A little background: My DS (7 years old) is bright. I'm not really sure how bright because our state and district has no testing services and no gifted programs. His birthday is right after the cutoff, so he is slightly older for his grade (1st). Our district does not allow early entrance, and children need to be 6 to enter the first grade. He started reading a little at age 3, and was a true reader by the time he entered kindergarten. He now reads at least at 4th grade level, and probably should be reading 5tth grade books (at his instructional level). I have no problem advocating for him, and his teacher has done what she can for his reading. I've worked with the school library to let him check out books allowed for the older kids, but he really doesn't have time to get through them most weeks. He does not appear to be the most advanced reader in his class, as there is a girl in his class I believe to be PG, but I believe his comprehension is the top in his class. I volunteer in the classroom, so I can see the teacher has made some accommodations for this girl. It's mostly helping out other students, and a bit of extra work. They do not have any books in the classroom above the 3rd grade level, even though my son takes an AR test on these every day and gets 100%. He also never misses a spelling word on his tests. The only problem he ever has with reading/writing work is he can be a bit sloppy...but he tries hard.
The bigger issue is math. I believe my son to be mildly advanced, but he's not quick. He has had a little trouble with the timed tests (simple addition and subtraction). They stress him out. He has also been careless on his in class worksheets, forgetting to fill in spaces or getting simple things wrong. They advanced to the next level of worksheets, and now he's bringing home work that is always correct. I think he was missing the problems on the easy worksheet because he just didn't care...his brain was somewhere else. He sometimes cruises through the work so he can read independently. I believe to engage him he needs harder math work. He asked me about negative numbers a few months back and grasped the concept immediately. He sometimes plays with them a little. He also learned how to carry when adding big numbers, and can do simple multiplication and division. He can have some trouble with money still, but we haven't worked on it much.
Academics come easy to him, but I want him to be challenged..to understand that success comes from hard work. He's starting to show signs of perfectionism, which worry me a bit. He also takes piano lessons and taekwondo. The taekwondo, especially, has been beneficial to him.
So, due to budget cuts, only certain students are getting conferences this spring. Guess what? My DS isn't one of them. He is very obedient and does well in school...the squeaky wheels get the grease, right? I talked to the teacher about this, and she said we can talk before school one day. So before I talk with her, I need to come up with specifics of what to ask for. I'm afraid that she won't see what he is capable of in math since he has trouble with his timed tests...and won't accelerate him. I would love for him to get advanced reading instruction. He is teaching himself at this point. It would be nice if he could write reports or give oral reports or even read to the kindergarten classes or something. Maybe go up to the fourth grade class for reading? They have big buddies from the 4th grade come in every week to "help" the kids, but my son reads better than his big buddy...so she quizzes him on spelling. He is in the top reading group, but they never get together into groups anymore. They read independently and take a test on the computer. I also don't see how the teacher would have any time to do any of this. Do I advocate for harder work, or just try to supplement at home? I would rather he get to do it in school, since I'd rather do something more fun at home (and he has those other activities which are important to him). He does not want to homeschool. I am all for it, but he won't have it. He's an only child and really loves to be around kids all day.
Just a quick question... is your location right and you're in Rapid City, SD? I was shocked to hear your post about no state laws about giftedness since I grew up in SD and my school was required to test me (and did) but it looks like it's a relatively new change in the laws (I just looked it up). It's really surprising to me that they aren't being more accommodating since I went to several different schools in SD growing up (both public and private) and they were all accommodating to some extent (HS was certainly the best once they started AP classes). However, every school (and even one that I went to in a very small town) had a gifted program. I actually even went to HS with a kid who had had a double grade skip.
My first thought is could you contact the challenge Center (http://www.sf.k12.sd.us/SFSchoolDistrict/community.aspx?sfsd=WebPointID%3D248%26NewsStoryID%3D0%26__TimeStamp__%3D12%2F31%2F9999+11%3A59%3A59+PM) in Sioux Falls and maybe get some pointers on dealing with your school locally? It seems like they might have information about what you can do in SD.
Otherwise I don't really have the school experience yet with DD so I can't help with suggestions. I am somewhat familiar with the homeschooling climate in SD and I also really didn't want to do it growing up because we only knew religious homeschoolers. That being said I know that they had a homeschooling co-op locally with numerous classes, maybe you could offer that to your son as an alternative?
Yes, I am in RC. I also grew up here and we had a great gifted program. In fact, I went to the same school as my DS. It's considered one of the best elementary schools in the city. The laws changed about 5 years ago, and the gifted program is no more. I do know several homeschoolers (my 2 best friends HS and are part of the coop) here and know about the coop. The classes offered would provide very little for my DS (legos was one of the classes). It seems the school is very resistant in doing to much for advanced readers. I volunteer in the school library, and because they get complaints about kids bringing home material that seems inappropriate (Harry Potter mostly), they are very careful in what they allow kids to check out. I can understand that because my son is very sensitive. He did well with the first few HP books, but will not handle the death of his favorite characters well, so we told him to wait a few years to read the last couple of books.
DS was identified as gifted (just by assessment, no formal testing) by his preschool teacher (she used to be a gifted educator in the PS system). She suggested montessori for my DS, which we did for the first half of kindergarten. It ended up being a disaster since they weren't allowing him to accelerate, and almost ruined his desire to learn. We switched him to PS, and he thrived. We didn't push for acceleration then because he loved school so much and was having a great time again. Plus, his reading really jumped in the last year. He was 1st or 2nd grade level this time last year.
