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Parent's Unofficial Guide to Gifted IEPs and Gifted IEP Meetings

(2/04)
By Todd McIntyre and Wayne Mery
Also visit Todd's site AppliedGiftedEd

click for printer-ready article

Preface:

Parents are the primary determinant regarding the course of their gifted child’s public education. This guide will help you, as a parent, understand your options and prepare you to make informed decisions regarding the direction of that course. To help you continue to make informed decisions, resources are listed at the end of this document.

Disclaimer:

This document was prepared by parents for parents - sharing their practical experiences, recommendations, and knowledge regarding gifted education. This Unofficial Guide is intended to help parents of gifted students understand options and consider approaches to developing a Gifted IEP and working with a school district. It does not replace the need for professional services. If you have a concern about your  child's rights to gifted education, consult with an attorney who is familiar with special education. If you have a concern over identification or assessment, seek the advice of a licensed school psychologist.

Attribution:

This document may be freely quoted and copied for personal use in the development of Gifted IEPs. Usage by non-profit groups is hereby granted, provided proper citation and attribution to the authors is provided. Commercial use is prohibited without explicit, written permission of the authors.

Comments and suggestions:

Your comments and suggestions to improve this document would be greatly appreciated. You may direct them to  toddhmcintyre@hotmail.com

Introduction:   

If you think your gifted child's experience in public school could be better matched to their needs, you are correct. If you do not know if your gifted child's experience could be better, then most likely it could be better. In either case, you as a parent have to know how to make it better, and act upon that information.

The purpose of this document is to present basic information about the Gifted IEP and Gifted IEP team meeting in a parent-friendly format. Invest fifteen to twenty minutes to gain an understanding of the basics of gifted education in Pennsylvania, and the requirements, procedures, and possibilities regarding giftedness in a public school setting.

Parents, teachers, and District administrators comprise the Gifted IEP team. Parents are equals with education professionals as members of their child's gifted education team. Indeed, though you are not the professional educator on the GIEP Team, at the end of the Gifted IEP meeting you are the only member of the educational team asked and required to approve your child's proposed plan. Knowledge about your role and responsibilities makes you a better partner with your district, not an adversary. (It may surprise you to learn that many schools do not correctly or fully understand the basic rights and responsibilities that apply to children identified as being 'gifted'. As a result of this, if you
rely solely on your school, those rights and responsibilities may be misrepresented.)

There is a considerable amount of public information available to the parent of a gifted child in Pennsylvania. This source material includes Chapter 16: Special Education for Gifted Students, the Basic Education Circular for Gifted Education, and Appeals Panel Decisions from the Office for Dispute Resolution. Were you to take the time to read all of the public information, you would discover two concepts apply to gifted children while they are in a public school. Understanding these two concepts is key to making appropriate decisions about your gifted child's education. The two concepts are these:

  1. "Gifted" has a specific meaning. In educational terms, 'Gifted' means that the child has an educational need in one ore more subject areas.

    Giftedness is not a good thing, a nice thing, or related to doing well in a regular education class. Gifted is not any other type of "thing" in particular. The term identifies a need. For the purposes of education law in Pennsylvania the term "gifted" applies to a child who learns differently enough from most other children to require measures and methods beyond those used in the normal grade-level taken in the classroom.

    Kids who are gifted need something different, that is all.
     
  2. A gifted child's educational needs must be identified using a calculation that is reasonable and met through a plan called the Gifted IEP designed to provide an education of meaningful benefit to the child.

    First the need must be identified. Then the scope and nature of the need must be determined using objective criteria. After that happens a plan created to address those specific needs. Simply put, the school must plan to meet the needs of each gifted child based on each child's individual needs.

    An appropriate plan is part of the Free, Appropriate Public Education, referred to as FAPE, your district provides to its students. "Gifted" is not a program that the child attends, it is a plan that.

Every child has educational needs that are unique. However, the majority of the student population's unique needs can be met meaningfully in the “regular education” environment. This fact is why school districts have a regular education environment; it meets the needs of the majority of their students.

However, children who are gifted by definition have needs that differ from the majority. Gifted students have needs that cannot be met meaningfully using only the regular, unaltered education curriculum. The result is that Gifted IEPs are, by definition, education plans individualized according to each gifted student’s needs.

State Educational Code and Pennsylvania Department of Education Policy precludes gifted students from having a 'one-size-fits-all' Gifted IEP. The Gifted IEP must be based on the student's needs. Chapter 16, the Department of Education's Basic Education Circular for Gifted, and Appeals Panel Decisions are consistent on this point: The student’s individual gifted needs must first be identified using objective criteria and then accommodated in a way which is meaningful to the student. This ‘requirement to individualize’ remains even when the student is among a grouped population of gifted students or if the student participates in a gifted pull-out program.

