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How Squid Got Skipped:
The Book of Squid

by Marjorie

Preparation

First, let me say that skipping was not my first choice. There is a charter school for the Highly Gifted near us, and I still believe that would be a better environment for her, but her application was not accepted. (I still believe she is qualified, and I know it is a good school, she just happened to get caught between test ceilings and admissions floors. I'm currently trying to arrange time and money to get Squid to the GDC so that hopefully I'll have better numbers for her if I decide to try again.)

The news that her application wasn't accepted came in early February. I had basically spent August-December working on getting her into the gifted pullout. Should have been a simple matter, but her 1st grade teacher hadn't filled out the nomination form, she'd filled out some other form that just put Squid on a list of kids to watch for possible giftedness. Then when I got that straightened out, I had to wait until the gifted team met to decide which nominated kids would actually be tested. I gave some of Squid' s work to the GT teacher, a mixed package that included neatly done multiplication problems and scrawled addition, since even that early in 2nd grade she was resisting doing what she already knew.

The gifted team agreed she should be tested, but when the GT teacher asked the district to schedule her for the WISC, the request was lost. After a second request, she was told that Squid had to have the WIAT first, to prove she needed the WISC. So she was given the WIAT, and finally she was approved for the WISC. Scheduling issues, illness, and weather conspired so that she had the WISC on the first day back from Christmas break. She didn't get the magic 145 I was hoping for, which would have gotten her approved for the gifted school, but she was close enough she could still apply. (It was a long shot either way, they only had 2 openings for 3rd graders this year.)

As soon as I was notified that she wasn't accepted at the gifted school, I started working on the skip. Step one was to go to Penguin, since I knew I needed her to accept the deal. That was a hard sell, but ultimately she came around. Penguin was very concerned that she would be teased if her sister skipped a grade. We brainstormed things she could say about it. I also offered to have her skipped too, but she refused.

Step 2 was to tell the GT teacher that was what I wanted to pursue. Squid was getting her 45 minutes per week of pull out by this point, but was still having attitude and behavior problems. The GT teacher let me know that it would be a decision of the gifted team, and that some team members were hostile to skips. Naturally, I headed for Hoagies, and started putting together what became "The Book of Squid." At the same time, I enlisted the help of Penguin's 4th grade teacher. She clearly understood that spending the year in 3rd grade would be torture for Squid. She loaned me some of her GT books, and helped me out by giving Squid a 4th grade writing test. She also supplied me with math worksheets, so Squid was actually doing the same work at home (with no instruction) as Penguin was doing in the classroom. The scary part was that Squid could find the mistakes in the problems.

I tried to find a good achievement test to give Squid, but was told the school wouldn't accept it anyway. I arranged for Squid to be given a 4th grade writing test, since I knew she had not been exposed to the State Mandated Writing Test genre. Penguin's 4th grade teacher gave her the test, but not under the best circumstances. The fire alarm went off just before she was due to take the test. Penguin's teacher and another 4th grade teacher agreed that she scored a 2, which doesn't meet the standard for passing, but is an excellent score for a child entering 4th grade. (A footnote, the state has now thrown out last year's 4th grade writing test scores and stated that this year's will not be counted, because the test is so badly designed.)

Eventually, the gifted team met with her 2nd grade teacher, and agreed to meet with us about the skip. It wasn't until this point that I was given the list of criteria they would use. Squid asked to be included in the meeting. The GT teacher met with her privately ahead of time, and she did come in for part of the meeting.

The Meeting

The meeting was the last week of school. My husband and I were there, more dressed up than either of us gets for anything but funerals. I had The Book of Squid. They let me state my case, with few questions.

I tried to make the points that not skipping her would result in more work for the classroom teachers, since we were all agreed at that point that the decision was between grade acceleration and subject acceleration. I pointed out some of what I had in The Book of Squid, in particular the article by Dr. David Elkind, since I knew they were familiar with him as the author of "The Hurried Child." I pointed out that Squid would be more able to be a child in the 4th grade, since she would be learning new things. I also pointed out her need to learn study skills, and the impossibility of that in a classroom where she already knew the material.

