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The Gift

In my old home town they are having a massive debate over the highly capable/advanced placement programs that are to serve a small cohort of children that fall into the category of Special Ed. This is not mandated nor described that way in Seattle, so there is no law but there is policy to address those children that test in the upper tiers.  The tests are free to those who cannot afford it but the test prep and the needed push towards that gets a big F for pulling in kids that are of color and by color that means not Asian, as that cohort dominate the programs.  And why? Cultural.  As for the other kids - be they Black, Native, Samoan, Latino  they are drastically under-represented.  So last week they donned Black Lives Matter shirts, had a day of unity and had available curriculum that was to discuss the disparities of race and have the "courageous conversations" about the subject that was to open the door to resolving the color gap.

And in true Seattle fashion, or as we called there the Seattle "process" hysteria ensued about what that meant, when largely white Teachers were teaching Black Studies, the subliminal issue of tracking and in turn removing gifted programs entirely (which one school is moving towards under Gifted for All) and the arrival of stickers that called HCC APParthied.  Good times as per usual in a city known for its white people problems.  Seattle has way more problems with regards to income inequality as it is so cost prohibitive for any family to afford to live there unless making 6 figures, the rising problems with homelessness that affects the schools, the neighborhoods in which they reside and the parks in which children play; they need to figure that out and in turn ensure that families are making livable wages in which to continue to live and work in Seattle and diversify the city and its schools.  And in turn some of that would resolve the issues of both discipline and educational achievement when families are together, financially secure and provided access and opportunity to the same things their neighbors have, regardless of color.

And I live in Nashville which puts the D in function when it comes to schools and in turn its D in diversity is under fire as it too massively gentrifies and the once clearly defined and segregated neighborhoods (you have to see Nashville as a pie and it shows how it was divided and the way housing projects were placed to define and in turn redline a district) are now being torn up and rebuilt.  And no where proves that as it has made my once dumping ground park and street a thriving growing utterly diverse part of Nashville.

However that has not happened with regards to schools and likely won't under the new Superintendent.  A quick Google search of his former district, Prince George in Maryland, shows that the problems there are truly disturbing of which he was at least tangentially a part of.  As in Seattle, Nashville has a prodigious bloggers that are uncovering the scandal and asking questions about the current Superintendent that the media fails to ask.

And it is often from blogs I actually know what is going on in the schools where I work.  I actually know plenty but as a Sub I am a Ninja and I try to be as invisible as possible as to avoid the drama and bullshit that schools thrive on.  And in Nashville I simply loathe them too much to and it is the only way I can so not to care and hate myself just a little less every day.

And as the bloggers in Seattle have become overwrought with issues surrounding gifted ed someone quoted Nashville and their program. And another poster said, "have you seen the ed numbers in Nashville and Tennessee, this is not a place nor a program we want to emulate."  I busted out laughing at that one as yes that is true.  At the supposed gifted Magnet school with its testing and in  to ensure that not only the best and brightest are admitted, it retains its diversity by admitting those students only by lottery.   And as one suspicious that testing actually measures intellect I did also laugh as the district is under a lawsuit by former Teachers who exposed fraud with regards to testing issues at schools they were at.    This too is not new nor exclusive to Nashville.

 Again, I want to remind that if this is the best and brightest it is tragically a low bar from which to draw as the public school cohort of gifted is a small group.   And private schools here and as in Seattle, compete to attract those kids of color so they offer generous scholarships and other means to ensure diversity and prove they are good people and equal and stuff!

So that leaves the smarty pants group attending public school a small population  and that they still  need to be served, the question is how to do so in a system with dwindling resources and increasing demands for programs too that need funding, especially English Language Learners and the disabled.

So here is an article about the gifted program in Nashville an no Seattle this is not the answer. But the funny part is that the last paragraph cites the skills that mark the gifted. These are skills and qualities easily taught to anyone so perhaps Gifted for All is not a bad idea, the children of Nashville desperately need these qualities regardless as frankly I have seen few, very few, children who exhibit any of them. In Seattle I saw it quite a bit it is non existent here. It would be a gift if I saw it here more often, that Southern Hospitality thing y'all!