By extension, meeting the needs of the individual gifted child also precludes limiting services and accommodations to gifted pull-out programs or other types of “group oriented gifted programs”. Pullout Programs (e.g. 'Challenge Programs', GATE Programs) are popular and common. But, by themselves, pull-out programs are not enough.

This bears repeating:

A part-time gifted pull-out program alone does not, and likely cannot, meet the educational needs of a gifted student. A Gifted IEP that consists of a pull-out program does not satisfy the requirements provided for in Chapter 16.

Even with a gifted pull-out program in place, even a program your child likes very much, the gifted student may spend upwards of 95% of their time a Regular Education classroom. Pullout programs of an hour or two per week and/or Gifted Seminar programs are best when used in conjunction with modifications to the gifted student's regular education programming.

Regular education is where problems develop. And regular education is where a Gifted IEP should be focused. For example, the pace at which a course is taught in a regular education classroom may create a problem for a gifted child. The gifted child may learn faster than the group as a whole. There may be significant amount of repetition during the instruction. Left unaddressed, these discrepancies could cause the child to develop a poor attitude towards school.

These problems may not show up quickly. What starts off as a mild problem in elementary school could become a big one by high school. It is easier to address problems earlier rather than later.

A Gifted IEP that includes simple modifications to the Regular Educational program, discussed later, may make a huge improvement your child's daily experience in the classroom. Remember: situations in a regular education classroom are addressable through the Gifted IEP.

If your child has highly differentiated needs (e.g. the child is highly/profoundly gifted or the child has a dual classification such as LD/Gifted) then it follows that your child must have a highly differentiated program to meet those needs.

General Observations:

The general observations below are recurring comments from parents’ experiences with Gifted Education, and the Gifted IEP in particular. They likely apply in whole or part to your situation. They are:

  1. You were not told that you are an equal partner in the Gifted IEP process, that it would be a working meeting, and that you should bring your own ideas to the meeting.
  2. You did not know that the Team could write accommodations for the regular classroom into the Gifted IEP.
  3. You were not told how to ask for present level educational performance assessment testing and that the team can use that testing result o develop accommodations to the plan during the Gifted IEP meeting.
  4. You were told that "The Gifted Program" is 'enrichment only' and that grade or subject acceleration is not allowed and against District policy
  5. You were told that your child had to make up Regular Education homework missed due to Gifted Pullout programming.
  6. You were told that the District’s "Pullout Program" was the full-fledged "Gifted Program. "
  7. You know your child is not being challenged, that they are possibly developing poor study habits, and/or your child is becoming content with doing below-ability level work, and you are growing concerned.
  8. Your child is getting A’s and because of that you were told your child does not need anything more or require special attention.
  9. You thought the District would be happy to have an able learner in their school and that the District would be willing to work with you to develop a plan. You are a bit mystified by the District's reluctant approach to accepting and addressing your child's giftedness.
  10. You might be confused, perhaps even angry, to learn your child had programming options you did not know about.
  11. You assumed your district knows, correctly interprets, and implements the gifted educational law on your child’s behalf. You may be surprised, even angry, to find out that the District might not be correctly interpreting and implementing those laws.
  12. You are surprised the District does not accept your suggestions.

There may be other issues specific to your District, but the situations listed above are common, recurring comments from parents of gifted students.

Preparation:

As you prepare to participate in your child’s Gifted IEP, a certain amount of knowledge is necessary prior to sitting down with the Gifted IEP team. This knowledge includes 1) your role in the process, 2) the parts of the Gifted IEP itself, and 3) how those parts relate to each other within the plan. You should also be familiar with, and have copies of, the results of the tests given to your child to identify them as gifted. Also, you should have current tests and results from subsequent achievement level testing. You are entitled to copies of these test results and reports. Generally you can ask the school for a copy of your child's educational files and you will be given whatever form is needed. It is a good practice to keep copies of the results in a file you create. This parent file should include information that is not in your child’s guidance files. For example, your file may include education and other psychological test results, which are in the school psychologist’s files.

Lastly, you should have a basic understanding of educational terms and concepts like 'acceleration' and 'enrichment'. These will be discussed later. While you are not expected to understand them to the depth that a professional educator does, nor are you expected to become a 'teacher' during the process, a basic understanding of the terms will allow you to participate in the planning more effectively.

Many parents enter the Gifted IEP meeting without a good understanding of their role in the meeting. They believe they are there simply to approve a plan that has already been created, the contents of which cannot be modified. They are mistaken. To be effective, it is important to understand why you are at the Gifted IEP meeting.

First: Know Your Role

This is a fundamental point: At the end of the Gifted IEP meeting, you, as the parent, will be asked to approve your child's Gifted IEP. You are the one who says 'yes' or 'no' to the proposed Gifted IEP.

