Proposal: The Portland ACCESS School for Very Gifted Students

 

Second Draft: June 22, 2001

The ACCESS school task force

[ Note:  This draft is up for convenience, because it is a hyperlinked html file.  The most recent ACCESS draft wass Draft 5, January 22, 2002.}

 


 

Contents:

 

 

Introduction.

Why Do Very Gifted Students Need a Special Program?

Description of the ACCESS school:

Mission Statement and goals

Admission Policy and Procedure.

Curriculum Philosophy.

Communications and Outreach.

Staffing Worksheet.

Space/resource needs.

Timeline.

Report on the ACCESS school Surveys

Appendix: 

"Entrance requirements and student population estimations" Larry Marcy, PPS evaluation specialist, 1/4/01.

"Portland Public Schools, 1997-8 RIT Gains by Spring 1997 Achievement Level" "Linda Silvermanís Chart of Provisions for Exceptional Learners"

"Questions and Answers about Profoundly Gifted Children "

                "Nurturing the Social and Emotional Development of Gifted         Children,  ERIC  Digest"

Contents of Documentation Notebooks

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS ABOUT THE ACCESS SCHOOL

 


 

 

 

INTRODUCTION

 

 

"The relatively few gifted students who have had the advantage of special programs have shown remarkable improvements in self-understanding and in ability to relate well to others, as well as in improved academic and creative performance. The programs have not produced arrogant, selfish snobs; special programs have extended a sense of reality, wholesome humility, self-respect, and respect for others."

--Sidney Marland, U.S. Commissioner of Education, Education of the Gifted and Talented, Report to the Congress of the United States, (US GPO,1972)

 

 

 

Dear School Board members:

The idea of a school for the highly gifted is not new either to Portland Public Schools or to many other school districts throughout the nation. In 1994, PPS recognized that the unique academic, social and emotional needs of this population were not being met. PPS staff visited Seattle to learn about its highly gifted program and commissioned Jennifer Jasaitis to research best practices and other programs nation-wide. This study, entitled "Alternative Accelerated Program: Research and Recommendations for Full-Time Classes," incorporated research on best practices and information about successful programs for gifted students. The research showed that full time programs for these children were effective.

 

The report stated, "It is clear that where these full-time programs exist, school districts are acknowledging the validity of meeting the needs of the entire range of their students, encouraging even the most talented to reach their potential." (p.28) The Jasaitis report recommended that a school for the highly gifted be established in addition to broad-based TAG services in regular classrooms.

The need for an accelerated, individualized program for this unique population persists. Twice in recent years, the TAG department returned to the APP school in Seattle for more information. Following the most recent visit, in the spring of 2000, Amy

Welch, the PPS TAG Administrator, sent a memo to the Superintendent, Dr. Canada, proposing a "university school" for very gifted Portland TAG students. Last fall, Dr. Canada asked Dr. Margaret DeLacy, the Chair of the TAG advisory committee, to convene a task force to carry out additional research and make recommendations on this proposal.

 

WHY DO GIFTED STUDENTS NEED A SPECIAL PROGRAM?

 

 

The PPS mission statement says that PPS will support ALL students in achieving their very highest educational and personal potential" The "core values" state that individuals should have equitable and just access to opportunities and satisfied basic needs, and the objectives say that 100% of our students will ... show significant academic growth every year, will set ambitious learning goals, persist in pursuing those goals, and demonstrate evidence of progress..."

 

These goals are not being met for highly gifted students. Investigations by the State of Oregon have found that PPS is not in compliance with the TAG mandate. The most recent investigation found that "not all teachers ... were able to demonstrate appropriate application of the principles of rate and level learning for TAG students ... All TAG students therefore, were not receiving appropriate TAG services." 1

 

Many people believe that if a studentís achievement test score is high enough, that students showing acceptable "achievement." But a single score offers almost no information about whether a school system is actually doing a good job of teaching. It may tell more about what a student has learned at home than in school.

 

If a student enters third grade with a given achievement test score, and leaves at the end of the year with the same score, then the student has not made "significant growth" or, in fact, any growth at all, no matter what the score was at the beginning of the beginning of the year.

 

To understand whether students are showing growth we must compare student scores from one year to another year. This gain in student test scores is a better measure than absolute scores of how much our students are actually learning in school. This information is available in a report prepared annually by the Research and Evaluation Department.

 

PPS does not regularly provide achievement test data for TAG students. However, it does compile achievement test data for "very high achieving students." These make up about 6% of all students. According to these data, "very high achieving students" are not making average gains on our achievement tests. They are not learning, growing, or achieving as much as other students in PPS. They are not showing even  average gains: 2

 

COMPARISON OF AVERAGE AND VERY HIGH 1997-8 RIT SCORE GAINS BY SPRING 1997 ACHIEVEMENT LEVEL

 

READING GRADE Average students Very high students
  four 7.7 1.2
  five 5.2 4.5
  six 4.1 0.1
  seven 4.4 0.5
  eight 4.1 -1.1
MATH    
  four 11.5 6.1
  five 7.3 9.2
  six 5.9 3.9
  seven 6.5 7.0
  eight 7.6 4.1

 

(Compilation by Margaret DeLacy from data supplied by Portland Public Schools)

Definitions of "gifted," "moderately gifted," and "highly gifted" students, and estimates of their prevalence in the population vary among authors. Different "IQ" tests may also provide different "IQ" scores for the same children, particularly at the upper end of their range. The Stanford-Binet L-M, a very old test not in common use among psychologists today, is considered by many experts in gifted education to be the only test with a high enough "ceiling" to provide information about unusually gifted students.

Dr. Miraca Gross, an internationally recognized expert on exceptionally gifted children, provides the following definitions of the range of IQ scores obtained from using the Stanford-Binet L-M, the level of giftedness they represent, and their prevalence in the population. 3  We decided that serving students in the top one percent would create a program large enough to provide an acceptable level of services and would serve students who needed a significantly different level of instruction and curriculum than was available in neighborhood schools. A program serving only one in every hundred PPS students would not create a serious loss from neighborhood schools or other programs. Since the students we plan to serve fall between "moderately" and "highly" gifted, we refer to them as "very" gifted students.

 

LEVEL

IQ RANGE PREVALENCE
Mildly (or basically) 115-129 1:6 to 1:44
Moderately  130-144 1:44 to 1:1000
Highly  145-159 1:1,000 to 1:10,000
Exceptionally  160-179 1:10,000 to 1:1 million
Profoundly  180+ Fewer than 1:1 million

 

 

Very gifted students have instructional needs that differ from those of other students.

They learn at a different rate:

According to Dr. Karen Rogers, the learning rate of children above 130 IQ is approximately eight times faster than for children below 70 IQ. Gifted students are significantly more likely to retain science and mathematics content accurately when taught two to three times faster than normal class pace.

