Gifted students’ parents ask more support | RecordCourier.com

Gifted students’ parents ask more support

by Sheila Gardner

Parents of Douglas County’s gifted students asked the school board Tuesday for assistance in their children’s class planning as early as fifth grade rather than waiting until high school.

Kathleen Miller of Minden sent a letter to Roy Casey, assistant superintendent of education services, outlining the concerns and suggestions of a group of parents whose children are in the gifted and talented program.

Miller and four other parents also addressed the board during public comment.

“We do not expect the school board to hand a solution to parents on a silver platter,” she said. “This should be a collaborative effort.”

She asked the board to add the topic to the annual strategic plan review in January as well as a future school board agenda and to look at options that wouldn’t be costly.

The women said teachers and administrators had been responsive, but the problem was many parents don’t know what’s available.

“We’re asking for a philosophy statement,” Miller said. “It’s important for parents of these kids to know what we can expect from the school system.”

Among parents’ concerns:

— The district has a “pull-out” gifted program for elementary school children each week, but the program is primarily for enrichment and doesn’t provide advanced academic instruction.

— The district lacks a program to teach math beyond grade level.

“This is especially true in elementary school where children who are advanced in math are often isolated, or expected to self-instruct or participate in peer-to-peer instruction outside a classroom environment with little or no teacher involvement,” Miller said.

At the middle school, children are accommodated in advanced math only if their parents know to request special testing and placement.

— When gifted children reach seventh grade, there are no honors English programs, foreign language or a standardized approach to offering accelerated math beyond pre-integrated I level. There is no approved system for placing advanced students in the most challenging classes.

— Parents need an option for discussing advanced placement as early as seventh grade. “Our high achieving students need early guidance to maximize their options later on,” Miller said.

Dianne Jennings said the parents discovered during their meetings that they had to go through a “learning curve” with older children that benefited their younger siblings.

“In our little get-togethers, we would share stories and many began, ‘With my second child.’ We had to go through a learning curve to meet our child’s needs,” Jennings said.

She advocated course planning for children as young as fifth or sixth grade.

“Things are in place by the time you get to 12th grade if you didn’t know what you needed to take in seventh grade,” Jennings said. “It would be a great benefit without a lot of expenditure.”

Miller said a recent parents’ group at Douglas High School discussed how early to communicate to students requirements for college entrance.

“The ‘university track’ is geared to the University of Nevada, Reno,” she said. “There’s nothing wrong with it, but kids and parents need to know the requirements for private universities.”

The board couldn’t take action on the parents’ concerns, but agreed to place the item on an upcoming agenda.

“We might need a task force,” said board member Sharla Hales. “I would support an agenda item, but we need people in the meeting who would have to implement it including teachers and counselors. We don’t know what we have available.”

— Sheila Gardner can be reached at sgardner@recordcourier.com or 782-5121, ext. 214.