One Size Fits All Does NOT Work: CCSS and the Gifted Learner in NYS

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NY Times has been reporting on gifted students ie: segregating students by ability, tracking gifted etc. all measures designed  to improve student achievement.

http://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2014/06/03/are-new-york-citys-gifted-classrooms-useful-or-harmful

I wrote a letter to Regents, Cuomo, King et al this winter raising my own concerns about CCSS and testing in light of  gifted learners in NYS which is responsive to many of the issues discussed by the NY Times in the debate piece.

For purposes of providing some of the backstory on gifted learners in NYS, here is the relevant  portion of my letter raising concerns about CCSS, testing and NYS laws regarding gifted learners:

“I note that the National Assoc for Gifted Children has raised serious concerns about Core standards in so far as they have opined that the Core standards stymie gifted learners considerably. According to NAGC, the standards serve as a floor not a ceiling but there are no caveats in the standards policies that would support gifted students in or beyond the classroom. In fact, NAGC notes the opposite is true of the standards. In writing, as a matter of Core policy, the standards offer no variation to meet the needs of special needs groups. Instead of serving as a bar that gifted students can and should aspire to, NAGC has opined that LEAs are put in an untenable position – despite dwindling budgets and limited resources- students are forced to endure a one size fits all approach and must provide pull in/push out services to accomodate gifted learners in order for them to reach their potential. The “one size fits all” standsrds caps gifted learners off indiscriminately.

The same is true for students with learning disabilities and special needs albeit at the opposite end of the spectrum. Core does not provide adequate means or support for students with disabilities either leaving LEAs in the untenable position of using precious budgets and resources to serve special needs students at each end of the spectrum- both gifted and those with learning disabilities- without resources that they need to actually succeed.

NY does NOT have State policies in place that support gifted students via mandatory funding avenues. It appears that the “college and career readiness” rhetoric of Core amounts to nothing more than smoke and mirrors show. Truth be told, Core amounts to nothing more than an unsupported bare floor. There is no foundation for the students who are required to walk over that floor to get to college and succeed there in many disciplines. Many students will fall through that floor, because in reality Core has no integrity and is weak. Where are the studies that King purportedly relies on to support NYs decision to adopt the Core standards?

I cannot seem to find ONE study that demonstrates that Core is the best answer. Instead, all I have found is conclusory evidence and rhetoric. Where are the pilot studies? Independent research? Im tired of reading pages of purported evidence by authors who have ties or financial interest in private business such as Achieve et al.

I next plan to FOIL for NYSED to provide copies of any of the purported research that “supports” NYs adoption of Core. Does this research even exist?

Here is the info from NAGC that I am referring to as Core relates to gifted students:

NAGC Position Statement

http://www.nagc.org/uploadedFiles/Information_and_Resources/Common_Core_State_Standards/common%20core%20state%20standards%20statement%20(6-2-10).pdf

Letter of Concern to Dr Childress/CCSS:
http://www.nagc.org/uploadedFiles/Information_and_Resources/Common_Core_State_Standards/NAGC%20comments%20on%20NGSS%20(1-28-13).pdf

NAGC Faq on Core:
http://www.nagc.org/uploadedFiles/Information_and_Resources/Common_Core_State_Standards/white%20paper%20(final%2012-1-11).pdf

See also
http://www.nagc.org/index2.aspx?id=8980

NAGC Press Release Concern over STEM
http://www.nagc.org/uploadedFiles/News_Room/Press_Releases/NAGC%20-%20NSB%20National%20Release%20%20%289-15-10%29.pdf

US STEM Report:
http://www.nagc.org/…/NSB%20-%20Stem%20innovators.pdf

As a matter of fact, did you know that some states in the US do view gifted students as “special needs” and they qualify for an IEP, accomodations and differentiated learning opportunities which public school is required to provide as a matter of law? Hw, New York, does NOT recognize gifted learners as protected special needs class nor are they eligible for mandatory accomodations and therefore does NOT provide State funded IEPs for them, ironically. These matters are left to the district to support students within their means and resources despite dwindling local school budgets and scarce resources.

There are also gifted learners who have disabilities that need to be addressed (also known as twice exceptional students) for ex, some children who have autism spectrum disorder fall within the learning disabled category even though some may have high IQs and be considered academic savants.