Gifted students are significantly more likely to forget or mislearn science and mathematics content when they must drill or review it more than 2-3 times. 4

They learn at a different level:5

 

CONVERSION CHART: IQ, AGE AND GRADE LEVEL EQUIVALENTS

AGE IQ MENTAL AGE GRADE LEVEL
7 100 7.0 2
  120 8.4 3.4
  145 10.2 5.2
  160 11.2 6.2
       
13 100 13.0 8.0
  120 15.6 10.6
  145 19.9 13.9
  160 20.8 15.8

 

They think differently:

 

According to Dr. Rogers, gifted students benefit from abstract and complex content and often find it difficult to reconstruct their problem solving strategies. Gifted students perform better when the majority of their academic time is spend in true peer interactions. Teachers with extensive training in gifted education produce significantly higher academic and self-esteem effects for gifted students. 6

 

When their needs are not met, highly gifted students are at risk of depression and other problems. The best modern study, by Miraca Gross, found that the 12 exceptionally gifted children she studied in depth had positive views of their home/family life and of themselves, but "the majority ... have experienced extreme difficulty in establishing positive social relationships with age-peers. The extremely negative perceptions which these children hold both of their own social skills and of their probable image in the eyes of other children are reflected in disturbingly low levels of social self-esteem." She concluded that "an inappropriate ... curriculum ... not only imposed underachievement... but ... also ... low self-esteem and poor motivation." She found that they differed from children of the same age in moral and social development as well as academic ability. 7

 

A study by Drs. P. M. Janos and Nancy Robinson compared thirty-two highly gifted with forty-seven moderately gifted eight-year-old students. It found that a majority of the moderately gifted children had two or more friends. However, the highly gifted children had no more than one close friends and at least a third had no close friends at all. 8

 

In an article on the need of families of intellectually gifted students for counseling, Glenison Alsop studied forty-two families of forty-seven children in Australia with a mean IQ of 150 and found that more than one-fourth of families had been advised that their children were socially immature due to their failure to play with peers, and over half of families had been told their children were immature for other reasons including efforts to dominate other children, withdrawn behavior, emotional intensity, poor learning behavior, reluctance to attend school, inappropriate classroom behavior, low self-esteem, poor socialization, and inappropriate choice of peers. 9

 

Linda Silverman, who has seen 3,000 gifted children in Denver concluded that "Gifted children have better social adjustment in classes with children like themselves; the brighter the child, the lower the child's social self-concept in regular classrooms. Social self-concept immediately improves when children are placed with true peers in special classes." 10

 

Gifted programs are not "elitist." They provide services that are needed by poor and minority students as much as by other students. Silverman noted, "There are more poor gifted children than there are rich gifted children. Therefore, when attempts are made to eliminate programs for the gifted on the basis that they are "elitist," it is the poor who suffer the most." 11

 

A study of gifted minority students in Racine Wisconsin found that of 24 minority students enrolled in a gifted program, none dropped out, whereas of 67 students in a control program, 30 students (45%) dropped out. 12

 

Grouping gifted students together is likely to produce significant achievement gains--without harming others or costing a lot. Studies funded by the U.S. Dept. of Education have found that when gifted students are grouped together and are provided with accelerated curricula, they outperform students of the same age and ability by nearly one full year. Highly gifted students could be expected to make larger gains. 13

 

Grouping these students for instruction is much more cost-effective than attempting to instruct them individually in different classrooms. It is one thirtieth as expensive to provide staff development for one teacher in a class of thirty gifted students than to provide training for the teachers of these same students in thirty different classrooms. The APP school in Seattle operates at the same F.T.E. allotment as any other Seattle school (except for transportation) and brings families into the school district and the city itself.

 

Grouping gifted students benefits them, and does not in any way harm the other students in the school. Government-funded studies have found that "students who are not in high ability groups are not harmed academically by ability grouping and may gain academic ground in some cases. Ability grouping does not have negative effects on student self-esteem and appears to be slightly positive for lower achieving students." 14

 


 

References

1. Oregon Department of Education, letter from C. Gregory McMurdo, executive legal officer, "In the matter of the complaint against Portland S.D. Case #581-02201940-97-2" Salem OR, August 11, 2000.

2. Portland Public Schools, Research and Evaluation department, "Comparison of average and very high 1997-8 RIT gains by Spring 1997 achievement level."  The same pattern of lower gains can be found in the scores for 1998/9 and 1999/2000 but problems with the transition to Oregon State testing makes these figures unreliable.

3. Miraca U.M. Gross, Exceptionally Gifted Children: What Research Tells Us (West Lafayette, IN, 1997), p. 3.

4. Karen Rogers, "Research-Based 'Essentials' of Gifted Education Services," from The Minnesota Gifted and Talented Development Center, Best Practice Research.  Http://cf12.state.mn.us/gifted/best_practice_research.htm

5. Valerie Bock, "An IQ-to-Grade conversion chart" GT World, http://www.gtworld.org/iqgrade.html

6. Rogers, "Research-based essentials."

7. Miraca Gross, Exceptionally Gifted Children (London and New York, 1993), ch. 9, "Psychosocial Development" pp. 233-261.  These findings confirm the findings of earlier work.

8. Susan Golant, The Joys and Challenges of Raising a Gifted Child (New York, 1991), pp. 132-33.

9. Glenison Alsop, "Coping or Counseling: Families of Intellectually Gifted Students," Roeper Review, 20:1 (Sept./Oct. 1997) 28-34.

10. Linda Silverman, "What we have learned about Gifted Children, 1979-1997"  Gifted Development Center, http://www.hoagiesgifted.org/we_have_learned.htm

11. Linda Silverman, "What we have learned about Gifted Children" 

12. Jocklyn Smith, Barbara LeRose and Robert Clasen, "Underrepresentation of  Minority Students in Gifted Programs, Yes! It Matters!" Gifted Child Quarterly (1991) 35: 81-83.

13. National Research Center on the Gifted and Talented, "What Educators need to know about Ability Grouping." This is a composite of two studies: Karen Rogers, The relationship of grouping practices to the education of the gifted and talented learner, (Storrs, CT: National Research Center on the Gifted and Talented, 1991) and James A. Kulik, An Analysis of the Research on Ability Grouping: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives, (Storrs, CT: National Research Center on the Gifted and Talented, 1992).

14. "What Educators need to know about Ability Grouping."

 


 

 

DESCRIPTION OF THE ACCESS SCHOOL

 

 

 

STUDENT BODY

 

 

This school will serve the needs of students in the top one percent of our District, as measured by test scores in reading, mathematics, or general aptitude. This roughly corresponds to an IQ test score slightly below 140, though IQ test scores vary considerably depending on the test that is used. (See above, "Why do very gifted students need a special program?" for information about the prevalence and classification of students with high IQ test scores) A student in the top one percent generally is ready for curriculum that is three or more years above grade level, and needs instruction that has almost no repetition and is much faster-paced than is appropriate for students of average ability.

 

The Research and Evaluation Departmentís preliminary estimate is that 960 of PPSs 50,000 students might be eligible for this school on the basis of reading or math scores (see appendix, letter from Larry Marcy.) The Department found that there is almost no overlap between students who gain scores in the top one percent in math and those who are in the top one percent in reading. The differing strengths and weaknesses of the students, even among the top one percent span a wide variety of abilities and talents. The school could also expect to draw some applicants from outside the district--from home schools, private schools and other districts.

 

SIZE

 

 

This school will have about 500 students in grades 1-12. We recommend that the program begin by admitting students in grades 1-6, with an initial intake of 196 students, growing over three years to about 308 students in eleven classrooms. In the third year there would be one class for every grade level in grades 1-5 and two in every grade level in grades 6-8. The creation of additional classes for middle school students will permit an influx of new students and a better dynamic. The Task Force decided against offering kindergarten because of the difficulty of accurately assessing young children. Instead, PPSís TAG psychologist suggested that where appropriate, some students could be assessed for entry directly into first grade.

