Over the last month, following a lengthy presentation to board members, and what was said to be individual discussions between board members and AIG specialists, the Clinton City Schools Academically and Intellectually Gifted team presented no changes to the original plan that was presented in November.
The 2016-2019 plan was presented at the November meeting for a first reading and again Tuesday night for a second reading. Following the November meeting, board members talked with the specialists on an individual basis, making recommendations for changing the plan. Apparently, according to several board members, none of those changes have been considered.
“The information we have sent to you needs to be taken into consideration,” board member Carol Worley stated. “This is the exact same document you presented to us before. I feel like we are not being heard. What we are saying needs to be implemented.”
According to Worley, the board has spent hours working on making recommendations to the AIG plan and as a group, have continued to talk about what changes need to be made.
Board chairman Jason Walters is on board with Worley’s thinking.
“A lot of discussion has been done outside with you all individually,” Walters shared. “It’s difficult for us as a board to come together and agree on all the changes that need to be made. It’s a struggle that we are working through.”
Worley suggested to the AIG team that the board come together at a joint session and discuss among themselves what ideas each person has for the changes and the finalized plan. Board member E.R. Mason agreed.
“Is it possible that we get together with the committee and talk about this some more,” Mason questioned.
Following the November meeting, AIG specialist Debbie McDuffie said the team expected to receive written notice of what changes the board was recommending. When the team didn’t receive any feedback after the meeting, the team presented the initial plan to board members again Tuesday night for a second review.
“Us talking to you is our feedback,” Georgina Zeng said.
At the November meeting, the AIG team presented very few changes to the system’s current plan. While few changes were presented, a heated discussion ensued for more than two hours, yielding many questions from board members for those who presented the plan.
AIG specialists Lisa Turlington, Robin Matthis, Lisa Green, 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’s questions and recommendations back to the drawing board, and presenting the plan for a second review in January.
All five, and AIG teacher Jennifer Dirks, were present at Tuesday night’s meeting for the second review and available for any questions or comments the board shared.
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.
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.
The significant drop in the number of kids being identified as academically gifted has brought great concern to board members, a concern that was brought to the attention of the team and audience at the November meeting.
That concern was again discussed Tuesday night, bringing suggestions from Walters and Zeng to boost the AIG program by identifying children earlier, in kindergarten, and adding resource classes to the third grade, in addition to the the content replacement classes at that level.
“I feel if a student has been identified on the K-2 level, then they get to third grade and not qualify, we are degifting 50 percent of the kids,” Walter said.
According to the current changes to the plan, 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.
At the end of the 2014-2015 school year, when students entering third grade were tested, only two students qualified for AIG placement, according to Worley. Three additional students received private testing and have since been placed into the content replacement tier of the program.
“The AIG specialists are the experts and we need to trust them,” board member Diane Viser interjected. “What they think is best is probably what we need to turn to and trust. They were hired to do this.”
According to Dr. Kelly Batts, a member of the curriculum and instruction department, Clinton City Schools is one of the few, if not the only, school systems who offers AIG content replacement at the third grade level — one of the things both Worley and Walter say is an asset to the program.
“This program is very important to the community,” Walter said. “It’s a program that many people talk about.”
According to minutes from a retreat held in September, when board members initially discussed the AIG program, the consensus of the board was to:
• Test all kindergartners for possible inclusion in the AIG program during the second half of the kindergarten year, using an instrument recommended by education professionals, and to provide kindergarten through second grade resource services.
• At the end of the second grade, to test all children for possible inclusion in the AIG program using whatever testing instrument is recommended by education professionals, including children previously identified as AIG during the K-2 period.
• Explore the possibility of two different levels of content replacement to be provided to students during grades 3-8.
• Include in the plan some latitude for educators to include children in the AIG program who almost meet the established numerical thresholds, in order to fill classes and maintain critical mass in the AIG program.
• Retain the requirement that if a child transfers into the Clinton City Schools, having previously been identified in another school system as AIG, the child still has to qualify for Clinton City Schools’ AIG services.
The board plans to meet Jan. 12 from 8-9 a.m. to discuss any further changes and recommendations they have for the AIG team.
Reach Kristy D. Carter at 910-990-1397, ext. 2588. Follow us on Twitter at @SampsonInd. Like us on Facebook.