They asked if I had found anything negative about skipping, and I honestly said that no, I hadn't, even when I deliberately looked for studies with a negative conclusion.

We brought in Squid for some questions. (I loved her answer to 'How do you feel about having to make all new friends?' 'Who wouldn't want to make new friends?').

I thanked them for not basing their decision on Penguin, because that part was of necessity a family decision. I pointed out that Penguin was supportive, and said that I had actually discussed it with her before I discussed it with Squid.

My husband gave a final plea not to let her blow off school. The gifted team had already decided that no decision would be made that day, but that they would meet again later in the week.

I left The Book of Squid with them, since I had not been able to provide copies for each team member.

The next day I put a thank you letter in the mailboxes of each team member:

To: The Gifted Team
Spring of 2nd grade school year

Cc: Mrs. Principal

Thank you for meeting with us today. We know this is not a decision you are taking lightly, neither did we ask for it without careful consideration. We appreciate that everyone involved wants what is best for Squid.

It is important that Squid not be allowed to coast through elementary school. She is not learning the basic study skills that she will need later, because she is not being challenged.

We understand that you will be meeting again on Thursday, and we are looking forward to hearing how you will ensure that Squid is challenged. If you do not recommend acceleration, then we will also be interested in hearing the plan for how she will be adequately challenged and how you will guarantee continuity in future years.

Thank you again,
signed Squid's Dad    Squid's Mom

The Decision

We were given the word that the 4th grade placement was approved on the first day of summer vacation, and received a letter specifying the conditions and her teacher within a week. She does not have the same teacher as Penguin, but in fact it is a better placement for her. I had always had some concerns about her having the same teacher as Penguin, since their temperaments are so different. The conditions were that she would be kept out of the pullout the 1st nine weeks, they would schedule time with the counselor for her to make sure she was adjusting, and that I not volunteer in the classroom, so that Squid could adjust on her own.

I don't know what effect it had on her adjustment, but she attended 3 different day camps as a rising 4th grader over the summer. I think the main effect was to give her confidence that she could fit in with the 4th graders. While the school didn't make cursive an issue, we did work on it over the summer.

In fact, she adjusted so well that she started the pullout with the other 4th graders, and I don't think she met with the counselor more than once. I don't volunteer in the classroom, but that restriction has really been lifted as well. I've heard from most of the team that they recognize that 4th grade is the appropriate placement for her. Her GT teacher told me that
what swayed the team the most was realizing that the research is unanimous that skipping is a positive choice.

Post-Script

We're half-way through the year now. Her report card had A's and B's. Behavior is much better, though we do have some room to improve. Squid misses her third grade friends, although the reality is she had really outgrown most of them. Since she skipped she didn't get the chance to see that for herself. I do arrange play-dates when I can, and I make a point to try to invite her classmates to events when I can. It is taking awhile to establish the kind of friendship she wants, though I think it will come in time. She does tend to blame any issues she has on the skip. I think it would have been much better if she had skipped 1st or 2nd instead of 3rd.

The Book of Squid

The Book of Squid is actually not as much about her as it is about why skipping works and is necessary.

It starts with a letter requesting 4th grade placement and accepting responsibility for it. It includes her test scores, and a small amount of her work, but I knew the team was already familiar with her schoolwork so I didn't include much. I did include a couple photos of her with her softball team.

The rest of the book contains articles I found that supported skipping, with the appropriate parts highlighted. Everything was off the web, and I deliberately used websites which I felt would be accepted by educators. (e.g. ERIC Digests)

The Book of Squid

Cover

Photo of Squid with her softball team, and an individual photo of her at bat.

Tab 1

Parent request for 4th Grade Placement.

