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BTE.2009.GT comment. 7.14.09

BTE.2009.GT comment. 7.14.09

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GTA Comment to the MCPS Board of Education on 2009 Comprehensive Master Plan Update, I.E—Gifted and Talented Programs
GTA Comment to the MCPS Board of Education on 2009 Comprehensive Master Plan Update, I.E—Gifted and Talented Programs

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Frederick StichnothSpringbrook High School parentSilver Spring, Marylandfred.stichnoth@yahoo.com July 14, 2009Board of EducationMontgomery County Public SchoolsRockville, Maryland boe@mcpsmd.org Education Committee, County CouncilMontgomery CountyRockville, MarylandValerie Ervin, Chair councilmember.ervin@montgomerycountymd.gov
Mike Knappcouncilmember.knapp@montgomerycountymd.gov Phil Andrewscouncilmember.andrews@montgomerycountymd.gov Ms. Jeanne Paynter Maryland State Department of Education jpaynter@msde.md.state.us Re: 2009 Comprehensive Master Plan Update, I.E—Gifted and Talented ProgramsSirs and Madams:This letter comments on the portion of the Update pertaining to Gifted and TalentedPrograms.The Update is being considered for tentative approval by the Board of Education thisafternoon. It will be forwarded to the County Executive and the County Council byAugust 15. The Board will be asked to finally approve the Update on October 13, uponwhich it will be submitted to the Maryland State Department of Education.
Goals and milestones do not comply with Maryland law
This portion of the Update is to “include goals, objectives, and strategies regarding the performance of…Gifted and talented students, as defined in Section 8-201 of this article.”Maryland Annotated Code, Education Article, Section 5-401(d)(5). Section 8-201defines “gifted and talented student” as a student identified as “having outstanding talentand performing, or showing the potential for performing,
at remarkably high levels of accomplishment when compared 
with other students of similar age, experience, or environment….” [emphasis added]
2In responding to the prompt to list goals of the GT program, the Update refers to
Our Call to Action
Goal 2, milestone 2, and the associated data points. The recentlyapproved, revised OCA Goal 2 states “All schools will increase enrollment and performance of 
all students
in gifted, Honors, Advanced Placement, InternationalBaccalaureate, and other college-level courses, with a focus on improving enrollment and performance of African American and Hispanic students.” [emphasis added] The MCPSgoal regarding “all students” does not respond to the statutory requirement regardinggifted and talented students. The statutory definition requires focus on a subset of allstudents—those performing at “remarkably high levels…when compared” with other students.MCPS’ non-complying statement of goals is reflected by its statement of accomplishments: 70 percent of the number of Grade 6 students enrolling in one or moremiddle school “GT courses;81 percent of Grade 8 students enrolling in one or more“GT courses;” 61.5 percent of graduates participating in at least one AP exam; 46 percent of graduates scoring 3 or higher on an AP exam. These data indicate good performance relative to MCPS’ non-complying “all students” goal, but also indicate botha failure to adhere to the statutory definition of gifted and talented student, and that the“GT course” and AP participation and AP 3 performance data points do not pertain to“gifted and talented students” as defined by the statute.
Paucity of programming
The Update states that “MCPS offers a continuum of programs and services, includingaccelerated and enriched instruction at every school and center and magnet programs for the highly gifted and GT/LD students.”MCPS identifies 40 percent of Grade 2 students as gifted and talented and servesapproximately three percent of students (7.5 percent of those identified) in its elementaryand middle school centers and magnets; the remainder are served in the local school.The following accelerated and enriched programs are actually available to local schoolstudents:Elementary school: William and Mary reading and mathematics accelerationMiddle school: Mathematics accelerationHigh school: Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate programsThese programs, except Mathematics and IB, are offered in a heterogeneous classroom,through differentiation. Differentiation does not work for GT students (or for lower- performing students).MCPS states that “To improve traditional GT offerings, advanced courses in English,science and world studies are being developed and implemented through the middleschool reform process.” While important details of the middle school reform remainobscured, it appears that these “advanced courses” are, again, intended for “all” middle
3school students and usually will be offered in the heterogeneous classroom, throughdifferentiation.
Lack of accountability
The Update states that “The effort to strengthen accountability measures continuesthrough collaboration with the Office of School Performance. Meetings for FY 2010with community superintendents to discuss key data points related to GT implementationwill occur on a regular basis.”The Office of School Performance disclaims responsibility for implementation of a GT program. One of its community superintendents stated publicly, October 26, 2008, thatOSP does not evaluate a school or principal on the basis of any one factor (specificallyreferring to GT implementation), but looks at everything—a number of factors—the“gestalt:” whether the principal is “meeting the needs in the building.”As those in MCPS responsible for GT education admit, there are no “key data pointsrelated to GT implementation.” The data points in
Our Call to Action
relate to generaleducation, as discussed above. Some MPCS staff have talked for years about theabsolute necessity of GT data points, but they have not been developed.
Lack of GT programming: inequitable education
MCPS has no GT program (except its segregated, homogeneous center/magnet program).This does not mean that “all students” receive equal on-level education. Those in thehigh SES “green zone” receive higher-pitched instruction; those in the much moreheterogeneous, but on average low SES “red zone” receive the lower pitched instruction“meeting the needs in the building.” MCPS states publicly that performance benchmarks
differ between the green and red zones. Those that suffer most are the red zonetraditionally-underrepresented and white, low and high SES, students “havingoutstanding talent and performing, or showing the potential for performing,
at remarkably high levels of accomplishment when compared 
with other students of similar age, experience, or environment….”Very truly yours,Frederick Stichnothcc: Dr. Frieda Lacey, Deputy SuperintendentFrieda_Lacey@mcpsmd.org Larry A. Bowers, Chief Operating Officer Larry_Bowers@mcpsmd.org Daniel De Vise, Washington Postdevised@washpost.com Leah Fabel, DC Examiner lfabel@dcexaminer.com Marcus Moore, Gazettemmoore@gazette.net Robert Dongu, Gazetterdongu@gazette.net Liz Bowie, Baltimore Sunliz.bowie@baltsun.com Parents’ Coalition listserv

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