Minorities lacking in Nashville school gifted programs

Jason Gonzales March 3, 2016 The Tennessean


Micah Davis sits quietly with folded hands, posture straight, in the corner of an Una Elementary gifted and talented classroom.

After teacher Paula Pendergrass pulls out a sticky, squishy model brain, Micah seems above the excitement displayed by many of her fellow third- and fourth-graders. Although she is quiet, the 9-year-old knows she belongs with the rambunctious crowd.

"I feel smart in general," Micah said.

The attitudes and personalities displayed among Pendergrass' diverse set of students are varied. Some are know-it-alls, hyper, or, like Micah, relaxed. All are gifted and talented in some way, explains Pendergrass.

Metro Nashville Public Schools' gifted and talented programs seek to nurture and develop the potential of students with above-average academic and intellectual abilities. In the past, those kids were recommended for the program primarily by teachers and in-class observations, which has led to inequity in the number of diverse students in the district's gifted services program.

In a district where minority students outnumber whites, the majority of Nashville schools don't have equal representation among their students in gifted services programs.

Una Elementary, just south of the Nashville International Airport, is one of only a handful with more minority students enrolled in the program than white students. About 100 schools participate.

"All kids are born with gifts and talents," Pendergrass said. "The problem is that if we don't catch that gift and talent early on, it goes stagnant. So the gift and talent is there, but we need to do a better job as educators to catch that gift early on."

But the district is making efforts to increase diversity in the gifted program, especially through community outreach, said Schunn Turner, the district coordinator of gifted services."We are getting better at getting diverse students to the table and being more representative of our district," she said.

Vanderbilt report: Black kids underrepresented in gifted programs

A recent Vanderbilt University report, seeking to explain the inequity among gifted students in Nashville and nationwide, found white teachers were able to more readily identify gifted skills in white students than those of diverse backgrounds.

The report says the traits and characteristics displayed by culturally diverse students are often different than those of white students, and it is sometimes easier for teachers of different cultural backgrounds to spot gifted and talented traits in nonwhite students.

Metro Schools is made up of almost 44 percent black students, while more than 70 percent of all teachers in Nashville schools are white.

And although the district is made up of 30 percent white students, they eclipse the number of diverse students in Nashville elementary school gifted programs by almost 3-to-1. That number includes black, Latino and Asian students.

Gifted programs are said to improve motivation, self-efficacy, engagement with learning and socioeconomic projections for students. Teachers largely select students for those programs based off their own observations, according to the study. That also was the case in Metro Schools.
Laila Moore, 9, draws in Paula Pendergrass' EncoreBuy Photo

(Photo: Samuel M. Simpkins / The Tennessean)

Through the efforts of Turner's department, the district has begun to follow some of the best practices Vanderbilt researchers have recommended to cut down on the disparity, which includes a universal screener and outreach to parents.

The screener will help do away with any test bias, Turner said. But not every parent asks or knows about the gifted and talented Encore service, Turner said.

For Micah, her mom asked for the school to test the student for gifted and talented services.

"What we see is that when communities have a lot of information about the services, those schools will have huge Encore numbers," Turner said.

Overall, Pendergrass has seen some differences at Una and throughout the district, especially in the parents. The community outreach about the program has targeted churches and nonprofits where many diverse parents attend or need services.

"I've noticed that numbers have changed," Pendergrass said. "We still have work to do.

"We are a work in progress."

The Encore Program

The Encore Program, which is in about 100 schools, is designed to nurture, challenge and develop the potential of gifted and talented students, according to the district's website. More than 3,000 students participate.

Eligibility into the K-6 program is based on demonstration of advanced classroom performance, an achievement test or evidence of displayed higher level thinking.

Intellectually gifted and academically talented students are those whose abilities and potential for achievement deserve special attention to meet their educational needs, the site says. According to the district's website, those with gifted or talented abilities display traits that include:

A want to know "how" and "why"
Exceptional memory
A keen sense of observation about human interaction
Sensitivity to the feelings of others
Strong observation to detail
A keen sense of humor
Or displays an early tendency to do things alone.



This post first appeared on Green Goddess VV, please read the originial post: here

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