Saturday, January 12, 2013

Talented and Gifted?

Jacob and Matthew both have been described as very bright. Jacob's teacher described him as "having a very neat brain" and wanted me to know how "cool" she thought his brain was. Of course, I think every part of him is "cool" so I can't disagree. I have always encouraged my children academically but never really needed to work hard at it.

Jacob has always been in the highest reading group but he has also had to work at reading and is usually number 2 or 3 in his class for reading level. He is always in the top tier for math and math comes easily to him. His kindergarten teacher first commented that everything she presents to him he masters immediately and she was impressed with his abilities. His ability wasn't really an issue in kindergarten though since math was a fairly small part of the day and they focused mainly on counting.

Jacob was complaining that school was too easy earlier this year and I asked his teacher to look into challenging him more. She agreed to try to challenge him a little more and stated they had just finished evaluating the kids and would start to work with them more. She said she was still having him use the same workbook as the rest of the class but was working with him and two other students on harder material also. Then a little over a month ago, Jacob began telling me about the new math book he has at school. He stated only he and two other students have these books and they work independently in them. I told him I wanted to see the book because I was curious about what he was working on. I enjoy seeing the kids' work but since Jacob's work was mostly in his workbook at school, I didn't get to see his work at home.

Last week I had the opportunity to stop in his classroom and see his math book. He normally completes 3-5 worksheets a day in it although some days he is a little more challenged and only completes 2 or 3 pages during their math time. I decided I should see exactly what he was working on since the sheets he brings home are the sheets the other students are working on and he finishes them in less than a minute most days.

I asked his teacher to see his math book and she immediately stated, "You can see it but I know what you are going to say. It is obviously too easy. I spoke to the district and they want him to finish this book before they consider other options." I wasn't sure what that meant and assumed this was a district policy regarding harder work. I was complaining to a co-worker about this "policy" and that Jacob tests at a 3rd grade math level so why isn't he doing at least 2nd grade work in the classroom. She suggested I look into talented and gifted services. I had briefly thought about it but hadn't really done much research into the district's TAG program or our options if he continues to struggle with being challenged.

I started looking up the district's policies for talented and gifted services (TAG) and actually feel much better about Jacob's education now. Apparently being given the separate math book is the first level of TAG services (general curriculum changes given by the teacher). If the child does not appear to be challenged adequately with the advanced material, the teacher or parent can then request guidance from the district TAG coordinator and possibly refer for additional services outside of the classroom. This appears to be where Jacob's teacher is at. She stated she has talked to the district a couple of times about Jacob so I am assuming she is talking to the TAG coordinator. It makes sense that the district would want to wait until Jacob works through the "advanced" book before seeking additional services to challenge him. Especially since he is in 1st grade and most of the testing doesn't start until 3rd grade. I am relieved his teacher is starting the dialogue with the district and that they are considering whether or not he is getting his needs met through the normal curriculum despite only being in 1st grade. I don't want his first 3 years of education to be wasted.

I am not sure how I feel about additional services. I know Jacob is not challenged as much as he could be. He loves doing more challenging work at home and asks me to buy him math books at the book store that are for higher grade levels. I want him to be challenged and have his needs met. I don't want him to be bored or the teacher frustrated because she is having trouble challenging him (which I get the feeling is happening at times now) . I also don't know how I feel about him being given different work outside of the classroom and possibly stigmatizing him. It's a lot to think about and if he continues to excel at this speed it is one the district and I may consider in the near future.

I never knew having children who excel could be almost as stressful as having children who struggle. I will take the stress though and continue to research and advocate. After all, I could have much worse problems.

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