Members of Clinton City Schools Academically and Intellectually Gifted (AIG) team presented very few changes to the system’s current plan during a Board work session Tuesday night.
While few changes were presented, the topic was heatedly discussed for more than two hours, yielding many questions from Board members for those involved with presenting the plan.
AIG specialists Lisa Turlington, Robin Matthis, Lisa Green, Debbie McDuffie and Amanda Byrd, all AIG teachers within the system, presented the changes to the Board on a first review, with the intentions of taking the Board questions and recommendations back to the drawing board, and presenting the plan for a second review in January.
Before the presentation began Tuesday afternoon, Board chairman Jason Walters asked Board members to keep their questions related to the standard that was being presented, but questions quickly went in other directions.
The team’s first suggested change was changing letter grades to number grades when identifying a student for qualification of the AIG program. As the plan currently reads, a child in third grade or higher must earn an A in their classes to be considered for qualification. The new program would require a number grade of a 93.
According to McDuffie, this change was made to add rigor to the program.
“We want to encourage rigor and higher performance with our students,” McDuffie said.
The teacher assessment form was also changed, a move made by the team in an effort to get teachers on the same thought process as the AIG team.
“We want more support from our teachers to see that they understand what we are looking for,” McDuffie said. “We want to understand that what the teachers are seeing is truly a gifted child and not just a high achiever.”
The significant drop in the number of kids being identified as academically gifted has brought great concern to board members, an concern that was brought to the attention of the team and audience Tuesday afternoon.
“We are seeing less identified children in the lower grades,” Walters stated.
At the end of the last school year, when students entering third grade were tested, only two students qualified for AIG placement, according to Carol Worley, board member. Three additional students received private testing and have since been placed into the content replacement tier of the program.
“There has been a significant decline in the number of students identified in the last few years,” Worley said. “We need to figure out what the problem is and address it.”
Butler Avenue School principal Vanessa Brown, who was present for the presentation, quickly jumped into the discussion from Worley, Georgina Zeng and Walters, said that the lower number is accurate.
“What we are seeing is a true number of gifted kids,” Brown said.
Students in the K-2 grade levels will continue to not be identified as AIG, but instead all students at those levels will receive K-2 nurturing, a fundamental of the program that Zeng repeatedly stressed needed to be nixed.
“We need to revamp this program so we can serve more kids,” Worley said.
The AIG grade 3 specialist will begin to support the K-2 classroom teachers as another change to the program. This change will allow the K-2 teachers to be more qualified in identifying a gifted child, while the teachers will be able to design lessons that foster a higher order of thinking.
“I don’t need the gifted label,” Zeng said. “I want the rigor.”
Board members expressed their concern with children not being identified and serviced at the K-2 level, with Zeng, Worley and Walters expressing their thoughts of pulling children out of the regular classroom setting as a better way to nurture the development of the AIG students.
“You don’t start truly seeing if they are higher level children until the second or third grade,” Turlington said. “They are just starting to emerge as students at this level.”
The second review of the plan will come back before the board at the January meeting.
Reach Kristy D. Carter at 910-592-8137, ext. 2588. Follow us on Twitter at @SampsonInd. Like us on Facebook.