Tuesday, January 30, 2007

School Stresses, Part 2

After some wrangling with his teachers, I pulled Wizard out of school this morning and took him to our home elementary school for gifted testing. We arrived early and met Mrs. E, the Program Specialist in charge of Exceptional Student Education (ESE). [In Florida, gifted programs fall under the same umbrella as learning disabilities programs. This doesn't make much sense to me, but that's the way it is.] She was a very nice woman, who had an easy rapport with Wizard. He used his best manners and introduced himself to her. They went off for about 30 minutes for her to administer the Kaufmann Brief Intelligence Test 2 (KBIT). KBIT describes itself as "A brief, individually administered measure of verbal and nonverbal cognitive ability." Apparently, this test is designed to identify anyone from a gifted to a special needs student. To my mind, it appeared primitive, a quick way for an educator to glean a shred of a child's intelligence. The test accomplished just that: Wizard scored very high on the verbal portion and only a few points lower on the non-verbal portion.

Wizard's composite score was close to the threshhold level for further gifted testing, so Mrs. E recommended we pursue further gifted testing for Wizard. One of her comments to me was, "He has quite a vocabulary, doesn't he." Uh, yeah . . . he reads and understands college-level texts. But, I digress. After Wizard finished the test, Mrs. E invited me back into her office to discuss the process.
  • First, I signed a preliminary consent form authorizing the school to do the KBIT testing, based on Wizard's instructional needs. I also filled out a registration form for the school district so they could issue an identification number for Wizard.
  • Second, Mrs. E needs to forward Wizard's scores and registration information to the school's data entry operator, who was not available at the time, for her to prepare a full consent for the full battery of gifted testing.
  • The school psychologist then has ninety (90) school days within which to perform the complete evaluation. She will use either WISC (Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children) or RIAS (Reynolds Intellectual Assessment Scales).
  • During this time, the public school will ask for Wizard's teacher to complete a Gifted Characteristic Checklist. When I mentioned to Mrs. E that Wizard has several teachers, she looked stunned. I explained that the private school transitions its students in 4th Grade to individual teachers in subject-specific classes. I suspect we'll ask the Language Arts teacher to draft the checklist and consult with the other teachers for their input.
  • Once the school psychologist has all the scores in hand, she will then review the results with me and WineGuy. After that, the entire team – school psych., parents, ESE coordinator – will meet to decide Wizard's eligibility.
Mrs. E's comment was "we should have this done [for Wizard] by the end of the school year." Just shoot me. The private school contracts were mailed home last week. They are due in February, and I won't know until April or May sometime whether Wizard qualifies for the public school gifted program. Wizard's class in the private school is filled to capacity. There is a huge wait-pool for kids desiring admission to his class. If we pull him out now, we have no idea if there will be space for him in the private middle school. If we sign the private school contract and later decide to pull him out, we could be on the hook for the entire tuition anyway. We did that once before, when Wizard and Wild Thing were in the local country day school; I do not want to do that again.

More than that, in my heart of hearts I know Wizard belongs in the private school. It challenges him academically. The teachers strive to connect with him on his level, and they keep tabs on him. As such, he has matured and become far more responsible than his peers. I am really proud of him. Moving him into the large and wild public middle school, even into its gifted program, would be immersing an already hormonal pre-teen into an environment for which he is not ready. He could handle it, but it would inhibit him. Wizard has reached the point where he loves school, loves his teachers, loves learning, and desires to do well for himself. His study skills are greatly improved, as is his self-discipline. I do not see how public middle school can foster that growth. Maybe I'm prejudiced; maybe I'm blind.

In the end, he does not want to leave the private school. He will do what we ask because he is a good boy. I do not want to ask this of him. I want him to revel in his intelligence and enjoy his achievements. I want him to be emotionally and socially stable. He will have all of this if we stay connected to him and he stays connected to his community.

So, I ask my friends who are educators, psychologists, and more experienced than I: what do you think? What would you do if you were in my shoes? How do I convince WineGuy that Wizard needs to stay where he is for three more years? Thank you for reading yet another missive.


LSM said...

I'm a big fan of the personal visit for getting a "feel" for a particular school. I would insist that Wine Guy go with you to tour the public middle school. Talk to the administrators, counselors, and teachers and students if possible. You may be pleasantly surprised or it may become clear to Wine Guy that the private school is the place to stay for now.

Rambling Mom said...

I'm not an educator or a psychologist, but I am a licensed "buttinski."