Therefore, as the parent, you must be prepared to insist that the Gifted IEP address your gifted child's needs. You will need to help the Gifted IEP team create a plan that does. The Gifted IEP meeting is a working session centered on the student. It is more than a presentation by the school district of “their gifted plan” to you.

As a parent and member of the team, you can identify issues and offer suggestions for discussion. It is perfectly acceptable to say during the Gifted Parent's IEP meeting that you believe your child is not being (or likely will not be) challenged in a particular course or by a particular pull-out program.

You can mention that you believe your child has an educational need that the proposed Gifted IEP is not addressing. You can ask for that need to be determined and then addressed in the Gifted IEP. You should insist that the present level of educational performance be properly determined and that your child be given ability level work based on that level. If you are concerned about your child improving their study habits, say so.

Work with the team to develop a plan that seeks to improve a needed skill. If you believe that your child would benefit from participating in a particular course in the curriculum, even if that course is not at first offered by the school or at your child’s grade level, then discuss that. Once those issues are identified, you then have a conversation with the team.

During the Gifted IEP meeting you can speak in plain language. Parents do not need to learn educational jargon or Teacher-Speak to participate. In fact, it is a requirement within Chapter 16 and it is Pennsylvania Department of Education policy that the Gifted IEP be free of jargon and easily understood.

If during the meeting a teacher or administrator uses a term or makes a statement that you do not understand, ask for an explanation. Ask for help. You are not a professional educator. Nor are you expected to be.

Again, understand your role. You will be asked to approve your child's Gifted IEP. Ask questions until you understand what the proposed plan means to your child. It is in the educational professionals' interest to make sure you understand the proposed plan.

At the end of the meeting you will be asked to sign a Notice of Recommended Assignment (NORA). The NORA is the document you sign
which allows the District to implement the proposed Gifted IEP. In effect, you are giving permission to the District to begin providing the educational services. You do not have to approve the NORA and being the Gifted IEP at the meeting.

In fact, it is a good practice not to sign the NORA at the meeting. Take some time and think about whether the plan being proposed fits your kid. Ask for a copy of proposed plan to take home with you.

According to Chapter 16 you get five (5) days to decide if a proposed GIEP is appropriate for your child if it is presented to you at the end of the meeting. You have ten (10) days to decide if your District mails a copy of the proposed Gifted IEP.

Take the time allotted to think about whether the plan 'makes sense'. Read the Gifted IEP again, and sleep on it - see if the plan 'makes sense' for your kid. If something is unclear you can seek clarification. If you need to, you can meet again with the Gifted IEP team or have additional wording put into the Gifted IEP to clarify its meaning.

Approve the plan only if it does 'make sense'. An option you have is this: If parts of the plan do not make sense, you may either: a) sign the NORA and write exceptions on the NORA stating the area(s) which you do not accept or b) reject the Gifted IEP in total.

To use the Gifted IEP meeting time effectively, you will need to understand why you are there.

Second: Understand the Purpose of the Gifted IEP

The Gifted IEP is not 'The Program' or even 'A Program'.
The Gifted IEP is your child's Plan.

This bears repeating:

The School District’s Gifted Program is not the same thing as your gifted child's Plan.

Ideally, Gifted IEPs are highly individualized documents. They are developed by involved parents, in cooperation with teachers and administrators who are in-serviced (trained) on gifted education issues. The Gifted IEP meeting should consist of three people at a minimum - the parent, a teacher familiar with the child, and a person in the district who knows about and can commit resources. Other people, for example another teacher, may attend.

Properly individualized Gifted IEPs offer a clearly drawn roadmap to both Gifted Education and Regular Education teachers on how to help the gifted child benefit meaningfully throughout their week in classes. The Gifted IEP consists of four main parts that will be discussed in depth in the next section. The four sections are these:

  1. Present Levels of Educational Performance
  2. Goals
  3. Short Term Learning Outcomes
  4. Specially Designed Instruction

Note: For completeness, here is the direct wording from Chapter 16 relating to the Gifted IEP. Chapter 16 is the section of the Educational Code that applies directly to Giftedness:

Sect. 16.32(e) The GIEP of each gifted student shall be based on the GMDT's [Ed note: Gifted Multidisciplinary Team] recommendations and shall contain the following:

(1) Statement of the student's present levels of educational performance

(2) Statement of annual goals and short-term learning outcomes, which are responsive to the learning, needs identified in the evaluation report.

(3) Statement of the specially designed instruction and support services are provided to the student.

(4) Projected dates for initiation and anticipated duration of gifted education.

(5) Appropriate objective criteria, assessment procedures, and timelines for determining, on at least an annual basis, whether the goals and learning outcomes are being an achieved.

(6) The names and positions of GIFTED IEP team participants and the date of the meeting.

