Supporters of gifted program speak out in District 181
Updated: April 2, 2012 8:43AM
About 100 people attending Monday’s District 181 Board meeting, with speakers overwhelmingly favoring continuing separate programs for gifted students, including the district’s ACE program.
This contrasts with residents’ comments at a Feb. 13 meeting, in which several people urged the board to do away with the program, raising concerns about the labeling and tracking of students.
The ACE Program is for students with “exceptionally high” cognitive skills, said Superintendent Renee Schuster. All Hinsdale-Clarendon Hills Elementary District 181 students are tested while in second and fifth grades with the InView Cognitive Abilities Test and the School and College Ability Test.
The program has come under fire because students who are admitted into it after testing in second grade are kept in, even if their test scores in fifth grade would not be high enough to qualify.
“We’ve heard quite a bit from a lot of people in the community on both sides of this,” board President Michael Nelson said. “There are many who want us to just get rid of it and many who don’t want anything changed.”
The board met Monday with Jessica Hockett, an outside consultant hired to facilitate a committee of teachers and administrators drafting a philosophy statement for the gifted program. Such a statement was one of the recommendations made in a gifted program evaluation completed recently by a University of Virginia team headed by Tonya Moon, known for its expertise in differentiation of instruction, gifted education, assessment, and mathematics instruction.
Moon and her team recommended the ACE program, as designed and implemented, be eliminated. Instead, students should have access to high-quality, enriched and accelerated options through other venues.
A handful of those making public comment Monday questioned the validity of some of the evaluation report from Moon’s team.
While board members did not make any final decisions Monday about the future of the ACE program or other gifted offerings, they were in agreement about dropping the label “gifted.”
“We should focus more on programs and get away from labels,” board member Yvonne Mayer said.
Schuster said she plans to have a draft of the philosophy for the gifted program ready for board review by the April 9 meeting, with discussion along with any plans affecting the gifted program for the 2012-13 school year.
“Our challenge now is to make sure we consider all the needs of the district,” Nelson said. “We can’t do this in the court of public opinion; we have to rely on our administration and the information we have.”