Carmel parents unite against changes to elementary school high-ability program

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As Carmel Clay Schools moves ahead with its plan to transform its services for high-ability students, many parents are coming together to create an organized voice of opposition to the changes.

CCS announced in a letter sent to parents March 13 that it would stop separating high-ability elementary school students into their own classrooms and instead use a Total School Cluster Grouping model, a system that combines high-ability and general education students.

Since then, many parents have been contacting district administrators and school board members to express their concerns. More than a dozen of them spoke against the change at the March 26 school board meeting, and they’ve launched two Facebook groups and an online petition to support their cause.

“Our goal is to connect as many concerned parents as possible so we have a forum to share our experiences or information as we are all individually taking steps to become educated and meet with administrators and make progress,” said Jennifer Zivoin, the mother of a high-ability student at Forest Dale Elementary who launched the petition. “We can share progress so that collectively we can have a bigger impact than any of us would individually.”

As of March 29, the petition had 218 signatures and the Facebook groups had more than 400 members. Zivoin said she has been pleased but not surprised by the number of parents voicing concern with the changes.

“I would be more surprised if we had less parents (speaking out),” she said. “Parents who value education should be expected to fight for their kids best interest and education.”

After receiving a great deal of feedback from parents, CCS scheduled community meetings to be led by principals at each elementary school to provide more information about TSCG, answer questions and gather feedback. After the March 26 school board meeting, Associate Supt. for Business Affairs Roger McMichael, who is also serving as co-interim superintendent, said he met with elementary principals March 23 to discuss the change and that all 11 of them supported it.

TSCG  identifies students as high achieving, above average, average, low average and low, although only the high achieving students know their status. The goal is for classrooms to have no more than three of those groups represented, with average students in each classroom and high-ability students not being placed in classrooms with lower achieving students.

Benefits outlined by CCS include:

  • Helping teachers more effectively and efficiently meet the diverse needs of their students
  • Increasing opportunities for collaboration among high ability, general education and special education staff
  • Weaving the benefits of evidence-based practices for high ability students into the fabric of all educational practices
  • Improving the representation of traditionally underserved students identified over time as above average and high achieving

The changes implement findings from the 2015 CCS K-12 High Ability Program Evaluation and 2017 Elementary Program Evaluation High Ability Strand. Teachers and specialists are expected to work with elementary administrators to make recommendations for next school year’s classroom placement.

Current sent questions for and requested an interview with Co-Interim Supt. and Assistant Supt. of Curriculum, Instruction & Assessment Amy Dudley, whose office is overseeing the changes. CCS officials have not responded to most of the questions or granted an interview.

MORE INFO

See the petition at https://www.change.org/p/carmel-clay-schools-keep-a-designated-gifted-and-talented-program-for-carmel-s-high-ability-students

View the Facebook page “Carmel Clay School Parents for the Discussion on the Challenge Program” at https://www.facebook.com/groups/443543912749055/?hc_ref=ARQv3-Su5imu_ru_3udLNvIipEhYQGEXLQi7Qtcdb6kKzXRJoKC_ezHWSg-GN5-9hNQ and see “Carmel Parents of High Ability Learners” at https://www.facebook.com/groups/181559249299041/.

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