Each section of the Gifted IEP is important in its own right. Taken together, these sections comprise a document that describes the child's abilities and needs and offers a plan that recognizes the abilities while meeting the needs. The Gifted IEP should be written such that it could be handed to a teacher, and, after the teacher reads it, they would educate the gifted child appropriately. To accomplish this the Gifted IEP needs to be clearly and completely written.

While composed of parts, the Gifted IEP is not a complicated document.

Third: Parts of the Gifted IEP

There are four (4) parts to the Gifted IEP. They are:

  1. Present Levels of Educational Performance,
  2. Goals,
  3. Short Term Learning Outcomes, and
  4. Specially Designed Instruction.

In lay terms, the sections ask the following questions:

bulletWhere is the student now?
bulletWhere does the student need to go?
bulletWhen do they get there?
bulletHow are they going to get there?
bulletWhat do they need to do to get there?

The content of the sections answers those questions.

Section 1 - Present Levels of Educational Performance (PLEP):

Editor's Note: Todd has given us a great elaboration on Present Levels of Educational Performance (PLEPs) - be sure to read it!

Chapter 16: Special Education for Gifted Students calls for Present Level of Educational Performance to be established across all academic areas for the gifted student. The PLEP is established through appropriate objective assessment. The student's present level needs to be established on an as needed, or, at a minimum, on a yearly basis. This rarely happens.

It is common for Gifted IEP teams to rely on the student's outdated psychological test scores, recent report cards, or older performance test information when creating the Gifted IEP. That is a mistake.

A report card by itself does not constitute a Present Level of Educational Performance. Report cards measure how the child did relative to material already presented. Also, report cards do not reflect the actual performance capacity of the child. For example, a student might be capable of working at a level 2-3 grades higher than their current curriculum.

In that situation, the gifted student might get an 'A' in the class, or - depending on the child - they might get a 'C' in the class. It is possible that the gifted child might fail that course due to lack of interest.

Regardless of the grade received in that course, that gifted student would still be working up to three grades below their capability. That student would not be working at their present level of educational performance. This is why the student's present level needs to be assessed through objective testing.

To use a medical analogy, when your child goes for a yearly well-check, the child is weighed and measured each visit. The nurse does not look at the past several visits and plot the next point where it should be based on the history. The child is assessed using objective measurements, a scale to measure weight and a tape measure to determine height.

Similarly, an accurate PLEP requires objective testing to be performed prior to the plan being developed. Some examples of appropriate testing will be given later in this document. Subjective observations like those offered by teachers familiar with your child are useful in preparing a Gifted IEP. However, teacher observations or curriculum 'strength/weakness' checklists do not establish your child's true Present Level of Educational Performance (PLEP).

A Note on "Above Grade Level"

The phrase 'above grade level' by itself is meaningless in terms of planning appropriate gifted educational programming for a student. It has no place in a Gifted IEP.

If the phrase 'Above Grade Level' is in your child's Gifted IEP you must insist that the level be defined fully; you must insist that a specific grade level be determined. That is a requirement in Chapter 16.

The phrase ‘above grade level’ is defined by establishing the child's present level (their actual above grade learning level) through appropriate testing. There are any number of achievement tests an evaluator or school psychologist can administer to establish the true "Present Level" for your child's educational performance.

Remember: 'Above grade level' is the equivalent of being told that a child is 'taller than 4 feet' before going shopping for clothes. The team must now what that current educational level is before they can make a plan. That information should be gathered prior to the meeting so that the team can use it during the meeting.

The main point is this: Without good objective data regarding the child’s abilities, the Gifted IEP team, regardless of the teaching experience of the people at the table, is just guessing. Do not let that happen. Ask, and insist, that the appropriate tests be given.

You should not have to provide a list of tests to your District. They are obligated to know what tests are appropriate. However, if you are asked what tests you would like your child to be given, your answer should be 'nationally normed achievement tests. Examples of these types of tests include KeyMath, Grays Silent Reading, Test of Written Language, among many others. Once you insist that the achievement testing be done, the school psychologist should make the recommendations regarding which tests will be given.

Sections 2-3) Goals & Short Term Outcomes:

Goals must be meaningful. Goals must be meaningful to the student to whom they are applied. Goals must also ‘make sense’ with regard to the overall plan for your gifted child's education. Goals are determined by the identified needs and the desired end result. Nice ideas are not goals. Aphorisms and program mottos are not goals either.

Goals need to be specific to your child, not given to your child because the child is part of a group. Goals themselves do not need to be specific and measurable. The Gifted IEP must allow time and provide resources for the student have the opportunity to reach the plan's goals.

Time and resources needed are planned for in the Short Term Learning Objectives (STLO) section. While Goals do not need to be measurable, STLO associated with reaching the Goals must be specific and measurable. Short-term learning objectives are the 'little' steps taken to reach each goal. Their completion provides the basis by which the team measures your child's progress towards each goal.