 

After three years, the high school program serving approximately 200 students would open, probably as a "school within a school" in one of our existing high schools. Some middle school students would move into the high school program when their instructional needs exceed the services that the middle school could provide. Students in the high school program would be able to share classes and activities with other students in the host high school, and, conversely, advanced students in the host high school program could enroll in some of the advanced classes in the gifted program.

 

It is unlikely that any district or even any neighborhood school within our district would experience a significant loss of enrollment because of this school, given its overall size and the limitation of enrollment to students in the top 1%.

 

 

ADMISSION

 

The admission policy is designed to discover information about the whole child without requiring inflexible adherence to a single test score. The primary goal is to determine if admission to the program is in the best interest of the child. In addition to test scores, we will require interviews, work samples, and letters of recommendation, as well as TAG qualification under Oregon law. Further assessments may be requested. Both actual performance and a studentís potential to succeed in an accelerated environment will be considered.

 

The PPS TAG department uses a wide range of assessment information for identifying students, and where appropriate it administers tests that are non-verbal and/or tests that do not require a knowledge of English. School identification teams collect a range of information about each student and can select the assessment tools that best demonstrate a studentís strength. Thus, by using the existing TAG criteria as a requirement for applications, we are using a process that is familiar to our staff, is solidly based on best practices research, provides information beyond a single test score, and identifies a diverse population of students within our district. Currently, approximately 5,000 PPS students are identified as TAG. Thus, this school would serve about one tenth of all TAG students.

 

 

CURRICULUM

 

 

The curriculum will cover the "scope and sequence" requirements of the Oregon Department of Education and Portland Public Schools at an accelerated pace and with advanced materials where appropriate. We have not yet found a satisfactory "off the shelf" curriculum for these students. A draft of the curriculum philosophy to guide the staff in curriculum development is included in this application However, we believe that specific curriculum is best created by classroom teachers. Following approval of this proposal, we will apply to the Portland Schools Foundation and other organizations for funding to enable a group of teachers to plan curriculum over the spring or summer. This curriculum will align with state standards and benchmarks. We believe that this proposal will be a good candidate for funding because the curriculum that this group of teachers develops will provide a resource to other schools throughout the district and the state. There is no pre-service training in Oregon on ways to modify curriculum and instruction for gifted students, even though such modifications are required by state law, so there is clearly a great need for resources in this area.

 

Among the students in this school, there will be many students who are highly gifted in one field and not gifted (possibly even learning-disabled) in others. There will also be some exceptionally gifted students whose instructional needs might not be met even with this highly accelerated curriculum. In any classroom there still will be a wide range of interests and abilities that will require individualized curriculum and instruction. The demands of this population will necessitate teachers who are flexible and who like working with high ability students.

 

Exceptionally gifted students who are likely to be completely isolated in neighborhood schools and are at risk for severe depression in normal school settings will find a more accepting and supportive atmosphere that will nourish their intellectual and emotional development.

 

We are exploring the Primary and Middle Years framework of the International Baccalaureate program. This is not a fixed curriculum, but rather a systematic approach to planning and integrating curriculum. The program provides excellent support that enables teachers to develop their own curriculum. It ensures the overall quality of the instruction through site visits. Although the IB program was not specifically developed for gifted students, it includes many of the features that any high quality school program should offer, including a second language, integration of the arts, and inclusion of character development and community service into the fabric of the school. Teachers use portfolio assessments in place of letter grades. Unlike the High School program, the IB program for younger students does not involve any specific course requirements or testing. Instead, students complete the program by creating a project their final year. Becoming an "official" IB school requires an extended period of planning and several years of operation before a school can apply.

 

 

STAFFING

 

 

We have staffed the school with the same allocation of F.T.E staff as other district

schools. Attached is a draft plan for the staffing and student numbers for the first

three years, assuming a district student/teacher ratio of 28 to 1 in the opening year. We have added middle school staffing for the middle school students only on a pro-rated basis--that is, 100 students would receive 1/5 of the middle school staffing for a school of 500 students.

 

We request one additional F.T.E. for counseling and curriculum planning. Providing counseling is crucial for these high-needs students, many of whom will be entering the program after years of frustration and unhappiness in other programs. In addition, this position will fund staff to adjust curriculum and instruction for the exceptionally gifted students, to forward planning for the high school opening, and to coordinate instruction. Since the school will make extensive use of ability grouping and allow students to attend classes at other grade levels, the school will need someone to keep track of these students and facilitate communication between teachers.

 

 

 

 

CONCLUSION

 

 

The task force envisions the ACCESS school as a resource for the metropolitan area. Very gifted students are expensive and difficult to serve adequately when they are isolated, so we believe that the program will provide a welcome service to other districts. We expect that the schoolís curriculum and instructional program will serve as a learning center for teachers throughout the State of Oregon and provide opportunities to create partnerships with other districts, colleges, and schools of education. We hope this program will attract outstanding teachers to the District.

 

If you approve of the concept of the school, we plan to apply for grants or other funds so that teachers will be able to write curriculum and plan instruction before the school opens the following fall. We hope you will work with us to identify a principal or a "head teacher" who can initiate and direct the planning process and who will also make sure that the school building is adequately furnished and prepared. There will be initial "startup" costs for furniture, supplies and equipment.

 

The district has moved up the date of the School Fair to October and the student

transfer application process to mid-winter. If this school is to be part of an orderly application process, then the concept of the school must be approved in the early autumn of the year before it opens and a location must be chosen, in order for parents to have sufficient information to select this school.

The ACCESS school will not replace the services and functions of the PPS TAG program. There will still be approximately 4,500 TAG students in other district schools after the program reaches its full capacity. These students will still be entitled to services under Oregonís TAG mandate. Moreover, the support of the TAG office staff is essential for community outreach, technical advice, and student assessment for the school.

We believe that this school will play a significant role in enabling Portland Public Schools to carry out its mission "to support all students in achieving their very highest educational and personal potential, to inspire in them an enduring love of learning, and to prepare them to contribute as citizens of a diverse, multicultural, and international community."

 


 

 

PORTLAND ACCESS SCHOOL MISSION, VISION, AND GOALS

 

 

 

Adopted January 18, 2001

 

 

 

Mission Statement:

 

 

 

The ACCESS school allows highly gifted children to thrive socially, emotionally and academically; helps them develop a lifelong love of learning; and encourages them to become full and productive participants in our rapidly changing global community.

 

 

Vision Statement:

 

This challenging, open-ended arts and academics program elicits the full potential from gifted students by supporting both intellectual and personal growth. The rigorous, highly individualized program recognizes different learning styles and talents within a nurturing environment that encourages the development of the whole person.

 

 

Goals include:

 

Accelerated curriculum

Cultivation and development of skills, abilities, and creativity

Character and social development

Exploration and personal discovery

Self-directed, self-paced challenges toward excellence

Service to the community and society with tolerance and wisdom

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

ADMISSIONS POLICY AND PROCEDURE

 

 

The ACCESS School allows highly gifted children to thrive socially, emotionally, and academically; helps them develop a lifelong love of learning; and encourages them to become full and productive participants in a rapidly changing global community.

 

The ACCESS School offers a highly accelerated and conceptually challenging curriculum for highly gifted students. The program serves students whose exceptional academic needs cannot be accommodated in a neighborhood school. The School will support acceleration of more than two years above grade level while allowing students to be instructed with age peers.

