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.