From a parent's perspective these two sections should "make sense" when taken together. The Goals and STLO must also make sense to any teacher who teaches your child.

If these two sections do not make sense, for example if the Goals are too generic or if the Goals and STLOs taken together are too vague, too sketchy, and too superficial to be meaningful, you must say so.

If a goal or short term learning outcome is unclear or not appropriate, describe in plain language why you think the proposed goal does not make sense for your child. Explain why you think the outcome is too vague. Discuss why you think both the goal and short term learning outcomes being proposed while appropriate for a group of gifted kids are inappropriate for your specific gifted child. Ask whether goals need to be added. There can be more than one goal. Also, think long term (i.e. years).

This part of the meeting would be a good time to talk about your ideas, hopes, and goals for your child's upcoming year.

A Note on Goals and STLOs:

The Gifted IEP can be thought of as a framework that generally guides the teachers rather than forcing the teacher to teach to a set of specific actions that was decided on months earlier.

The Gifted IEP at the start of the year creates the overall goals and then provides the measurable timeline within that year that certain tasks are to be accomplished. A goal that is a general allows the teacher to work with the student to identify an appropriate subject and then develop the specifics of the short term learning outcomes with the student according to the timeline.

The STLO section includes the ‘little steps’ necessary to accomplish the Goal. This approach allows the teacher to work with and adapt to the student, but also ensures that progress is being made towards the Goal.

4) Specially Designed Instruction (SDI)

This section provides a general 'catch-all’ way to match the classroom experience to your child's particular needs. The SDI Parent's section is where specific issues or challenges your gifted child faces with their schooling are addressed.

The Specially Designed Instruction section is also where programming options you and your child think should be part of School District's Gifted Program can be included. If your child is having problems, especially in the Regular Education environment, the SDI section is the best place to address those problems.

Before discussing the options available to you and the Gifted IEP team in 'Specially Designed Instruction' section, there are three points to consider:

1) There is no "division" between Gifted Education and Regular Education for Gifted children.

The "Challenge Program" or "GATE Program" or "Enrichment Hour" or pull-out is not, repeat not, the extent of Gifted Education accommodations available to your child, regardless in which School District you reside and regardless of who tells you that it is.

The Chapter 16 Code, the Basic Education Circular, Appeals Panel Decisions, along with common sense and your own experience as a parent, tells you that a gifted child does not switch on at certain predictable times for a certain duration and then switch off. Their needs persist.

Therefore, the needs of the gifted student must be addressed in both Gifted Education settings like Pull-Out programs or Seminar Programs and in the Regular Education environment. If your District tells you that your child will only get "This Gifted Pull-Out Program. Period." then your District has seriously misrepresented your child's rights and their own obligations. You will need to let them know that you understand their obligations.

If the District takes a hard line stance with you, for example if they refuse to appropriately plan for your child, then you will have to make a fundamental decision whether advocating for the needs of your gifted child at Gifted IEP meetings, and possibly going through a Due Process Hearing, is worth your time and effort. But know there are people who can help you make an informed decision.

2) Teachers cannot deny the Gifted IEP

The most effective way to have an appropriate plan developed and mplemented is to involve Regular Education teachers in the Gifted IEP process.

You can request that your child's Regular Education teacher be invited to the Gifted IEP meeting. A teacher familiar with your child should be there anyway. The person to ask is the LEA/Team Chairperson. All teachers are required to abide by the provisions written in the Gifted IEP.

If a teacher refuses to implement the plan, (for example the Gifted IEP calls for differentiated homework, pre-testing, or alternate class work and it is not done) then you must immediately reconvene the Gifted IEP team to address the issue or go to Due Process to have the plan implemented. If a teacher objects to the Gifted IEP, they can add their written objections to the record.

But the Gifted IEP as proposed by the Gifted IEP team and approved by you must be implemented.

3) Regular Education teachers can read all sections of the Gifted IEP.

Teachers need to understand what is in the Gifted IEP of a student in their class. There is no FERPA or any privacy restriction preventing any regular or gifted education teacher from looking at all sections of a child's Gifted IEP.

There may be District procedures in place to protect the privacy of the student record. For example, the District may require a Regular Education teacher to sign a log-sheet before they read the Gifted IEP. The District may have other privacy practices in place, but the Regular Education teachers can and should know what is in your gifted child's file.

If you think your child's teacher is not aware of your child's Gifted IEP, or the fact that your child is identified as gifted, ask the teacher. You may want to bring your copy of both the Gifted Written Report and the Gifted IEP with you to a regular Parent/Teacher conference for discussion.

Accommodations / Modifications:

Having read this far, you might be asking yourself:

Okay, so what do I ask for during the Gifted IEP meeting? What sorts of things can I get for my kid?