 

The Admissions Committee will take into account both abilities and needs of the applicant. Test scores will not be the sole criterion for admission, although applicants are expected to have test scores in the 99th percentile in either: general intellectual ability, mathematics, or reading. The Committee will consider other evidence of giftedness that demonstrates the applicant's potential to perform at this level; including, but not limited to: early reading, teacher observations, advanced mathematical skills, sophisticated work, depth of thought, or unusual creativity. The admissions process will comply with all federal and state statutes and regulations.

 

The application package must include:

 

evidence that the student meets the criterion for TAG identification (Oregon Administrative Rules 581-022-1310);

evidence of accelerated performance;

a statement of student and family commitment to the program;

teacher recommendations;

work samples or portfolios;

school transcripts or evaluations.

 

The Admissions Committee may also consider and/or request:

tests or assessments administered by licensed professionals;

interviews of both applicant and family;

observations of applicant;

a classroom visit.

 

 

 

In the event the number of qualified applications exceeds the number of available spaces other factors may be taken into account:

preference for applicants currently residing in the Portland Public Schools district;

need of the classrooms for population diversity to the extent allowed by law;

other alternatives or support available to the applicant.

 

 

 

adopted 3/9/01

 

 


 

ACCESS SCHOOL CURRICULUM PHILOSOPHY

 

 

 

I. Math.

 

Guiding philosophy:

 

The curriculum will be structured to stress skills and understanding equally. Memorization should be confined to the very basic arithmetic skills (in particular addition and multiplication). Rote drilling beyond these skills should be minimal, particularly for bright students inasmuch as studies show that even modest repetition for bright students is counterproductive.

 

Learning goals:

 

1. Students should be challenged by a broad pre-calculus curriculum (percentages and interest, logic, probability and statistics, graphs and analytic geometry, classical geometry, mensuration, trigonometry, axiomatic arithmetic, set theory, elementary vectors, algebra, logarithms, number theory, exponents and exponential notation, use of programmable calculators) before being exposed to calculus and higher mathematics.

 

2. Arithmetic skills should include estimation techniques. A student should know how to determine if the answer derived with a calculator is reasonable. Basic computational skills can be addressed at successive grade levels with incrementally advanced treatment. (E.g., multiplication tables up to 12 x 12 in the first pass, double digit multiplication in second pass, multiplication of polydigits, decimals, and fractions in third or fourth pass.)

 

3. Students should acquire a basic understanding of the nature of mathematics (it's not a science), the nature of numbers (not empirical), and, most importantly, the nature of a proof.

 

4. Students should be given ample opportunity to apply mathematics to real world problems. Solving word problems and mastering problem solving strategies are paramount long term goals of computational mathematics, as is the ability to use simple mathematics in everyday decision-making, from shopping in the supermarket to financing a new car or building a house.

 

 

II. Science.

 

 

Guiding philosophy:

 

1. As in mathematics, there should not be a choice between teaching facts and principles. Principles seem arbitrary and abstract unless one already has some facts in hand that can be given order and structure by those principles. On the other hand, the facts without the principles are not science.

2. Much of the science curriculum should be inquiry-driven. Students should have the opportunity for hands-on laboratory experiences that teach them to ask and answer relevant questions.

3. Laboratory experiments should open the doors to structured lectures on various scientific principles. Simple but carefully chosen experiments can provide the basis for a wealth of instruction.

Learning Goals:

1. What is science: what is its goal; what is the scientific method; what are facts, hypotheses, theories, and models; what is scientific knowledge and what other kinds of knowledge are there (empiricism vs rationalism); the role of variables and controls; signal and noise (uncertainty, precision, accuracy); falsifiability and verifiability; what problems can or can't be addressed by scientific method; why does science work (and when doesn't it); how do scientific ideas (paradigms) influence other aspects of society.

2. What are the principal branches of sciences; how do some build on others.

3. What are the differences and relations between science and technology. What are the socio-political issues in a technological problem and how does one distinguish the science from the politics. What are the ethical and moral aspects of scientific and technological problems. [Potential issues in biology and biochemistry: food additives, pharmaceutical testing, species preservation, pollution, natural resource utilization, etc.]

4. What are the major goals of the principal sciences today?. What have they accomplished and what remains to be learned? [E.g., how has environmental awareness changed the goals of chemistry?]

5. What do scientists of different disciplines do in today's world? What are the opportunities and rewards? Where do they work?

6. Units for various physical quantities; SI (System internationale) units.

 

 

III. Communications Skills

 

 

Communication skills comprises what is traditionally called language arts but as part of a broader discipline that includes other forms of communication.

Guiding philosophy:

A complete secondary education includes a familiarity with the traditional use of language, fluency in the use of contemporary language and other modern communications media, and an understanding of how the former affects the latter.

Learning goals:

A. In their primary language (English), goals include:

 

1. Mastery of reading by whatever methods seem appropriate. Appropriate levels of comprehension (and therefore vocabulary) are also necessary.

2. Mastery of the essentials of formal English: grammar, spelling, punctuation, and composition.

3. Familiarity with the four purposes of written language: expository, persuasive, narrative, and descriptive and the differences among them, and fluency in each. Narrative and descriptive language includes both prose writing and poetry. Persuasive language knowledge includes being able to recognize common flaws in persuasive prose (logical flaws, ad hominem arguments, insinuation, appeal to emotion); and the ability to use good persuasive language in both written (editorials, advertising, propaganda) and oral (debates) media.

4. Understanding of the differences between formal and informal language, knowing when each is appropriate, and ease in using both.

5. Familiarity with reliable reference sources, including libraries, encyclopedias, dictionaries, other written reference works; and on-line sources; recognition of the advantages and potential liabilities of each.

6. A rudimentary knowledge of the historical linguistics: the larger structure of the English language and its relationship to other languages.

7. An appreciation for other aspects of communication, particularly oral: body language, how to listen, how to carry on a conversation.

8. Because a thorough mastery of contemporary English communication skills requires an understanding of the historical use of English, a familiarity with classic works of English (and perhaps other) literature is essential.

9. An early goal should be keyboarding (i.e., typing) skills, in particular for those children whose motor skills are not sufficient to permit total reliance on longhand writing as a primary communication medium.

 

B. Because language acquisition is an ability that rapidly diminishes as students enter adolescence, training in at least one second language should begin as early as possible in the curriculum. The second language should be the focal point for a broad instruction in intercultural awareness: the ways in which different societies communicate and the relations between language and other aspects of society. A third language could be some form of signing.

C. Music, art, theater, and dance can be studied as forms of communication, but not to the exclusion of their treatment as media of abstract expression.

 

IV. Social Studies

 

 

Social Studies includes history and geography.

 

Guiding philosophy:

 

An understanding of contemporary society and relations among peoples requires a familiarity with history and an appreciation for how geography influences the development of civilization. Because students of different ages will be able to assimilate information and relationships to varying degrees, it may be appropriate to revisit particular subjects repeatedly with successively deeper levels of exposition. Memorization of dates, events, and geographic features is important only to the extent that it facilitates understanding of societies and social change, and should be kept to a minimum.

 

Learning goals:

 

1. What is history: how we choose what to study (and remember) and how that may change as other goals of society and education change; how social, religious, political, and moral values influence what we choose to recognize as "history"; the dependence of our knowledge of history on our ability to communicate (do other species have history?); how we know about the past (oral, written, and archeological history) and how objective our knowledge is or can be; the use of historical novels, literature, songs and ballads, newspapers, and diaries as documents; different kinds of history (national, regional, and social).

2. The major periods of world history; with the salient features of different societies (structure, government); with the influence on past cultures on our own.