Recognizing this, some States offer support in this regard by providing constitutional protections 504 and IDEA. Again NY does NOT recognize gifted learners as a “special needs” group so the IEP option is not available here. Why not? Could we raise student achievement by offering IEPs for the gifted class? Where is the finding to improve this class for student achievement?

This has positives and negatives I suspect.

What if?

My concern is that budgets and resources would be diverted from low performing learners with special needs and concentrated on the gifted class student if IEPs were being made available throughout public schools in NY with LEAs more interested and focusing on testing outcomes rather than providing students with their right to a “sound basic education”. The slippery slope is worrisome because testing and test results seem to drive education in NYS.

Indeed, the US Dept of Education, OSEP Policy Document, January 13, 2010 (Topic: Evaluation Procedures), regarding “twice exceptional students,” students who have high cognition and who have a disability and may need an IEP.

The following letter states the Department’s believes IDEA does provide protections for students with high cognition and disabilities who require special education services. Not all States provide support though.

“The IDEA is silent regarding “twice exceptional” or “gifted” students. It remains the Department’s position that students who have high cognition, have disabilities and require special education and related services are protected under the IDEA and its implementing regulations.”
http://www2.ed.gov/…/2010-1/redacteda011310eval1q2010.pdf

This NAGC piece discusses the States that provide support as a matter of law for gifted learners. http://www.nagc.org/…/stat…/Table%20%20A%20(general).pdf

For ex: PA recognizes gifted learners and they qualify for IEPS there, but again in NY they do not:
http://www.education.state.pa.us/…/education_for…/509501

For example, here is PA’s Gifted IEP placement procedure and safeguards info FYI. Very interesting!

http://www.pacode.com/…/data/022/chapter16/chap16toc.html

NY Gifted policies are under Commish King’s auspicious rule:
http://www.davidsongifted.org/…/state_policy_new_york…

In NY, “gifted & talented” pupils are defined as:
“As used in this article, the term ‘gifted pupils’ shall mean those pupils who show evidence of high performance capability and exceptional potential in areas such as general intellectual ability, special academic aptitude and outstanding ability in visual and performing arts. Such definition shall include those pupils who require educational programs or services beyond those normally provided by the regular school program in order to realize their full potential.”
(New York Education Law § 4452)

Twice exceptional Bill remanded to Ed Dept for amendments regarding special needs gifted learners for special needs services, but no changes to allot for gifted learners to be considered special needs eligible for IEP support in NY apparently.
http://open.nysenate.gov/legislation/bill/S1273-2011

However, gifted programs are not mandated and no funding is available at the State level for gifted learners in NY. There are no IEPS for them.

Maybe this is one of the ways NY could have raised our academic standing, by providing support to gifted students and resources to LEAs from the State level and funding these opportunities at the outset, instead of adopting this nonsense known as Common Core standards and requiring students to submit to all of this excessive testing. Testing that purports to “measure” student achievement but does nothing more than line deep pockets. But, I digress.

New York’s branch of a gifted association concurs that legislation is needed to address the needs of gifted learners in NYS:

” there is legislation in the State Senate and Assembly which could begin to help New York State optimize the potential of its high-ability learners (“gifted and talented” as well as “twice exceptional” students). One of the bills (S1874-2013/A1524-2013) directs that all teachers be trained in the education of gifted students and provides start-up funding for such training.

 

Two other key pieces of legislation are A4745-2013/S3389-2013 and S1875-2013/A1522-2013.

These bills will ensure that teachers and administrators are provided with the training, tools, and support they need to promote high-achievement. They also ensure that all students who are identified as “gifted and talented” (including those who are “twice exceptional”) by their school districts receive sufficient appropriate educational opportunities that would include services delivered by a certified “gifted education” professional along with expanded acceleration opportunities. These bills will additionally
ensure sufficient appropriate education for “twice exceptional” students. This category of special education student often does not receive the education needed to thrive and reach his/her full potential.

Specialized teaching methods and approaches are needed for these students who are both “gifted” and who also have learning differences covered by Federal IDEA laws. Also, these bills call for the education commissioner to establish an advisory council consisting of at least ten members on the education of highly capable/high-ability/”gifted” students as well as “twice- exceptional” pupils.