The Background

You can ask for anything that is reasonably calculated to be of meaningful benefit to your child to be written into the Gifted IEP. The good news is that there are no restrictions on what you can ask for. The only limit is that you ask for things that are 'reasonably calculated' to be of 'meaningful educational benefit' to your child using the District's curriculum.

The bad news is you might be breaking new ground within your District. This is especially true if your District typically used pull-out programs only or does not regularly include regular education accommodations for gifted.

In that situation you might ask for something that seems 'reasonable' the District might respond along the lines of: "Well, this is the first time any parent has ever asked us for anything like this to be done.", or "None of our other parents have asked for this". You might get the sense that what you are asking for is a bother for them or a waste of their time.

Whether or not your requested accommodation is a first for the District is not relevant, and is not a reason for rejecting your request. What is relevant is whether or not the requested accommodation is appropriate for your child. That is the benchmark by which accommodations are written into the Gifted IEP.

Options:

It's always worthwhile to ask that alternatives and accommodations be considered. Here are examples of accommodations in Specially Designed Instruction for Regular Education:

Differentiated homework – Differentiated homework allows the child to do a different set of homework instead of the regularly assigned class homework. This accommodation can help avoid the punitive aspect of gifted programming of doing twice the homework.

This accommodation provides an opportunity to keep the child engaged in their learning and helps them avoid repetitive/rote work. Some examples for this could include writing 2 longer stories per week rather than 5 short stories, having an extra set of vocabulary words, but only doing homework on the extra set, doing 'Math Puzzlers' for homework rather than rote work.

Differentiating homework may require the parent to take an active role at first in recommending resources for the child. You may have to help coordinate the activities between the Gifted Ed teacher and the Regular Ed teacher

Pre-Testing – Pre-testing is the process of giving a student a test on the material prior to classroom instruction. Pretesting is used to prevent a student from sitting through a chapter’s presentation on material that they have already mastered. This can help keep the gifted student engaged in their learning. To know when to pretest, it is crucial that the Team know the current level at which the student performs. This is documented in the first section of the Gifted IEP, the Present Levels of Educational Performance.

If the child passes the pre-test, and the Team can determine what constitutes 'passing', the student has the opportunity to do an alternate assignment rather than sit through the teaching presentation. The exact procedure detailing how this takes place is documented in the Gifted IEP.

The question becomes 'What result demonstrates mastery?" It is an open question and one where the teachers can provide guidance. Some people believe the proper level is 90% or above, others believe it should be 'C' or better. If the student shows near-mastery of the material, the material they missed can be compacted for study. This enables the student to work on that specific portion of the curriculum and then go on to the independent work during the remaining time.

Independent Study Agreements - these can be used to keep the student learning during times when they might otherwise be sitting and waiting for the opportunity to learn. The student has a project or series of small projects on which they can work over the course of a semester when there's time. As the Gifted IEP is one plan composed of part, the Study Agreements should help the student achieve a Goal. 

Acceleration – Acceleration is a ‘big’ decision. There are social and emotional considerations to be considered in addition to the academic ones. A decision involving acceleration highlights the need for the team to have good, objective present level data about the student’s current and potential educational performance.

While acceleration is not always a good thing, the research data shows that more frequently than not, a student working with ability-appropriate material in the classroom is a good thing. Acceleration can be either in a particular subject or it can be a whole grade. The student can, if needed, be 'straddled' across grades.

If your child needs acceleration to benefit meaningfully from their time in Public Education, they can be accelerated, regardless of your District's policies. In some instances, Districts state that they have policies that are better thought of by parents as preferences.

Your District may have a preference against acceleration, even a strong preference that they may state in forceful terms to you. If they do this, do not be dissuaded. Gifted education is based on the student, not the District. If the student’s needs are such that acceleration is the only means for them to receive meaningful benefit, then the child must be accelerated.

In short: your District cannot have a strict policy against acceleration.

SDI and addressing your unique needs - The SDI Section is the one place you can creatively address your gifted child’s issues without having to change an entire District policy. Gather information from other parents about what has worked for their children, attend a PAGE conference to learn what teachers are doing in their classroom, read through Hoagies' Gifted Education Page (www.hoagiesgifted.com) to help understand what resources are available, ask for ideas for accommodations on PAGElist, talk to other parents in your District about their experiences.

Lastly, when preparing for the Gifted IEP meeting, don't forget to talk with your child. In the days leading up to the meeting ask about their thoughts. Try to find out their ideas as best you can, and share them with the Gifted IEP Team. Do not guarantee your child results. Simply let them know you will go and try.

During the Meeting:

The other members of the team might balk at any or all of your requests you make during the Gifted IEP meeting. If they do, try to find out the reason why they are hesitant. Talk about the accommodations and have somebody on the Team explain why the accommodation is not being written into the Gifted IEP.

