Links for Portland Parents of Talented and Gifted Children


Comments on the Columbia, Newberg and Reynolds reports and findings by Margaret DeLacy


All three appeals in the Newberg, Columbia and Reynolds School Districts were filed by single individuals whereas the Portland and Salem appeals were filed by parents acting as a group.  The group appeals were more successful in getting the State to investigate the situation throughout the school district and in considering a comprehensive set of problems with the application of the TAG program.  The individual complaints tended to focus on just one or two issues and/or schools and the state limited its investigation to those issues and schools. 

        This is not necessarily a bad thing if there are only one or two areas of concern within a school district.  However, a more limited appeal creates the risk that additional issues will be raised one by one over a long period of time; a process that may prove to be exhausting and frustrating for all concerned.
        One benefit that has come from the appeals process is that the state is now willing to offer specific guidelines for an area left unacceptably vague in the law: the issue of setting timelines for providing services.  It is clearly no longer acceptable to provide TAG services starting in April. This should assist not only parents but school districts that are interested in writing policies in compliance with the law.
        The state has repeatedly insisted that it cannot tell a school district HOW to implement the mandate.  However, it is insisting that all teachers with TAG students must in some way be trained.  Every order requires an "inservice," for coming into compliance.
        It is my personal view that "inservices"--the chief State remedy--are very unlikely to make any significant changes in the way school districts provide services to students, particularly since there is really no control over the extent or quality of the training provided.  The inservice may be extremely perfunctory and unhelpful, and if it occurs in an atmosphere of ignorance and resentment, teachers are very unlikely even to listen, much less to take the advice to heart.  Also, the state accepts videos as inservice training; these permit passive or inattentive audiences that never become engaged in the subject.
        For real improvements in actual teaching, teachers should be trained before certification.  In addition, they should choose to be involved with gifted students, the students should be grouped together where possible, the teachers should receive additional district support services, and the teachers need written manuals and documents to use for ongoing reference as they encounter new problems.  Moreover, the district needs to take an active role in ensuring that services are actually being delivered in the classroom by requiring and reviewing written plans and assessments, visiting schools, and monitoring teacher performance. 
        Districts should realize that if they rely on just following the letter of the State requirements by providing perfunctory in-services, they are unlikely to be delivering an adequate program, and the result will be a high-stakes gamble to see whether there are additional parent complaints and whether the state is willing to actually cut off funding to non-compliant districts.  Grouping students with trained teacher is a very cost-effective way to provide a satisfactory level of services without having to go back and train every single teacher in the district.  To ensure adequately trained teachers, a "gifted instruction" endorsement would be extremely helpful statewide.  If school districts grouped their students in classes taught by trained teachers, this would also enable teachers who do NOT wish to provide services to gifted students or who believe that such services are not justified to "opt out" of the requirements.
        Even when the teachers are trained, districts still must ensure that students are individually assessed and provided with an appropriate leval and rate of instruction.  There are costs associated with the assessment and planning process; I believe the state should do more to assist school districts to meet these costs.