for your question.  There was no public discussion of these options as we were simply trying to determine where classroom space was available for a 1st grade ‘bubble’ classroom.  After conducting an extensive review of available space for additional classrooms at all schools, looking at the choice wait lists, and the demand for gifted, we narrowed our selections to two options for a 1st grade bubble, Dr. Howard and Barkstall. I want to point out that these are bubble classrooms and as such will move through these schools until 5th grade.  The 1st grade bubble classroom for Barkstall was filled by students who are currently on the waiting list for Barkstall and the pilot Gifted classroom for Dr. Howard will be filled by existing Kindergarten students in the district. Last week we mailed home an invitation to all existing Kindergarten students to apply for the pilot Gifted classroom. We did not open application of the 1st grade pilot class to students in private schools as this would not have the desired effect of reducing class sizes across the district as this was our main objective in opening these two 1st grade classrooms at Barkstall and Carrie Busey. As you know our kindergarten classes have been over capacity this school year and we tried to help assist this large class size by adding classroom aides. We do recognize that reducing class size is ultimately a more effective use of resources and hence the need to open up these two 1st grade classrooms. As I mentioned there was no public discussion on this mainly because the choices for these classrooms was ultimately limited by what available space we had. If you have any additional questions please let me know.

 

I then asked if the program at Dr. Howard was a “carrot” to get more folks to chose a typically underchosen school. I also asked about getting the public engaged in the discussions. For right now, just getting the word out to folks seems adequate to me. But now that I think back on it, it also seems like Unit 4 is often dealing with issues and they tend to tackle them internally. Maybe at some point in the future there will be such a partnership and trust between the District and the public that these issues can become collaborative challenges.

 

That would be fine if you wanted to use this on your blog. In response to your question about Dr. Howard, I would say that although this potentially motivates parents to move their students to Dr. Howard for the gifted program in reality, Dr. Howard was the only school that we could reasonably do this with.  We wanted to be able to place a pilot gifted first grade at a school with gifted programming already as there is certainly a level of resources both material and personnel that could help to support this classroom. We really couldn’t do this at our Magnet schools with gifted classrooms because of the restrictions from our Federal grant that does not allow us to place students based on test scores and so Dr. Howard was the only choice. As for the discussion and public engagement, I know that as these attendance figures have continued to grow , our leadership has continued to look at options going back and forth based on current building space / architectural designs of buildings currently under or to be under renovation / and special programming (gifted, bilingual, special education, ESL). I guess as I’ve been apart of these discussions, I’m not sure how it would be reasonable to engage the public in this process? If it was only to provide information to the public then that would be a different scenario then to engage in on dialogue about programming. The programming piece is closely tied to our needs and the number of students that we need to serve in the different areas so the decisions on serving these students is really not a question of if, but where and how buildings can serve those needs. I hope that helps.

 

I’ll ditto that last sentiment.

 

In researching this topic, I learned a few things about BoardDocs. First, the vendor of BoardDocs do not expose the content to metasearch engine crawlers thus Google has very limited indexes into the content provided there. However, BoardDocs does have a “Search” feature. As I was talking to BoardDocs tech support, we realized that the search results are inconsistent and I filed a bug. Hopefully searches will become a little more comprehensive.

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2 Responses to “Pilot First Grade Gifted program at Dr. Howard”

  1. charlesdschultz Says:

    A concerned parent has asked a question and Mr. Nadrozny has responded.

    Question
    Will those students who are ineligible for the first-grade gifted program but test into the second-grade gifted program next year still have the opportunity to attend the second-grade gifted program at Dr. Howard? Or will the first-grade gifted students automatically move en masse to the second-grade gifted class at Dr. Howard; therefore, the Dr. Howard second-grade gifted class would be full?

    Answer
    Very good question and this has been at the heart of a lot of the confusion. Students in 1st grade next year (12-13) who go through the gifted testing procedures and are eligible for the gifted program will be given the opportunity to go to the 2nd grade gifted program at Dr. Howard for the following year (13-14). Those students who are currently in the 1st grade pilot gifted program are also a bubble class meaning that they will move through the school until 5th grade. In effect there will be two 2nd grade gifted classrooms in 13-14 and then two 3rd grade gifted classrooms in 14-15, etc. The gifted bubble classroom will just move through the school. The concept of the 1st grade self-contained gifted at Dr. Howard to feed into the current 2nd grade gifted classroom would certainly be at the heart of a much larger discussion and we would certainly want to get public input and feedback on that in addition to looking at how the implementation of this pilot class goes.

    Final thought from parent
    Thank you so much for your response. I really appreciate your taking the time to answer my questions.

    As I wrote in my previous message, I know you are not solely responsible for the inception and the implementation of the the pilot program, but I think I can safely assume that you have been the one to receive the brunt of the parents’ concerns via e-mail, phone calls, and meetings. Thank you for fielding our questions and answering them.

    I hope in the future, the Champaign Unit 4 administration will take into consideration that many transfer students–from private schools or home schools in the Champaign-Savoy area–are still a part of the Unit 4 school district. A percentage of our taxes support Unit 4 even if we have opted not to take advantage of the schools during the current school year. Our children have the right, I believe, to apply and register to attend a Unit 4 school and have equal access to Unit 4 programs even during those years when there are record number of students. An attempt to reduce class sizes should not involve deliberately excluding specific groups of students in the Unit 4 school district.

    As well, I think it is important to note that some parents resort to sending their children to private schools for kindergarten due to their lack of success with the much-debated Unit 4 controlled choice system (i.e., they go through the kindergarten registration process, but are not assigned a school or assigned a school that is not their first, second, third, etc. choice).

    Thank you again for responding to my message.

  2. Karen Says:

    Awesome response Charles where you talk about ALL students in the Unit 4 tax community being afforded EQUAL ACCESS to a public education in Unit 4! I am stunned I guessed that they actively worked to exclude kids in private schools in the Unit 4 tax community–they actually stated it as the flip side of a goal. If they want to exclude ’em to keep Unit 4 class sizes down, maybe they would be happy to pay for the education of those students whose needs they cannot meet within Unit 4 district walls. Wow. So much lofty talk and mission blurbs about meeting the needs of ALL students yet look what goes on ‘behind the scenes.’ I guess I shouldn’t be too surprised after being asked this school year if I thought of ever home-schooling my kid ‘because she really doesn’t seem happy here.’ I will calm down once this sinks in. I promise. Knowing this allows us in the community to let them know back that this kind of approach to things is not ok. Transparency. We’re watching, lol.


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