The basic question: "Is this request appropriate for my child?" If the answer is 'no', then ask for the reason. Write the reason down, have a conversation about the situation. Once you understand the reasoning, repeat back the whole scenario to them from the child’s point of view.

Taking this approach can highlight educational issues the gifted child is facing. It also refocuses the meeting back onto the student rather than a discussion of District policies. At times, though, this conversation can take on a 'Through the Looking Glass' aspect.

For example:

You: "So, we have the testing results and my Sixth grade child is ready to do Ninth Grade math, but he/she will be entering Sixth grade and have to do Sixth grade material because as District Policy you do not believe in acceleration – and, as a result, my kid will have to do all the regular assignments in Sixth grade math, despite the fact that they could do that work a year ago?"

District: "Yes."

You: "Okay, now I understand your position. Will they be given higher level enrichment material or can they be pre-tested and given other assignments during class if they pass the pretest."

District: ‘No’

You: ‘Oh’

Those types of conversations can be frustrating. Should a conversation like the one above happen, understand that you will have a clear understanding of the District's Policies and Practices. You have gained important information. Also, by repeating the scenario back to the Gifted IEP team during the meeting you can highlight the educational issues involved rather than the policy issues. If this type of dialogue occurs, there is hope for progress. This discussion may help the Team rethink the issue. There could be discussion. This discussion could identify alternate approaches to address the student’s educational issues. In turn, this discussion could lead to simple modifications to a Gifted IEP such that it becomes appropriate for the student.

That paragraph contains many hypotheticals. But, in practice, the conversation and clarification that results from discussion is important. It will help you as you decide which course your gifted child's education will follow.

Fourth: The Gifted IEP in Action

The Gifted IEP meeting is used to review the effectiveness of the plan, not your child.

The Plan fails the child; the child does not fail the plan.

If your gifted child has problems in class or has had problems adjusting to the present,perhaps inappropriate, Gifted IEP, then those problems need to be addressed. First, the problems have to be properly identified. This is especially true if you are in a situation where, for years, the Gifted IEP did not address your gifted child’s needs. Once the possibility of failure exists in any class, you are facing a potential need to change the child's educational situation. This potential change due to a failure is cause to reconvene the Gifted IEP team. At the reconvened meeting you discuss the problem, assess the situation, consider alternatives, and work out a solution that is appropriate for the child. In effect, you modify the plan.

If you think it is necessary, you can ask the Team to write that ‘problem’ notification into the Gifted IEP itself. Ask to have a statement that addresses this ‘problem situation’ be added to the Gifted IEP. An example of this type of notification is this: "In the event there is a potential for failure in a class or a significant negative change in performance in a subject, or it becomes likely that a Goal will not be met, the Gifted IEP Team will reconvene in a timely fashion to address the matter. The Subject teacher of the course involved will be present at the Gifted IEP meeting to assist in making changes to the Gifted IEP".

Despite the team's efforts, your child might still fail. If this happens, reconsider the Present Levels of Educational Performance, consider what information from testing would be needed, ask questions, and gain additional information to make the next plan an appropriate plan. If you believe that the Gifted IEP team does not have the expertise to do this, the Gifted IEP Team can make use of expertise throughout the Commonwealth in creating your child’s plan. Do not be afraid to ask that that outside help become involved.

Consider this: The whole point of, the whole reason for, the Gifted IEP is that your child learns "differently". The gifted child learns differently enough from most other children to require something other than a standard curriculum and a standard educational approach. The Gifted IEP is not a series of programs that the child attends. It is a plan that needs to be monitored and adapted as the gifted child's need change over time.

Conclusion:

Having read, or glanced over, all of this information, you will likely forget most of it within the first five minutes of your next Gifted IEP meeting. Don't worry. Should you find yourself blanking out during the meeting or forgetting what you were going to say, just remember to ask yourself one question:

"Does this statement, and does this plan make sense for my child?"

A notepad with your ideas already jotted down can help. Also, you should take notes as the meeting progresses. At the end of the meeting plan on taking the Gifted IEP home with you and thinking the plan over. Ask for a copy of any notes made on the draft copy used by the District. Do not sign the NORA at the meeting.

Once you have the proposed Gifted IEP in hand and gave had a chance to think it over, the only question to answer is this:

Is this Plan appropriate for my child?

If the plan is appropriate and complete, and worded to your satisfaction, only then do you approve it.

Remember that, and you will do fine.

Appendix A: A Note About Homework:

Homework is a recurring issue for gifted students and parents of gifted students. Failing to do homework may cause gifted kids to have lower grades or even fail courses. The 'Gifted' classification seems at times to generate a punitive amount of homework. Should the gifted student, by virtue of being gifted, end up having to do two sets of homework, one set for Regular Education and another for Gifted Education, they may come to resent being identified as 'gifted.'

