Several parents of academically or intellectually gifted children (AIG) at Roland-Grise Middle School are furious over their children's class placements and the school's lack of communication. School officials met with AIG parents in a special meeting Monday evening.
All students, regardless of academic ability, are now divided in clusters, whereas before, AIG students were separated.
"They make changes and they don't tell anyone about it," explained Roland-Grise parent Judith Gebauer.
"This is insulting and it's messing with our kids. This is unacceptable," said Chris Bolles, another Roland-Grise parent.
About 100 parents attended Monday's meeting that lasted about two hours. Although questions, concerns, and skepticism about the new model were brought up by parents, no changes were announced.
School officials said the students are now split up into clusters. Each team has a specialist who works with the teachers to create lesson plans that suit gifted, average and struggling students.
Roland-Grise principal, Dr. Sherry Pinto said this method allows more face time with the specialist because there are tiers to each lesson based on ability.
"What we do want to make sure is that all learners have an opportunity to achieve high growth, but have access to that high level of differentiation," Pinto said.
Gebauer along with several other parents listed out their issues in a statement saying:
The current atmosphere at Roland Grise Middle School (from the parents' perspective, from observations at Open House, and from the teacher's perspective as well) is disheartening. Before Open House, scheduled 5 days before school started, the parents at RGMS had no idea that wholesale changes were being made to the structure of the school. These are not changes that affect only AIG students, but they are changes that affect all students. We were all blind sided at Open House. The lack of effective communication, which continues today, is unacceptable. The lack of leadership, which continues today, should concern us all.
One of the most substantial changes being implemented is to dismantle the AIG Program from its' previously successful model. Rather than continue with the model that was previously successful, (grouping students of similar abilities together), students with varying degrees of abilities will be grouped together. The theory is that the students at the higher end of the academic spectrum will elevate the students at the lower end of the spectrum. Dr. Pinto, in an interview with the Star News, was quoted as saying that this model will benefit all students, giving those at a lower academic level the chance to rise to the challenge of more difficult coursework. There is nothing, however, that prohibits teachers of students at a lower academic level of challenging them daily. We want all students to succeed at RGMS, but the success of students of lower academic levels is not the responsibility of classmates aged 11, 12 and 13. It is the responsibility of teachers, administration, and parents.
In a paper titled "Design Principles for Learner-Centered Schools in which Dr. Pinto's school in Maryland served as a case study school it states: "Advanced learners will suffer from being placed in more heterogeneous classrooms unless advanced learning opportunities were consistently available". However, Dr. Pinto has not been able to articulate what these "consistent advanced learning opportunities at Roland Grise will look like."
Dr. Pinto, in her own words, claims she has three principles of leadership*.
* First, "if it ain't broke, don't fix it". All of the data and reports that we have seen show RGMS to be a highly successful school.
* Second, "know the culture of your new school". In a Star News interview from 8/25/2014 Dr. Pinto states she did not know how the students were grouped at Roland Grise in previous years.
* Third "transparency without negotiation". The changes at RGMS have been anything but transparent. All, we as parents, have been asking is for answers to legitimate questions; not evasive and vague answers, but concrete, solid, true answers. They have yet to be provided. If we ask the same of our children, why wouldn't we expect it from those who are their leaders?
*From Leadership Lessons from Dr. Pinto
Pinto explained the change was implemented so that average students could be stretched and gifted students still challenged. Pinto also said the cluster model is more philosophically sound.
"When we're looking at the data, Roland-Grise has always done very well," Pinto noted. "We want to make sure that all student groups have an opportunity to expand that growth."
According to Pinto, several teachers are AIG certified or are going through the process. Pinto also said, concerned parents should contact their child's teacher and specialist.
However, Gebauer claims Pinto is not communicating with parents.
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