The Time I Fought the School District. And Won.

I’ve been meaning to tell this story for a while, but I’ve been so buried under stuff that my mind has been unable thus far to tell the tale in a fairly truncated manner.

Because man, the whole thing was just stupid.   And get ready with some coffee and scones, because this is one loooong story.

In my state, some 2nd graders are tested for the gifted program. In some schools, every single child is tested, in others, only ones that have been recommended by teachers.  In my particular district, a test called the Naglieri is used.  The Naglieri is often used in many school districts with a large population of students that speak a second language or are economically disadvantaged, or both.  Essentially, it doesn’t have any words and uses pictures instead.

So the Munchkin was recommended to take the test, but upon doing some research and speaking with my sister, who is a GATE teacher, I found out that some students with verbal giftedness can do badly on the Naglieri.  Because duh, no words.  I asked that very question of the district GATE coordinator at a parent information meeting, and she did indeed admit that some verbally gifted students could be overlooked with that specific test.

Cut to my son receiving a HORRIBLE score on that test. I mean, according to the Naglieri, he wasn’t even performing up to grade level standards.  Which of course was not true.

I wrote a nice and polite email to the GATE coordinator stating that I didn’t think my son’s performance was reflective of his abilities, as we all could tell from his grades that he was obviously performing at or above grade level.

She replies that fine, if I would like, she could have a broader-scale IQ test administered, called the WISC-IV.  This is a two hour test conducted by a trained school psychologist that spans a larger set of skills than the Naglieri, which is mostly focused on logic.

So the Munchkin takes the test, and when he gets in the car afterwards, he tells me his brain is “on fire.”

Which I sort of took to be a good sign.

His test scores come back, and there are four subsets of results dealing with specific areas of skill.  His verbal is fantastic, definitely in the highly gifted range.  He has some good scores in two other subsets, but only in the moderately gifted range.  Then comes a low-ish score in the last subset.

I’m told that oh, too bad.  That low-ish score means my son isn’t good enough to qualify for the GATE program.  OKTHXBAI.

Wait, what?

Now, up until this point, I’ve been pretty patient.  They had dragged out giving me the results, and also said that they wanted to wait for his standardized test scores to come in before they made a judgement on whether he would get into the program.  That’s all fine and dandy, but the test scores weren’t due until about two weeks before school was supposed to start, which they were well aware of.

So all summer long I was biting my nails and wondering what we were going to do with him.  If I like anything, it’s having a plan.  I’m not a big fan of flying by the seat of my pants, especially when it comes to my son’s education.

When I was told that even though my son scored in the advanced band in both Language Arts and Mathematics, and even though he clearly was verbally gifted, that one low subset was enough to keep him out in the cold, I got mad.

And when I get mad, I do a LOT of research.

What I found was that for the WISC-IV, the test makers allowed for the possibility of unusual scores, and in very specific circumstances, dictated that if a situation like my son’s was to occur, there was an entirely different way to score his test.  Basically, there had to be discrepancies between specific subsets, and more than one standard score deviation between the two.  They call this the GAI, or General Ability Index.

Bingo!  I had the answer!  All the district had to do was recalculate the score based on the tables given to them by the makers of the test, and all would be well!

Picture me in the office of the GATE coordinator.  I have already sent her the link to the information I am referring to in an email, and I’m thinking this meeting is just a formality so that she can verify my son’s standardized test scores.

Then picture me with a very red face as she condescendingly tells me (in so many words) that I don’t know what the hell I am talking about and why don’t I just leave all this complicated stuff to people such as herself, who are the professionals.  She had evidently completely ignored my email. I manage to choke out that I am not talking to her about my OPINION about what should be done with his score, but what the actual people who built the test are telling her, the professional, what she should do.

I am given the complete brush-off and sent packing.

I distinctly remember grinning like a complete fool on my way back to the car, because if I didn’t have a maniacal smile on my face, I was going to kill the next person who crossed my path.  That happened to be some other district employee who smiled sunnily at me, not noting the glint in my eye that should have told her to run in the opposite direction.  I also remember telling my husband that I’d never been treated so rudely by someone in my entire life, and that I wouldn’t put the Munchkin in the damned GATE program if they begged me.

I also thought, HOW MANY CHILDREN HAVE THEY DONE THIS TO?  Am I really the first person who has ever noted how the district is supposed to calculate those scores, as opposed to the incorrect way they have been doing it, apparently for YEARS?  I wondered how many kids had been incorrectly placed in programs or denied a place in programs they actually did qualify for because this particular district employs IDIOTIC ASSHOLES.  The GAI was there, it was specific, and they had never even used it. I was stunned, to say the least.

