Superintendent Joseph Campisi addressed parental concerns about the new gifted program with a presentation he gave at the Berlin Community School’s Board of Education meeting on Sept. 22.
Though the new program has not been formally adopted or finalized, Campisi said its main difference is how students will be identified as gifted. It will also expand to incorporate area-specific giftedness, adding measures and more frequent testing. Children who are already in the program will be grandfathered in, but they will also be subject to the new multi-measure matrix.
“Prior to our multiple measures, all students will take the Renzulli Profiler, because that allows us to determine other areas of interest,” Campisi explained. “It gives us that flexibility, because there are students that have one area of specific giftedness. It could be math only, it could be art, and we have double exceptionalities sometimes. We have a student who may have a learning disability in math but be gifted in ELA (English and Language Arts).
“It helps us provide them in variance.”
Measures include the report card; continued use of the ALSAC testing in kindergarten, second and fifth grade; and a list of 20 observable traits, all assigned points to create a total score. The superintendent noted that parents can opt out of testing, but their child will no longer be eligible for the program; participation in the program is also optional.
If a child scores within two points of eligibility, parents can appeal to the Gifted and Talented Program Committee for reconsideration, which may mean their child has to take the CogAT test. If parents are still unsatisfied, they can appeal to Campisi.
The program will continue to use in-class and out-of-class small groups to help facilitate learning.
Board President Joceyn Lewis said the new program will be a lot more inclusive than the present one, considering it would add arts and music rather than including only math and ELA combined. She also asked whether kids who are identified would remain in the program if measurements changed, and how exiting the program would work.
“If there’s a student that would need to exit the program, we would really look at the reasons why,” Campisi explained. “Behavior is not a reason to be exited. We need to look at life situations as well.
“Every student will take the assessments each year, but if the parent believes or a teacher believes the child should exit the program, we need to take everything into consideration,” he added.
Parents who spoke during public comment at the board meeting were relieved to hear that the program would continue having pull-out small groups rather than differentiation in class, and asked that they consider keeping restrictions like not having any C’s to stay in the program because it helped motivate their child.
The next board of education meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, Oct. 27, at 7 p.m., in the Berlin Community School’s cafeteria.