We, the undersigned parents of Squid, request a waiver to place our daughter in the 4th grade for the next school year at ________ Elementary School. We base this request on the following information: 

  1. The results of the WIAT test given 5 months earlier, which indicated composite grade equivalent scores of 6:3 Reading and 4:6 Mathematics,
  2. WISC-III Full Scale IQ of ___, and VIQ score of ___, with ceiling scores in 4 of the 5 Verbal subtests,
  3. Current educational research citing the positive effects of acceleration.

Since academic testing shows that Squid is performing at 4th grade equivalent or higher in most cognitive and academic areas, she is not currently being challenged to perform to her potential.

We have seen for ourselves the negative outcome of lack of challenging work. In spite of a wonderful classroom teacher and acceptance into the AIG program, Squid's physical and mental well being suffered this year, because of the lack of appropriate intellectual stimulation. She is suffering socially as well, since her classmates are not her academic peers. She often hides her ability in an effort to fit in better.

While we greatly appreciate the AIG program at ________, and the classroom differentiation that is done, it is clear that even in combination, they do not meet her needs.

Current research fully documents the positive and successful outcomes of acceleration and the dramatic consequences of an inappropriate education.

We understand that this request carries unknown factors that may or may not affect our child's future with regard to performance, social development, emotional stability and her overall well being. As Squid's' parents, we understand and accept responsibility for her current development and believe that this decision will contribute positively to her future development.

We appreciate ________ Elementary School and the ______ County School District for their long tradition of excellence and look forward to a favorable decision with regard to this request.

Sincerely,

Squid's Dad Squid's Mom

WISC-III scores

(Not reproduced)

WIAT scores

(Not reproduced)

________ County Schools Academically/Intellectually Gifted Program
Student Behavior/Performance Checklist

(Filled out by her teacher as part of acceptance into the pullout program. Scores deleted.)

Consider the student's behavior and performance in relationship to other students of same age and grade. Rate student using the following scale:

3-Superior
2-Very Good
1-Average
0-Below Average
 

Level of academic learning:
Study skills
Reading comprehension
Communication skills (use of verbal and written language)
Math skills
Science skills
Critical thinking skills
Independence in work habits
Questioning and displaying curiosity
Divergent thinking; offers unique answers to questions/problems
Self-motivation and initiative
Self-confidence with other students and adults
Cooperative skills in group settings
Flexibility; does not mind change in routine
Non-conforming; does not fear being different
Completion of class and homework assignments on time
Original or creative ideas/solutions; shows imagination/creativity
Citizenship
Organizational skills

K-3 Learning Environment Options and Indicators for Differentiation list.

(It also included guidelines for other forms of differentiation, but I'm only including the portions that were relevant to Squid)

Subject Acceleration (Must have ALL of the following)

  1. Demonstrates mastery of subject considered for acceleration
  2. 99th percentile on standardized achievement test in reading, math or total composite

(Must have 6 of the following)

  1. Work sample portfolio
  2. Strong student interest and motivation
  3. Social-emotional profile of maturity as shown on a formal checklist or scale of early social development
  4. Independent learner in school environment
  5. Parent support
  6. Regular classroom teacher recommendation
  7. Special Area Staff Recommendation
  8. AIG Differentiation Program Team recommendation

Grade Acceleration (Must have ALL of the following)

  1. 99th percentile on standardize aptitude test
  2. 99th percentile on standardized achievement test in reading, math or
  3. total composite
  4. Work sample portfolio which demonstrates mastery in reading, language
  5. arts, and math
  6. Demonstrates social and emotional maturity as shown on a formal scale
  7. of early social development
  8. Independent learner in school environment
  9. Strong student interest and motivation
  10. Regular classroom teacher recommendation
  11. AIG Differentiation Program Teacher recommendation
  12. AIG Differentiation Program Team recommendation
  13. Parent support

Text of North Carolina state statutes relevant to Academically or Intellectually Gifted Students.

http://www.ncagt.org/article9b/article9b.shtml

Letter from GT teacher to all GT parents expressing concern that the budget crises would damage the pullout program.