But knowing what I know about people, I was expecting an ugly uphill battle.  I decided then and there that we would place the Munchkin back into his homeschooling program, and the district could go to hell.

About a week later, I get an email.

Oh, by the way Ms. Glinda, we just so happened to recalculate your son’s score on the WISC-IV and it just so happened to turn out that his scores are actually much, much higher than we originally thought.  He is welcome to attend the GATE program (that starts in 3 DAYS) and we look forward to having him in class.

You don’t say.

Screw that noise.

I politely declined, saying that we, as a family, had already decided that he would continue homeschooling, and that I did not want to deviate from that plan at this very late date.

Vindicated, all I can say is that all of that was worth it, especially since now they are calculating the scores correctly, as they should have been doing all along.

And now that I look back on this post, I am proud to say I have written my first horror story.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

9 Responses to “The Time I Fought the School District. And Won.”

  1. Seana May 24, 2012 at 2:36 pm #

    Good for you Glinda!! I don’t know what it is about most public schools and GATE, but it starts off feeling like there are so many possiblities and then ends up somewhere COMPLETELY south of there. I truely hope, for the students’ sake that the district will begin using the GAI in order to score that test, but what feels more likely is that they were doing a little CYA and that on the whole, they will continue business as usual. The Munchkin is better off with you (his Champion, and number one teacher) than with “professionals” whose motivations are suspect.

    Wow, I sound really bitter. That wasn’t my intent. You should be really proud of yourself for your tenacity and advocacy for your son. And of course, for your son’s brilliance. You totally get to take credit for that!

    • Glinda May 25, 2012 at 2:43 pm #

      Actually, I can’t take any credit for his smarts! He was just born that way.

  2. Awesomemom May 24, 2012 at 2:45 pm #

    Evaluations can be so tricky. I just recently attended my son’s IEP meeting and this was one where they do all sorts of different tests and what not every three years. I am very sure that the results are not at all what he is capable of but his issues resulting from his stroke makes him very hard to evaluate in a standardized manner. Luckily it is not being done to determine any sort of eligibility for any program or anything but it is annoying to have those awful scores in his file. The School Psychologist said she was not able to officially diagnose him with ADD but that he showed a lot of the markers for it. Well yeah in some situations he is very ADD like but in many others he is not, he also has a number of Autistic like behaviors as well. Those tendencies are due to his stroke damage and no amount of drugging him will change that at all.

    • Glinda May 25, 2012 at 2:44 pm #

      I hope they aren’t suggesting that you drug him??? He had a stroke, for god’s sake…

      • Awesomemom May 30, 2012 at 10:16 am #

        No, the school psychologist can’t diagnose it, she was merely pointing out the fact that he had a high number of markers in common with children that have adhd (eye roll). My son’s Special Ed teacher pointed out to me that he was being tested in a new room with a person he had never met before so of course he was going to be curious about his surroundings and therefore be easily distracted. We are looking into getting him informally retested in a familiar environment with people he knows.

  3. Violet in Twilight May 25, 2012 at 12:36 pm #

    After all this, one can take comfort in the fact that the adult outcomes are poorly correlated to being in gifted programs.

    • Glinda May 25, 2012 at 2:45 pm #

      It isn’t so much that I think being in a gifted program would make him uber-successful, it’s more that he would enjoy being in a class that was faster-paced and being around kids that have a similar mindset.

      Not that all gifted kids are the same, but they tend to “get” each other.

    • SarahCat May 25, 2012 at 8:40 pm #

      What do you mean they are poorly correlated? Do you have any evidence to back that statement up?

      I’m honestly not trying to be a jerk over here, but as a gifted teacher who recently spent a year reading tons of books on gifted education, I doubt that claim.

      Anyway, Glinda I’m glad you are doing what is best for your son, and I’m sorry the school system was so terrible to work with. I would suggest looking into middle and high school gifted programs once your son gets older in case you want to try public schools again.

      • Violet in Twilight May 26, 2012 at 3:12 pm #

        @Glinda, I totally agree with what you are saying. The social side of things and the whole environment can make life easy. But it appears from your experience that the effort to make it in to the class outweighs the benefits.

        @SarahCat
        I remember reading the long term study on the New York State gifted program. I tried to link in my first comment but didn’t find the reference in my 5 min search. But broadly, the studies like ‘The Nurture Assumption’ (Judith Harris) seem to say there is only a slight benefit from nurture and most of it is nature.
        I read a lot of gifted literature too, since my son is showing signs of asynchronous development. I didn’t knew being extraordinarily good at somethings could get one in trouble until it happened.