 

3. How religion, social structure, and belief systems affect relations between nations.

 

4. The beginnings and development of the United States: its history prior to European settlement; the factors that led to its colonization, the motivations for independence, and the causes and consequences of various wars and major social movements.

 

5. The essentials of United States civics and government structure.

 

6. The history of the Pacific Northwest, Oregon, and Portland as special topics in U.S. history.

 

7. How geography affects the development of a society in terms of agriculture, architecture, social structure, and international relations.

 

8. The importance of natural resources and the consequences of their use or abuse (environmentalism, sustainable agriculture); how societies can change geography and how that in turn affects those societies. (Intersection with biology studies)

 

9. The history of science, medicine, and technology with emphasis on how these disciplines change society.

 

10. The fundamentals of economics, the history of major socio-economic movements, and the relation of economics to other aspects of society and government.

 

11. World geography and how national boundaries have changed; how natural features affect national boundaries.

 

12. Maps: what they show and how they are constructed; different projections and their uses.

 

 

V. Other living skills

 

Students will be instructed at age-appropriate levels in nutrition, health, and social skills, and will be required to perform some community service. Any District guidelines in these areas will be followed.

 

 


 

 

 

COMMUNICATIONS AND OUTREACH

 

 

We seek a diverse pool of applicants for our school, and plan serious efforts to reach families throughout the city. We have tried to communicate our plans for the school as clearly as possible and to reach a wide audience. Our goals have been not only to inform our community about our plans but also to seek information and advice from the community about our plans.

We are attaching a list of individuals who have been receiving regular information, meeting notices, and minutes from us. Some of these individuals have attended one or more of our meetings; some have chosen merely to "stay informed" by requesting that their names be added to our list.

We have also posted information about the school on two websites: the PPS website, in the section maintained by the TAG department, and the website Margaret DeLacy maintains for Portland area TAG parents. The PPS website contains minutes of our meetings.

An article about the school appeared in the Portland Tribune; there is a link to this article on the PPS website, in the section for the TAG program. We have continued to meet with Lew Frederick to discuss the most effective ways to inform the community about our plans. A regularly scheduled DTAC meeting, at which Dr. Canada was the guest, included an extensive discussion of plans for the school. Margaret DeLacy also discussed the school on radio, in a debate with Diana Madriata on June 5th. This was a call-in program and nearly every caller supported the idea of the ACCESS school. The view most often expressed was that a program such as this increased the choices available to parents in the district and parental choice should be supported. Several individuals described the serious problems they or their gifted children experienced in regular schools which extended to severe depression and suicidal thoughts. A tape of the program is available. In addition Margaret appeared to discuss TAG programs in general with Dianne Cassidy on "Inside Oregon Education" hosted by Caleb Burns on April 25, on Cable Channel 11.

In addition, we have discussed our plans for the school with numerous individuals. We have sought advice and information from people associated with similar programs throughout the country including the P.E.G.S. program in St. Louis, the Highly Capable program in Seattle, the Evergreen School District in Washington State, and the Tucson, Arizona, School District. We have also researched many programs across the country. Information about some of these programs appears in a separate section of our research notebook, which also includes other information about best practices for such programs. We are attaching a list of its contents. We continue to seek advice from experts across the country.

 

We are carrying out "focus group" meetings with parents, teachers and students. The consensus of the parentsí meeting was that they strongly supported the idea for this school. We also gained some valuable information about what they felt was important in such a program. We have a videotape of the meeting. An unexpected benefit of this meeting was that parents were very excited to meet each other. They requested an additional meeting. The teachers and administrators requested research data to explain the need of children for this school and recommended an interdisciplinary and flexible curriculum in a nongraded program.

We have planned further outreach efforts for the next few months. We are compiling a list of community groups, especially youth groups serving students in North and Northeast Portland, in order to inform their families about the school.

Mary Michael, the TAG department psychologist, has offered an extremely successful parent support program this year for parents throughout the district. Next year, the elementary school TAG program will be served by three central TAG staff members, instead of two, and Mary will be taking responsibility for the schools in north and northeast Portland. She is planning to offer support groups for parents in those schools, and to include outreach and information about the ACCESS school. The TAG staff and ACCESS committee members will also be available to answer questions about the school at the fall TAG meetings which will be held throughout the district.

We have sent a survey to 2,500 families in PPS with children who have achieved high test scores. A copy of the survey is attached, and copies of the tabulated responses will be available in the documentation notebooks as soon as the tabulation is completed. We will incorporate the survey results into our plans.

We received responses from eighty-nine students.

--Fifty-three students (60%) responded that they would be interested in attending a school for very gifted students;

--Twenty-four students (27%) responded "no,"

--Twelve students (13%) did not respond.

Students saw the opportunity for greater learning and meeting people like themselves to be the greatest benefit from the school, but listed the possibility of increased competition from other students, a lack of sports programs and a perception of "elitism" as possible disadvantages.

 

We received responses from one hundred twelve parents.

--Seventy-four parents (66%) responded that they would be interested in sending their child to a school for very gifted students;

--twenty-five parents (22%) responded "no,"

--thirteen parents (12%) did not respond.

Parents saw the greatest benefits from the school to be an opportunity to work at an appropriate level and to meet students who shared their interests and did not make their children feel like "nerds" or "freaks." They cited increased "competition" among the students, a lack of diversity in the school and a loss of neighborhood friendships as disadvantages.

 

The parentsí ideal school serves a diverse group of students and offers a range of activities such as music, arts, sports and languages. It fosters tolerance and social responsibility among the students, has a warm friendly atmosphere and provides mixed-age and/or ability grouped classes. Several parents were concerned that the school have a central location.

If the school is approved by the board, we will prepare parent information handouts and a brochure. We anticipate approval in time to participate in the School Fair in October. We will also make sure that applications are distributed throughout the district and to every school to ensure accessibility to very gifted students in every community.

We have also discussed activities that could take place in the school building that would make it easier for families (especially working families) to send children to a program beyond their neighborhoods. These will have to wait for the school to open, but we agreed that before and after school programs, and community programs in the school building are important aspects of a continuing outreach program.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ACCESS SCHOOL MAILING LIST

 

 

Margaret DeLacy, chair, DTAC Chair

Amy Welch, PPS TAG administrator,

Jennifer Jasaitis, parent, meeting facilitator

 

PPS central administrative staff:

 

Sue Hagmeier, PPS School board

Pat Burk, Assoc. Superintendent

Elizabeth (Betsy) Cole, Special Education

Linda Harris, PPS Deputy Superintendent,

Maxine Kilcrease, PPS Director Special Education

Hugh Ellis, Special Education,

Sandra Pemberton, Special Education

Jolee Patterson, PPS Counsel

Lew Frederick, PPS public relations

Ranee Niedermeyer, PPS public relations

Amy Spangler, Director Strategic Planning

Evelyn Brzezinski, Director, Research and Evaluation,

Larry Marcy, Research and Evaluation

Deborah Damron, PPS facilities dept.,

Steve Goldschmidt, Human Resources PPS,

Kerry Hampton, PPS facilities,

Mary Michael, PPS TAG dept.,

Pam Grignan, PPS TAG dept.,

Julie Winder, PPS TAG dept.,

Alice DeWittie, TAG dept, OATAG chair,

David Stone, PPS TAG dept, 916-3358,

Jackie Buisman, PPS TAG dept, OATAG board member,

Teachers and principals:

Lela Roberts, principal,

Mike Hrychiw, principal,

Ted Feller, principal,

Janet Muller, teacher,

Sharon Gray teacher,

Maria Baradar, teacher,

Patricia Cooke, teacher,

Cynthia Dulcich, teacher/TAG coordinator

Jeanne Anderson, teacher/ TAG coordinator

Margaret Kennedy, teacher/TAG coordinator

Sue Stahl, counselor/TAG coordinator

 

Community members:

James Williams student/School Board member,

Ellen Bergstone Beer, PPS foundation

Jim Moiso, minister, Westmoreland Presbyterian

Barbara Amen, Reed College Special Programs,

Renee Anderson, Saturday Academy,

Carrie Adams, Head Start, Crisis Team

Richard Lucetti, Head Start, Crisis Team

Karen Tosi, PSU Link/Challenge,

Marilyn Johnson, OMSI,

Jay Casbon, Lewis and Clark

Becky Lukens, private school principal

Parents:

Alys Allwardt

Kathleen Bauer

Linda Bley

Norm Cohen

Susan Cohen

Roberta Delaney

Jim Dufala

Laurel DuKart

Karen Dunlap

Katharine Fosback

Nova Greathouse

Suzanne Green

Su Ikeda

George Mason

Sharon Meek

Hilda Morin

Shava Nerad

Mike Reid

Andi Smith

Suzy Sudalnik

Sheila Weinman

 

 


 

 

 

SPACE/EQUIPMENT NEEDS FOR ACCESS SCHOOL

 

 

1. Classrooms:

 

 

5 "homeroom" classrooms in 2002

two at ground level, two with sinks for elementary students (grades 1-5)

 

2 middle school "homeroom" classrooms in 2002 for middle school students

 

2 additional classrooms for "local option/middle school" additional staff

 

2 additional classrooms suitable for middle school students

each year for 2 subsequent years (depending on demand), to a total of 6

 

classrooms should be adjacent, to facilitate ability grouping

sinks in at least half the rooms

ultimate size of program will be 16 large rooms-- 11 homeroom classrooms, two "local option" classrooms (including "art room") and three large rooms including science/health room, library, computer room, accommodating 300 students grades 1-8.

The science room, library, and computer room may be shared with another program.

This does not include the office space, auditorium/gym/cafeteria, nurseís room etc.

 

 

2. additional resources needed:

 

 

office space, secretarial space/support

separate office space for counselor/coordinator

teacher lounge/parent meeting area

playground

gym/auditorium with space/seating for schoolwide/parent meetings

cafeteria

nurse/counselorís office

supply closet

 

 

science room

science equipment

art room

art materials/storage for art room

library

high quality accelerated reading materials for library

computer lab or computers in classrooms with Internet connections, working printers, site license and software, at the district level (7/classroom?)(if there is no computer lab, one additional classroom will be needed)

bathrooms for staff and students

misc. school equipment and supplies:

textbooks

furniture

a-v equipment

"distance learning" equipment if used for language instruction

office supplies, paper, equipment

"PPS" software, computers (such as CARAT, report card records etc.)

classroom equipment such as "manipulatives" blocks, dictionary,

pencil sharpener etc.

phone line(s), Internet wiring

2 copiers

music equipment/piano

sports equipment/play equipment (such as swings)

 

parking spaces for staff, parents (street parking is o.k.)

 

For comparison:

 

 

 

Brooklyn/Winterhaven total population is 304 students

Building contains 19 classrooms

 

12 are being used as regular classrooms

1 is a specialized classroom (Art, also used for Title 1)

3 are in use for Special Education programs

3 are in use for other District programs (Computer lab, Lounge, Head Start)

The Auditorium is used for science, art, music, drama and SMART

1 class is taught in the hall

Llewellyn Elementary has an enrollment of 330

The building has 21 classrooms

13 are used as regular classrooms

2 are used as specialized classrooms (science and art)

1 is used for Special Education

4 are used for other programs (CDS, Administration, Computer Lab, Title1)

1 is used for outside program (day care)

Sunnyside Elementary has an enrollment of 319.

The building has 24 classrooms.

13 are used as regular classrooms

1 is a specialized classroom (art)

7 are used for special education programs

3 are used for other district programs

Metropolitan Learning Center has enrollment of 426

The building has 22 classrooms

18 are used as regular classrooms

1 is used for special education program

2 are used for computer lab and administration

1 is used for day care

 



 

 

 

 

 


 

TIMELINE

 

Summer 2001

 

--Analyze survey results.

--Prepare and distribute Draft 2. Place Draft 2 online.

--Meet with PPS Board Educational Options Committee.

--Prepare Draft 3.

(School district selects sites that are appropriate for special focus schools/programs)

 

BEFORE OCTOBER 1, preferably by early September.

--Submit proposal (draft 3) to PPS Board Educational Options Committee. Draft 3 is reviewed by PPS staff

First week of October or before:

PPS board considers school. If it is approved:

--PPS staff chooses site.

Site must be designated before application process begins.

About October 5.

--Transfer office sends mailing to families of students in grades K, 5 and 8 listing school choice options for 2002/3.

School must be approved prior to issuance of letter to be listed.

Early October.

--Prepare brochure, other information about school for school fair.

--TAG office provides testing for TAG identification (first round)

--Parents collect information about their children.

October 23/24

--School Fairs. School must be approved to participate.

 

 

 

 

October/November.

--Research grant opportunities, write grant applications.

School must be approved for grant applications.

December.

--Submit grant application to PPS foundation, other foundations (PPS foundation deadline is the beginning of January)

--Develop process for selecting admissions committee, discuss admissions process.

January.

--Visit site for school, prepare preliminary list of any modifications needed for building,

--prepare list of available/needed supplies and equipment.

--Solicit and begin collecting supplies/equipment.

January 28th.

--Application deadline for first round of applications.

February:

--Admissions committee reviews applications

March 15th.

 

--Letters of acceptance go out for first round of applications

March.

--Select principal for school.

**Note: if principal is already serving as a principal for another school a plan will have to be created to bridge the time that the principal has "two schools" to supervise. **

--View work samples, information about students who have been accepted.

--Prepare survey for families of accepted students asking about reading/math experience of students, special needs, IEPs etc.

--Ask for volunteers among families of accepted students for planning process, staff interviews.

--Discuss approximate distribution of applications among classes.

--Establish job descriptions for staff. Establish interview procedures for staff.

April.

--Set procedures for incoming assessments, possible out-of-level testing, discuss desired outcomes for following year.

--Principal prepares requisitions for classified staff, interviews applicants.

Early May.

--Round 1 of professional staff hiring begins. Principal, parents, planning committee interview staff.

--School requests files/ records from sending schools.

June.

--Principal, planning committee, staff tour school with custodian.

--Refine list of equipment/supplies needed after consultation with staff.

--Collect needed supplies/equipment.

--Assign teachers and students to classes.

June/July.

--Staff develops curriculum and instructional philosophies, using funds obtained from grants.

--Principal, assisted by planning committee and volunteers makes sure building is appropriately furnished, safe, and prepared for opening of school.

--Office is set up with copier, telephone lines etc.

--Planning committee sets date for school-wide picnic, applies for building/park permit if needed, sends out picnic announcements.

--Principal orders textbooks/instructional materials chosen by curriculum/instruction committee.

August.

--School-wide picnic. Opportunities for staff, families to meet. Carpool list developed.

--Classified staff reports for work.

--Teachers move into building and decorate/set up classrooms

--Welcome letters are drafted to families letting them know who their teacher(s) will be, where to go on first day, etc.