(not reproduced)

Squid's writing test, administered by Penguin's 4th grade teacher, and graded by her and another 4th grade teacher.

(not reproduced)

Letter from Squid, requesting 4th grade placement:

Dear Mrs. Principal,

I need to go to 4rth grade.

I am so frustrated I pulled out my hair and talked in class. I'm also frustrated about always reviewing and not learning new things. When we're working in groups I'm always teased and I get in trouble being so smart.

I already know division and multiplication. The highest I know is 20 x 20 = 400.

There's only one thing I'm worried about: cursive. I'm practicing cursive now so I'll be good at it by August. I already know how to write my name in cursive.

Mrs. Second helped me by giving me some harder math and spelling words. Mrs. GT let me do A.I.G. I'm glad they did that for me, but I still need more.

Sincerely,
Squid

Letter from Penguin, requesting that Squid skip 3rd grade:

Dear Mrs. Principal,

My sister Squid is not learning anything in 2nd grade. In fact, she'd learn more if she went to Discovery Place during school. She is magnificent in multiplication, amazing at adding, super at subtracting, and daring at division. She is also wondrous at writing and spectacular at spelling, in other words, 3rd grade will not help her. If in your favor, it would help her very much if she could skip a grade.

Thanks!

Penguin

Squid's current Differentiation plan:

(Not reproduced)

AIG Behavioral Characteristics Checklist Grades K-3

(Blank, but this was the scale they used to determine her social and emotional maturity.)

Rate each statement based on the following scale of values.

4 - Most outstanding of the group
3 - Superior
2 - Above Average
1 - Average
0 - Below Average

Learning Characteristics

  1. Has advanced vocabulary for age or grade level
  2. Has information about a variety of topics
  3. Has quick mastery and recall of factual information
  4. Sees relationships among separate concepts, facts, or objects
  5. Makes valid generalizations about events, people, or things
  6. Is a keen and alert observer
  7. Learns independently
  8. Ask provocative questions
  9. Reads independently for pleasure
  10. Becomes deeply involved with topics or problems

Motivational Characteristics

  1. Displays high interest in a selected topic or hobby
  2. Displays evidence of self-motivation
  3. Persists until tasks are completed
  4. Organized for efficient completion of personal and school tasks
  5. Exhibits independence in his/her work
  6. Eagerly shares new ideas or discoveries
  7. Has confidence in his/her ability
  8. Can work and play well with others
  9. Strives toward quality or perfection
  10. Is assertive about personal beliefs

Creativity Characteristics

  1. Displays a great deal of curiosity about many things
  2. Generates many ideas or solutions to problems
  3. Behaves individualistically; does not fear to be different
  4. Offers unusual or unique responses
  5. Uses material in unique ways
  6. Displays a strong imagination or ability to fantasize
  7. Recognizes and responds to subtle humor
  8. Is sensitive to beauty

Conversion Scale for Total Checklist:

106 - 112 = 5 pts.
98 - 105 = 4 pts.
84 - 97 = 3 pts.
70 - 83 = 2 pts.
56 - 69 = 1 pt.

Summary of Enclosed information

(really a chance to restate what I put in the initial request)

Summary of enclosed information, indicating why acceleration is the best option for Squid at this time.

An accepting teacher is listed as one of the strongest factors for success, and we have that in Mrs. _____. Mrs. __________ knows Squid, and has stated that she feels that a fourth grade placement would be appropriate for her next year, and that she is willing to have her in her classroom. We respect that many factors go into teacher assignments. We are not insisting that Squid be placed into a specific classroom. It is important that she be assigned to a teacher that is accepting of the placement.

Acceleration is the option that will require the least amount of extra effort by the classroom teacher. By moving Squid closer to her current academic level, she will be presented with new material along with her classmates. Subject acceleration and in-class differentiation would require extra work for at least two classroom teachers, and will set Squid apart from the other students. (See articles Acceleration - A legitimate means of meeting the needs of gifted children, Acceleration: Evaluating the Controversy over Higher-Speed Education and Acceleration, included, Tab 2.)