I'm just not sure what to ask for in terms of acceleration.
I'm also in South Dakota and I also think the age law about K and first are crazy. But the good news is your son is almost past those. There are no restrictions on age after that (my son skipped 1st).
I'm sure that the Rapid City school district has a gifted program (I think it's a pullout). Here is a list serve for Rapid City Gifted Education Services ( http://www.k12.sd.us/Listserv/RCASGiftedEducationServices.htm ). I'm not on it so can't tell you how useful it is or not.
Accommodations outside of a formal gifted education program are also options. Have you asked about subject acceleration? It sounds like you've seen some in class differentiation. Can you make it easier for the teacher to implement the differentiation you want to see such as by sending in reading materials or math books at your child's level?
If you want to see more gifted programs in you city I know that parent advocacy works. Sioux Falls School District and Harrisburg School District on the other side of the state both have self contained gifted classrooms for grades 2-5. Both of those programs came about because parents asked for them. Parents in your town would have a greater probability and advantage in trying to get a similar program since you can point to other places in the state that have successfully put programs in place.
PM me more if you want to talk more to another South Dakota, though I do live east river.
Some other resources that are more in my part of the state but may help you out include the Challenge Center School Facebook page (http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=54892647845),and the Sioux Falls Families of Gifted Children Facebook page (http://www.facebook.com/pages/Sioux-Falls-Families-of-Gifted-Children/141030105914969). The Parents of the Challenge Center also has a blog (http://challengecenterparents.blogspot.com/). My disclaimer is that I started the Sioux Falls Families of Gifted Children Facebook page and plan to do more with that group at some point in the future.
Oh yeah, and about the budget cuts - Be sure to write your state legislature about how much you disapprove of them. They are in session right now and the current budget proposal has a 10% cut across the board including education. Go to your local legislative functions and be heard, write letters, and talk to your neighbors and friends.
I need to get my letters in the mail.
Oh I am so mad about that budget cut proposal. Thanks for reminding me I can do something about it....and thanks for the links! I recently befriended a woman with a gifted kindergartener, and maybe we can come up with something together to help our kids. I also have an email out to the elementary gifted coordinator in the district to see what she has to say.
I advise you to go to the school board and talk to them. Teachers are important, but they don't really have much pull. We've been pulling our hair out for months with our daughter's school, due to her being advanced, and our teacher saying that there are no advanced programs.
Then we find out through a rival school system, that OUR school system DOES have an advanced program that I didn't know about.
So we talked to the school board and are getting her tested. Just a little advice, like in the business world, if the teacher can't help, go up the ladder.
Thanks for clarifying about the law change, I'm really sad to here that. :( JollyGG has a lot of good advice locally (btw, Jolly, you didn't grow up in Sioux falls by any chance?). I also wanted to mention that in high school I had a lot of success asking for independent study classes, or having them work with my schedule so definitely try going up if your son isn't getting the help he needs. They were always extremely flexible with me. Definitely write to your state legislature too! That's a great idea. :) I also wanted to mention that you might want to consider part-time homeschooling if they absolutely refuse to work with you. I also had friends that went part-time to different schools that were close by because each school offered something different (granted, that's a lot of driving but it works for some people).
Just thought I'd offer a few words of encouragement. We live in Canada, where education funding is fairly low in comparison to most of the US, and we're in a small rural school district. No gifted program, no mandate for testing or accommodation or anything of the sort. That's how it is here and that's how it's always been. And in some ways it has its advantages. That's because when it is recognized that an advanced child needs additional challenge, they're not just dropped into some pre-fab gifted program that may or may not provide what they need, but they are treated totally as an individual. My eldest joined the school at the high school level and she was given incredible flexibility in her courses, no prerequisites required, do them in any order, take concurrent courses, at any grade level, credit given for independent study in unusual areas. My other three are only partly involved in the school through a homeschool/school arrangement, but they've allowed my newly-8-year-old to do 6th grade science and math, my 12-year-old to do 9th grade math and science, and my 14-year-old to do advanced credits as well but with the handwritten requirements waived due to his moderately dysgraphic tendencies -- so he does multimedia computer projects and blogging in lieu of the handwritten stuff. All the kids have been granted advanced credit for musical endeavours and access to nifty upper-level resources like the animation lab, language lab and so on.
We're lucky that we're dealing with creative, open-minded staff and administration and I'm sure that's part of it. But also think that it's partly the result of the system: without programs specifically devoted to gifted, LD and 2E kids, they've been forced to find individualized workarounds.
So when you meet with the teacher you might frame the lack of a gifted program as an opportunity for creative individualized solutions tailored to your kid's needs, rather than as something that makes everyone frustrated and angry. Be as optimistic as you can and express appreciation for whatever creative workarounds the teacher is willing to try. You'll likely get more enthusiasm from the teacher.
Mountain mama to two great kids and two great grown-ups
As far as AR is concerned. My dd's teacher told my husband that the children are not restricted to just the AR books in the classroom. The children can take AR tests for any book (and there are tons) listed on the AR website. So the child can essentially take an AR test on whatever book he wishes, and you can get the books from the library. All we have to do is send the teacher the special AR number so that the teacher can locate the AR test on the computer at school.
This doesn't even touch on your big problems, I know, but maybe this will help a little bit?