Ask Wine Guy what his (Wine Guy's) goals are for Wizard. What is Wine Guy's problem with the current school -- is it ONLY the tuition increase? you stated (last week) that it was "reactionary" has he had enough time to calm down and rethink things now. I know that Spouse is always given to making blanket statements that he does not mean as blanket statements (which could be a whole nother topic of discussion).

Stuntmother said...

I got nothing for you, only my heartfelt sympathy since I am in a similar boat. How does anyone ever deal with all this?

If Wizard is in the right school, I'd move heaven and earth to keep him there. That's all.

Robin said...

It's the same way in Ohio, with the gifted programs falling under the same umbrella as the learning disabilities program. It did not impress me at all, especially when they experimented with inclusion and peer teaching.

I would fight hard to keep Wizard where he is. My husband is a big supporter of using the public school system, and I understand his reasoning, but I wish we had done better with our sons, especially our youngest who would've thrived in an environment that challenged him in the way he needed to be challenged.

Doc Thelma said...

I have no doubt that my parents' investiment in private school paid off when I got a full merit-based scholarship to college. We did not qualify for need-based aide. Have WineGuy think about that.

MLL said...

First I think you need to take a deep breath and realize that you are lucky because Wizard will experience success WHEREVER he's at. He has the natural gifts, and he has the family support---he'll have both those no matter where he goes to school. So the question is, what are you looking for in a school environment to ADD to his experience? As I'm sure you know, the overall culture and environment between the public and private schools are likely to be different. What you need to discover is in what ways are they different, and if you prefer the private, is it worth X amount of money? Take visits and ask plenty of questions. How big are the schools? If I had it to do over again, i would have NEVER put DD1 into a public HS----not because of the academics, but because of the environment and the total lack of personal caring. When she died, not one adult from her school sent a card, much less came to her funeral. She used to joke when she'd go see her supposed "counselor" because the woman would always hug her and PRETEND like she knew exactly who DD1 was, but she had no clue. If we would have seen her in the grocery store, she wouldn't have any idea who DD1 was. The bureaucracy was horrible. Everything had a form and a procedure, and no personalization. At there current school, if we are suddenly called away for an emergency, I call Louise in the office and tell her, and the word spreads and not only are the kids excused without paperwork, forms, etc... but their teachers call to check on them, and if needed, casseroles magically appear in our kitchen. OTOH, when DD4 missed school even at her little public school where I would call the office and they didn't have that many kids to keep track of, we'd still get calls from the "main" office that were automated and "threatening" (we were told to ignore them, but they still came like clockwork). Also, I would check out the emphasis on standardized testing when you visit, whatever the FL version is. In the public schools here, the entire emphasis is on those tests. I don't think I've ever gotten through a conversation with a teacher without having them bring it around to an "SOL". The emphasis is not on developing creativity or writing skills. Its not on developing critical and abstract thinking----it is totally and completely on teaching for those tests. Learn the facts, spit them out. If its not on the SOL, its not taught. Period. Every lesson plan has to be linked to an SOL. There is no such thing as the class having an interesting discussion on say....the possibility of space aliens and really getting into it, so the teacher uses it as a "learning opportunity" and assigns research, reads books with the class, then lets them write----both creatively and from a research basis, about space aliens. Of course, I don't know what the gifted program is like, because I've never had a child in it. I can tell you that the top-ranked public HS here has an IB program, which is terrific. OTOH, they purposely placed this program in a school that's run down, with gang problems, and the IB kids are often targets of threats and harassment. Many of them transfer because of that. Others ignore it and excel---DD2's good friend who was Valedictorian is now on full scholarship at Yale. Likewise, as of a couple of years ago (I don't know more recently), the public school system, with 1000's of kids, many of them obviously extremely bright, talented, etc.. had ZERO national merit finalists. DH's school, with a class of 75, had 6. Obviously, this is a much different type of town than where you live, however, but they are things to look into when you're making a decision. OTOH, because of the area where you live, you may prefer the public school because of the types of people (and thus peers) that Wizard is exposed too----perhaps a little more "down to earth" at the public? I know when I mentioned to DH that our common acquaintance was no longer employed and teasingly asked if he wanted to apply his response was, "no way would I willingly go into that viper's nest". The reputation within the rest of the Independent school world anyway, is that the area where you live is full of snobby, entitled, and extremely difficult parents and their entitled, indulged, spoiled rotten brats. Obviously that's probably an exaggeration on all accounts, but I know you've written before about similar concerns regarding the culture your children are being exposed to.
Well, DH is calling me to dinner....whatever you do, make sure that Wineguy is involved in the entire process, not just worrying about the finances!