WISC-III scores should always be considered a floor estimate. There are many safeguards against an unnaturally high score built into the test. Any subtest score of 17 or above indicates that Squid completed the subtest before reaching the criterion for stopping. That is, the test ran out of questions before she got enough wrong to need to be stopped. We don't know how smart she is, because the test is not designed to measure IQs above 130. We know she is in the top 0.3 of the population. Finding a true peer will be very difficult for Squid, so finding academic peers is even more important.

(See article, Those IQ Tests: Their Strengths and Weaknesses and Gifted Children, included, Tab 3.)

When she is placed in a setting with other children on her academic level she will be able to connect with those children better, resulting in friendships based on the true Squid, not the one she pretends to be in order to fit in.

(See articles, Acceleration: an expanded vision and From "the saddest sound" to the D Major chord: The gift of accelerated progression, included Tab 4.)

Squid meets the ______ County Schools guidelines for grade acceleration based on the testing and evaluation done for admittance to the AIG program. Now that the AIG program is itself at risk of being cut, placing her at her academic level is vital. Research on grade acceleration is clear that it is a viable option for gifted children. It is the easiest way to place Squid with her academic peers, since a full-time gifted program is not available, and the pullout program is in jeopardy. (See articles, Should Gifted Students be Grade-Advanced? Eric Digest E526, Guidelines for Acceleration and Acceleration or Flexible Progression, included, Tab 5.)

Much weight is given to the student's maturity when considering acceleration. One danger is that an underchallenged child is often mislabeled immature. No child should be placed in an inappropriate emotional environment, but which is the appropriate one? In an environment where Squid is learning new material, and where she is with her academic peers, she will actually need less maturity to behave appropriately. Behaving appropriately while pretending she is learning and hiding her abilities so that she fits in requires an incredible level of maturity.

Outside of school, Squid is on a youth softball team, plays in a bell choir at church and is active in AWANA Bible Club. She mixes well with the children in those groups (each of which covers a two or more year span.) One thing each group has in common is that Squid is learning the activity along with the other children.

Tab 2

Acceleration - A legitimate means of meeting the needs of gifted children
(http://www.nexus.edu.au/teachstud/gat/evanss.htm -- no longer available)

Acceleration: Evaluating the Controversy over Higher-Speed Education
(http://www.jhu.edu/gifted/pubres/accel.htm)

Acceleration
(http://www.hoagiesgifted.org/elkind.htm)

Tab 3

Those IQ Tests: Their Strengths and Weaknesses
(http://www.homeeducator.com/FamilyTimes/articles/9-2article1.htm)

Gifted Children youth mental health update, Julia Osborn Ph.D.
(http://schoolnet.lij.edu/eshare/files/1_gifted.html)

Tab 4

Acceleration: an expanded vision
(http://www.nexus.edu.au/teachstud/gat/mackenz.htm -- no longer available)

From "the saddest sound" to the D Major chord: The gift of accelerated progression
(http://www.hoagiesgifted.org/d_major_chord.htm)

Tab 5

Should Gifted Students be Grade-Advanced? Eric Digest E526
(now available at http://www.hoagiesgifted.org/eric/e526.html)

Guidelines for Acceleration
(http://www.austega.com/gifted/accelerationguidelines.htm)

Acceleration or Flexible Progression
(http://www.austega.com/gifted/provisions/acceleration.htm)

Tab 6

Information about some of the sites I used as sources.

About Eric (no longer available)
(http://www.eric.ed.gov/about/about.html)

HomeEducator.com
(http://www.homeeducator.com/)

Austega's Gifted Resource Centre
(http://www.austega.com/gifted/index.htm)

Gifted Education Conference Proceedings
(http://www.nexus.edu.au/teachstud/gat/gat.htm -- no longer available)

Center for Talented Youth
(http://www.jhu.edu/gifted/about.html)

The National Research Center on the Gifted and Talented
(http://www.gifted.uconn.edu/nrcgt.html)

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