--Welcome "packet" for beginning of school prepared and copied (contains Free Lunch application, registration forms, walking field trip permission etc.)

--Files are set up for school records, student transcripts are filed

September.

 

--School opens.

 


 

 

Report on the ACCESS school surveys

 

About the surveys:

 

The surveys consisted of 52 questions. The TAG staff selected every family of a TAG student who had ever received a score of 99% or above on a test used for TAG identification, and sent two surveys to the family of each of these approximately 2,500 students--one survey for the parents and one for the student.

 

We received 89 student responses and 112 parent responses by the cutoff date for tabulating the results; a few families have sent in surveys or comments after the cutoff date which were not included in the numerical tabulations, although any comments have been read. We requested comments on the best aspects of such a program, the worst aspects, and what an ideal program would provide.

 

The TAG office compiled the comments separately for the parents and the students and these have been sent to all ACCESS school committee members. We will continue to consider all these comments seriously.

 

The numerical responses were logged by the TAG department secretary, June Allyson, and I then compiled and analyzed the results by hand; I apologize for any errors this has introduced.

 

There were some errors in the surveys because of poor coordination between various members of the task force, for which I apologize. One was that the question about the size of school was not numbered properly on the parent survey and was confusing for respondents. Most parents replied to both questions under number 43: "how important a factor is school size in choosing a school?" and "what school size do you prefer?". These have been numbered 43a and 43b. The student survey numbered both questions separately. In the questions about studentís needs being met (numbers 14-17) questions about English/language arts were omitted on both parent and student surveys; presumably many respondents included English in "other academic areas" but this is the greatest drawback of the survey. In addition, a few of the surveys were mailed out with an answer sheet that provided lettered options for replies whereas the survey numbered the options; however most respondents just received the survey without a sheet and did not seem to experience problems in responding. One parent called to complain that the separate sheet was confusing.

 

Question 29 about parking was omitted (deliberately) from the student survey so the numbering of the two surveys diverges after that question, and then the two surveys regain the same numbering after #43.

 

The student and parent responses were tabulated separately.

 

Of the 112 parents who responded to the survey:

 

74 (66%) responded "yes" to the final question, "would you be interested in sending your child to a school for very gifted children

25 (22%) responded "no"

13 (12%) left that question blank.

Of the 89 students who responded to the survey

 

53 (60%)responded "yes" to the question "would you be interested in attending a school for very gifted children,"

24 (27%) responded "no"

12 (13%) left the question blank.

This was a higher level of interest that I had anticipated--I had thought that about half the respondents would be interested in attending such a school. If we assume that nearly half those who left the question blank would actually apply, then 79 parents and 59 students would probably be interested in applying to the program just among those who completed the survey. In addition, of course, there would be additional applicants from families that did not receive or complete the survey, new parents, homeschooling parents and parents outside PPS.

 

About the tables and how to read them

 

Most of the survey questions offered choices among five options, with "option one" being the least liked, "option four" being the most liked, and "option 5" being "no opinion." All questions were tabulated not only by these numbers but by the number of respondents who had answered "yes "or "no" to the final question about attending the school or had left that reply blank. Thus, for each of five numbered options to each question, there are four categories: "yes"(interested in attending), "no"(not interested in attending) "blank"(left the final question blank) and "total". This was done to assist the planning committee, since plans need to reflect the needs of those who are actually intending to apply to the school. For example, if a family is not interested in applying to the school, then the family is unlikely to need a school bus seat, even if that option was chosen in the questions about transportation.

 

All these replies are reflected on two large tables entitled "ACCESS School Parent Survey" and ACCESS School Student Survey." The columns reflect the interest of respondents in attending the school, the rows reflect the question number. There are 20 columns reflecting four choices for each of five options for each question, plus columns reflecting cases where no choice was made (the question was left blank), cases where multiple choices were made, and the total number of replies. Note that there are two sets of "blank" answers. One set, grouped with each option, represents people who left the final question about attending the school blank; a further "blank" at the very end of each row represents people who left the question in that row blank.

 

For example, for question 8, "how important is it that the neighborhood seems safe and friendly?

 

3 parents who were interested in applying (yes) chose option one, "least important",

1 parent who was not interested in applying (no) chose option one,

1 parent who left a blank on the question about applying (blank) chose option one,

for a total of five parents who chose option one, "least important."

.

44 parents who were interested in applying (yes) chose option 4 (most important) for the same question;

12 parents who were not interested in applying (no) chose option 4, "most important"

8 parents who were unsure about applying (blank), chose option 4.

for a total of 64 parents who thought a safe, friendly neighborhood was extremely important in choosing a school.

3 parents simply did not choose any answer at all (BLANK).

There were no parents who chose more than one option for this question.

These data have been summarized in various ways in the tables that follow.

The tables entitled "Access School: All Parent Replies by Number and Percentage" and "Access School: All Student Replies by Number and Percentage" take the "total" columns for each option from the previous table, forming the left hand side of the new table, and then show these totals as percentages on the right hand side of the table. "Blanks" and cases where several options were selected for one question were both included in the total before the percentage was calculated. For example, in Question 8, a total of 5 parents had chosen option 1 and 64 parents had chosen option 4. These appear in the row for question 8 and are reflected on the right had side of the table as 4% and 57% respectively of all replies to question 8.

For the "pros and cons" tables, the total number of respondents choosing "option 1" and "option 2" for each question were added together as were the total number who chose "option 3" and "option 4." There is one table for parents and a second table for students. These tables do not take into account whether respondents intend to apply to the school. The idea was to get a general idea about whether respondents favored or opposed a particular question without measuring how strong their feelings were.

Percentages were then calculated using the total number of responses to each question, so if respondents chose multiple options for a given question, that was added to the total, and blanks (no response at all) were subtracted before the percentage was calculated, although the respondents who included option 5 (no opinion) were included. This accounts for the fact that there is a "total" of 113 listed for question 22 on the parent survey; the only question among those included for this table that had two replies to one question and no responses without replies to this question. The same situation is reflected in the tabulation for question number 36 on the student survey.

 

Some of the questions were worded in such a way that there was no ascending scale of preference for the answers; for example we asked respondents to indicate their neighborhood using a "1" for north, a "3" for northwest, and a "5" for southwest Portland. These questions were omitted from the "pros and cons" tables.

 

Highlights of the surveysí results

 

Since most questions offered five choices, most choices did not attract as much as 50% of the "votes."

 

The question that received the most support among parents was number 36 for parents and number 35 for students, and was one question in of a series of questions asking respondents to assign ratings from 1 (not important at all) to 4 (extremely important) to features that might be important to them in choosing a new school such as visual arts, a library, an athletic program etc. This one stated "Accelerated curriculum is offered (instruction at a higher grade level than usual)."

 

Ninety-seven percent of all parents rated this feature a "3" or a "4".

Not a single parent rated this question a "1"

Only one parent gave it a "2".

Fifteen parents gave it a "3"

Ninety two parents gave it a "4."

Two parents did not complete this question.

Most of the parents who were not interested in applying to the school as well as the parents who were interested in applying rated this question highly.

This tells us there is a huge demand among TAG parents for an accelerated curriculum and points to the need to provide accelerated classes in all our schools.

Students gave this question an 85% rating, making it second most popular on the student surveys.

 

The most popular feature among students was number 38 on the student survey, 39 on the parent survey which stated "advanced classes are offered."