Passage of these bills is critical to provide both appropriate instructional opportunities and educational equity for diverse high-ability students from all areas of New York State in every school district, particularly in these tight budget times when districts remove services not protected by legislation. http://ecbiz111.inmotionhosting.com/~agaten5/

On gifted learners, presently NYSED website discusses CCSS and lumps all students in the same size box:

Are these new standards intended for all students? 
Yes—the new learning standards are intended for all students, including English language learners, students with disabilities, gifted learners, and struggling learners.
http://www.p12.nysed.gov/ciai/common_core_standards/faq.html

As you can see, CCSS is a one size fits all instruction pedagogy with very little individualization permitted.

With all due respect, Common Core and excessive testing is NOT the answer. Lets think outside the box shall we? One size fits all DOES NOT WORK!

 

Other References:
http://ecbiz111.inmotionhosting.com/~agaten5/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/7-Reasons-NY-State-Needs-Talent-March-rev1.pdf

 

 

 

 

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One thought on “One Size Fits All Does NOT Work: CCSS and the Gifted Learner in NYS

  1. Reblogged this on Schools of Thought Hudson Valley, NY and commented:

    Update regarding gifted learners in NYS public schools:

    Earlier this month the New York State Education Department (NYSED) issued a special education field advisory memorandum advising school districts that gifted students, such as students with high cognition, may be eligible – but are not automatically qualified – for special education programming and services if they exhibit a severe discrepancy between their level of intellectual ability and achievement.

    NYSED issued the field advisory memorandum in response to the United States Department of Education’s recent request that all states widely distribute the December 2013 letter by the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) on the same topic ( see Letter to Delisle link below).

    Although only a very small percentage of students are both gifted and have special needs (also known as “twice exceptional students”), OSEP expressed concern that these students – especially students with learning disabilities – are often overlooked for classification as students with disabilities and, as a result, are unfairly and inappropriately denied special education services and supports.

    This oversight can be explained. First, NYS provides students a constitutional right to a sound BASIC education, gifted learners have higher cognition needs that are beyond what is considered “basic”.

    Also, for most students with disabilities, the need for a Committee on Special Education (CSE) referral is based on clear and objective factors such as low or failing grades, the need for retention or the lack of overall progress. But often these signs are not present with gifted students with learning disabilities. This is because these students are usually still able to earn average grades or score in the average range on cognitive and achievement tests despite having a learning disability – they are not challenged but this is hard to quanitfy and diagnose at times.

    OSEP advises that these “twice exceptional students” may still be eligible for special education, especially if there’s a severe discrepancy between their level of intellectual ability (which may be very high) and achievement (which may be average) which could be the basis for a learning disabled classification.

    According to the National Education Association, these students are a “national resource whose future contributions to society are largely contingent upon offering them appropriate educational experiences. Without appropriate education and services, their discoveries, innovations, breakthroughs, leadership, and other gifts to American society go unrealized.”

    Notably, this does not mean that the CSE will automatically classify as learning disabled every gifted student with high cognition who is performing lower than expected at school. NYSED and OSEP both highlight that no single measure or assessment, including the above-mentioned – and often criticized – severe-discrepancy standard, should be used as the basis for classifying (or not classifying) a student as disabled.

    In each case, there are a seemingly countless number of factors that the CSE may consider including, among others, whether the student has received appropriate instruction; whether the student is proficient in English; whether the student is experiencing any medical or personal problems that may be interfering with his or her academic functioning; or whether the student would benefit from additional general education instruction in a response-to-intervention format. One or more of these factors could support the CSE’s decision not to classify a gifted student as disabled, despite a severe discrepancy between the student’s intellectual ability and achievement.

    Going forward, based on NYSED and OSEP’s guidance, when presented with a gifted student with high cognition who displays a severe discrepancy between his or her level of intellectual ability and achievement, it is advisable that CSE should not automatically classify the student as learning disabled.

    Likewise, it is advisable that CSE should not refuse to classify the student based on the presupposition that a gifted student with average or passing grades should not be classified as disabled.

    Instead, it is advisable that the CSE should consider all relevant factors and base its eligibility determination on the student’s individualized needs and abilities.
    References:
    NYSEDs advisory can be found here:
    http://www.p12.nysed.gov/specialed/publications/2015-memos/students-disabilities-high-cognition-memo.html

    USDEs Letter on Delisle can be found here:
    http://www2.ed.gov/policy/speced/guid/idea/memosdcltrs/041715osepmemo15-082q2015.pdf

    Harris Beach Memo on GIfted Learners

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