PAGE Position on the Task Force Recommendations
PAGE strongly believes that any recommendation from the task force at this point would be premature. While we acknowledge that there is room for improvement, we also feel that this process has been rushed and may therefore produce ineffective or even detrimental results. The impact of the outlined changes has not been given due consideration, which is imperative if we are going to justify the cost and upheaval inherent in a major program overhaul. We are providing a statement of position to assist the administration to meet our needs and the needs of our children, and to dispel rumors about our group\'s goals that may be circulating within the district. We hope to work WITH the administration, task force and school board for a long-term solution that will address everyone\'s needs. With limited resources, we must work together to accomplish our mutual goals. 1. Positive and effective changes require time, careful thought, and the mutual trust of all of the parties affected. The panic that this process has created has been counterproductive, forcing those who would benefit from collaboration to be thrown into an unnecessary opposition. Rather than abandoning a program that has been successfully servicing our children for 3 decades, the administration should work on a fluid, comprehensive, LONG TERM plan for improving our gifted and talented service delivery model. 2. Although the intended purpose of the task force was to evaluate the existing program and make adjustments, no evaluation was ever attempted, no data was given, and no surveys were reviewed (even though this was suggested by task force members). We have yet to be presented with any significant problems with our current Challenge program, and we assert that unless the decision-makers use documented facts, and evidence-based practices that it would be fiscally irresponsible and unnecessary to abandon a successful program. It is not acceptable to guess when overhauling the education of our children. With this in mind, the top priority in building a high-quality service delivery model that will last as long as Challenge is immediately implementing a comprehensive quality assurance and improvement program whereby statistics are gathered that will generate statistics that will be available to anyone who requests them. This will build a foundation for evidence-based improvements. In addition, some sort of dialogue must be opened up between concerned parents, teachers, administrators and school board members, whether it is in the form of a meeting, or a series of meetings that function like a think tank. Most parents feel that thus far they have been given no voice and no choice in the future of their children\'s education. 3. We assert that the upper 2% nationally does not address a statistically significant demographic in the Valley View school district to justify special services, nor can we find any evidence that this would be an improvement over the program we currently have. In fact, we feel that because the number of children in each grade who fall into the top 2% nationally could not fill a classroom, combined-grade classes would comprise the entire magnet program, thereby decreasing the quality of services. Further, the cost of bussing for such a small group would be an irresponsible expenditure, and may eventually doom the magnet program to fail. 4. We feel that the Valley View School District falls short in providing fair and appropriate services to the gifted at the 1st grade level. Because a periodic pull-out enrichment program is such an integral part of the administration\'s plan, and the parents are skeptical about how this will meet the all-day needs of their children, we recommend a compromise. We suggest that the first step in this long-term process be to implement a pull-out enrichment program in first grade. This could act as a testing-ground for the proposed enrichment program, while leaving our time-tested program intact and filling a void where no services are currently offered. 5. Currently, Valley View does not have a forum by which parents and educators can collaborate to improve the program on an ongoing basis, rather than making sudden and radical changes. Regardless of what form the gifted program takes in the future, we need a qualified gifted education coordinator in our district. One who will be trained to identify and educate the gifted. This person should coordinate the review of appeals regarding identification, and be involved with district relations with PAGE. 6. We recognize the outstanding abilities and qualifications of our teachers. However, to provide reassurance that teachers hired to work with the gifted and talented in the future reflect the high standards evident in the teachers who are already guiding and teaching our children, attention should be paid to the qualifications required in writing. As we lose tenured teachers to retirement over the next few years, we would like to see positions that serve gifted children filled by equally qualified teachers. We would also like to see the district offer more support for continuing educational experiences for our teachers. In the years to come, PAGE hopes to sponsor some of these opportunities. 7. We suggest that as an adjunct to the improvement of the curriculum that should be undertaken in ALL areas of education in the district, school-sponsored extracurricular activities be developed, available at the expense of the families who use the service. PAGE would be willing to assist the administration in locating resources that would augment school-day learning experiences. 8. Finally, we would like to work with the district in developing PAGE into a group that will be a support mechanism for parents of the gifted and talented children in Valley View. We hope to develop a web site, and have guest speakers. If these eight suggestions were addressed, our district would be moving forward with an improvement plan, while demonstrating sensitivity to the desire of the parents and students of the district to move forward slowly and thoughtfully.