Eighty-eight percent of students rated this a "3" or "4."

There were no ratings of "1" among the students for this question;

Three chose a of "2"(including 2 students who said they did not want to attend the school);

Seventeen chose "3"

Sixty one chose "4".

Two students chose option "5" (no opinion)

6 students left the question blank.

(A few students left many sequential questions blank, so all the student percentages are lower than those for the parents).

Parents gave this a 92% rating, making it the third most popular feature among parents.

 

This reinforces the point that the single most important issue leading families to consider changing schools is the need for a more challenging and advanced curriculum for their children. If this survey is in any way representative of the entire TAG population, it also demonstrates again the huge unmet demand among TAG families for more rigorous, advanced and challenging classes in all our schools. Just as bank robbers go "where the money is," our TAG families are above all looking for places where they can find an appropriate education.

The question that was second most supported among parents was question 26, another in the list of the list of issues that were important in choosing a new school. This question listed a well-stocked library, and received support by 93% of all parents, who rated it above a science lab (86%) and school cleanliness and appearance (82%) in importance. Ability grouping within school and within class each separately received 85% support among parents.

Students also rated a well-stocked library very highly (78%) above a clean, nice looking school (74%), a science lab (67%) and good access to computers (64%). Students also gave high ratings to ability grouping within the school (70%) and within each classroom (64%).

One experienced administrator in commenting on our proposal emphasized the importance of an adequate start-up budget for several years that would cover the cost of purchasing high-quality books and materials for students. It looks as if that comment was right on target.

The need for more challenging curriculum was also strongly reflected in the comments on the studentsí current schools. Questions 14 to 17 asked parents and students to rate the extent to which studentsí needs were met in math, social studies, science and other academic areas.

 

Of the 112 parents, 81 (72%) chose option "1" or "2" at least once for one of these questions, indicating that the vast majority of these students were NOT having their needs met in at least one academic category in their current schools. Parents who expressed interest in applying to the school were more likely (77%) to choose option "1" or "2" than the other parents.

Twenty-seven parents, nearly one-quarter, did not feel their childís needs were being met in ANY subject. (This consists of 17 parents who only marked "1" and "2" and 6 parents who chose "1" "2" and "5"). Four of these were parents who were not sure about attending the school; the rest were all parents who said they were interested in having their child attend. This again suggests that academic concerns and a lack of appropriate instruction in the studentís existing school is the most important issue leading parents to be interested in a new school.

Students were less likely to feel their needs were not being met. Only five students chose all "1" and "2" for these questions, meaning their needs were not being met in ANY subject. An additional four chose all "1" and "2" and one "5". Thirty-one students (35%) chose only option "3" and option "4" for these questions, implying that their needs were met in all subjects. Fifty-two of the 89 students (58%) felt their needs were not being met in at least one subject.

This may be compared with the data from the mail survey of 542 TAG students and parents carried out by the Oregon Department of Education in 1998. The State asked students and parents separately to choose whether five areas of study: reading, writing, math, science and social studies, were "too easy," "too hard" or "just right" The State survey found:

53% of parents and 43% of students felt reading was "too easy"

38% of parents and 26% of students felt writing was "too easy"

37% of parents and 30% of students felt math was "too easy"

39% of parents and 29% of students felt social studies was "too easy."

43% of parents and 32% of students felt science was "too easy"

 

Access survey "pros and cons" compared with Oregon State TAG investigation survey: parent responses

question topic question number percent 1+2

(needs not met)

percent 3+4

(needs met)

state survey

"too easy"

math      14      35%      57%      30%
social studies      15      24%      69%      29%
science      16      31%      61%      32%
other areas      17      31%      58%  

 

 

Access survey "pros and cons" compared with Oregon State TAG investigation survey: student responses

question topic question number percent 1+2 (needs not met) percent 3+4 (needs met) state survey

"too easy"

math      14      35%      57%      30%
social studies      15      24%      69%     29%
science       16      31%      61%     32%
other areas      17      31%      58%  

 

Questions 18 through 22 on both surveys ask about how happy students are in their current schools in other ways. They comprise:

"18. I feel that I fit in well at school",

"19. I have many friends at school."

"20. I have many friends outside of school."

"21. I enjoy being in school"

"22. I enjoy the teachers and staff."

Here the news is much more positive. The majority of students and parents report liking school, having friends, and enjoying the teachers and staff. For example, a large majority of both students (82%) and parents (85%) report that these students fit in well at school. Although parents who say that they would be interested in attending such a school are slightly less likely to report that their student fits in well at school (81%) or has many friends at school (77%), overall they are still positive about this issue.

If we look at the responses cumulatively, 43 (48%) of the 89 students chose "option 1" or "option 2" for one of these questions and 18 (20%) chose option "1" for questions 18,19, 21 or 22 (excluding question 20 about friends outside school), indicating that there is a serious problem in one of these areas for about one-fifth of the students. Fifty four parents (48%) chose either option 1 or option 2 for one of these questions but just 16 (14%) chose option 1 for questions 18,19, 21 or 22. Without a control population, it is difficult to know whether these responses represent a serious problem, but it seems likely that this is a somewhat greater concern for TAG families than for other Portland families.

Question 40 on the parentsí list of desired features (39 on the studentsí list), "additional counseling services are offered," although supported by a majority of parents and students, did not stand out as an especially significant potential attraction of the school. Fifty-seven percent of parents thought this was important, below visual arts (61%) , but above athletics (54%) in number of supporters among parents. I see this item as an indication that families do not feel an urgent need for social/emotional guidance because at the moment their children are reasonably happy and sociable.

Only 51% of students thought extra counseling was important, slightly below visual arts programs (53%) in their view, and well below athletic programs (62%) which were clearly more important to the students than to the parents!

Students and parents may underestimate the need for counseling services because they think counselors are only for social/emotional issues, and do not understand the need for counselors to meet gifted studentsí academic needs--for example to help write course schedules, coordinate with other programs which students are splitting their class days, or send recommendations to summer programs and colleges.

Thus, loneliness and a lack of support from the school environment seem to be a serious concern for some students but certainly not for all. Our research suggests that these are likeliest to be the most highly gifted students, but we canít determine this from our survey since it does not rank students by test score or ability. Parents and students may be overestimating their social fit--few students would be eager to admit even on an anonymous survey that they have no friends at all.

This finding suggests that it should be possible to create a successful program without an enormous increase in spending on each student. If the majority of our prospective students were miserable, poorly adjusted, and friendless in their neighborhood schools, it might be reckless to congregate them without providing very intensive social and emotional services--at least until these students had overcome their social problems. It seems from this survey that there is a real need for such services, but the need is not so great as to doom the project at the outset. Earlier studies of the social and emotional welfare of gifted students have found that students who are in appropriate academic programs for gifted students seem to do well in other areas of their lives.

Overall, the unmet demand for appropriate instruction and flexible placement in advanced classes is by far the strongest argument for a new program. The most fundamental obligation of a school system is to educate students adequately, and the survey shows very strongly that these families are not satisfied with the education they are receiving, however happy their children may be socially.

Although neighborhood schools could and should improve the education that TAG students receive, they simply will never be able to provide an appropriate instruction for our extremely gifted students who are several years ahead of grade level and without intellectual peers within the school.

If instruction in neighborhood schools were improved, it could reduce the demand for the ACCESS school as well as benefiting other students in those schools, but the need for such a program will never disappear completely.

 

Margaret DeLacy, for the ACCESS school task force

August 15, 2001