If homework is causing a problem, whether it is the amount of homework, timeliness in completing the assignment, or a general attitude ‘problem’, remember: You can address those problems caused by homework in the 'Specially Designed Instruction' section of the Gifted IEP.

In most cases, homework is assigned to reinforce what a child has learned in the classroom. That purpose that might not apply to your gifted child, who 'gets it' the first time and does not need repetition to remember it.

Rather than doing a rote or repetitious assignment, you can ask at the Gifted IEP meeting that your child work on a different facet of the material presented if indicated. The student could apply the lesson learned in the classroom by doing an alternate assignment or working on a longer-term study project.

During the Gifted IEP meeting you can suggest that alternate assignments be given when appropriate. Bear in mind that the alternate assignments should take a similar amount of time as the Regular Education homework. For example, rather than doing 100 rote-work math problems, your child could do 10 more difficult or challenging problems, rather than write each word ten times or write simple sentences using spelling words for homework, your child write a short story or a poem using the words.

Completing assignments on time is a skill that is developed. If the gifted student’s inability to perform that skill is causing a problem, address it in the Plan. If the problem has been allowed to develop over time, the team should expect that it will be addressed over time.

According to the Pennsylvania Department of Education, homework does not have to be done to pass a course. Homework requirements are a local District/Teacher policy or preference decision.

And, don’t forget to ask your child for good ideas. They might surprise you.

Appendix B: Links

These sites offer good general information that won't overwhelm a person just starting to get familiar with giftedness issues. There are two types of sites, 1) those that deal with PA school-specific issues, and 2) those that address gifted issues in general.

Pennsylvania Public School-Related Sites regarding Giftedness

- Parent's Guide to Gifted Education -
www.pde.state.pa.us/gifted_ed/lib/gifted_ed/20/59/guidetext.pdf  (requires Adobe)

*A Must Read* Clear language, easy-to-read summary of Gifted Education in Pennsylvania. This is an official publication by the Pennsylvania Department of Education. Read, and re-read the Guide. Print a copy. Mark it up. Believe it.

- The Basic Education Circular regarding Gifted - (The BEC)
www.pde.state.pa.us/k12/cwp/view.aspA=11&Q=91423

This BEC was sent by the PDE to every school District. BECs are written for an audience of District administrators and teachers. The BEC summarizes and clarifies the District's obligations to its gifted students.

- Chapter 16: Special Education for Gifted Students -
www.pabulletin.com/secure/data/vol30/30-50/2124.html

Chapter 16 contains the rules for Gifted Education in Pennsylvania. Chapter 16 is, in the words of the Appeals Panel in one of their decisions - "clearly drafted".

- Gifted Guidelines -
www.pde.state.pa.us/gifted_ed/cwp/view.asp?a=3&Q=100383

*A Must Read* Gifted Guidelines was released in February 2004. It restates and clarifies PDE positions regarding the providing of Gifted education services, and is designed “to assist school districts in identifying mentally gifted students and implementing comprehensive programs to meet their needs” However, this document is equally valuable to parents, as it contains background materials, explanation of terms and processes, and provided checklists and tools that are useful in creating an appropriate plan. The Guidelines are a must-read for all parents of gifted students in Pennsylvania.

- The Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) Gifted Ed -
www.pde.state.pa.us/gifted_ed/

The PDE site regarding Gifted Ed has Pennsylvania requirements along with sample and explanatory information (for example the Annotated Gifted IEP and Annotated Gifted Written Report give explanations on the reports and the sections). It is a terrific source of information on gifted educational programs and services available through the PDE. Your child may qualify for these programs. If so, you might need to bring this fact to the attention of your District.

- Office of Dispute Resolution -
www.pattan.k12.pa.us/ODR/

This site includes information about both Due Process and Mediation hearings. They are separate, distinct processes. Also, ODR's site lists Appeals Panels decisions, which summarize concepts in Gifted Education within Pennsylvania in layman's terms. The Appeals Decisions are indexed by category and by number.

- PAGE's Website -
www.penngifted.org

Great layout and summary of Gifted Education issues. Read PAGE's site, use the links provided, and then join the organization. Check back as PAGE updates their information periodically.

General Sites regarding Giftedness

Hundreds of sites deal with 'giftedness' in one form or another. These three happen to be great places to start looking at information.

- Hoagies' Gifted Education Page -
www.hoagiesgifted.com

*A Must Visit* This is a terrific source of information on giftedness, and should be a frequent stop as you gather information and consider your options. HoagiesGifted has information on testing, interpretation, parent support lists, and links to other resources.

- "Uniquely Gifted - Resources for Gifted Children with Special Needs” -
www.uniquelygifted.org

Giftedness can be present with learning disabilities and/or other medical conditions. This site provides an overview of 'Gifted & Special Needs' issues and links to other resources. Depending on the severity of the LD involved, your student’s situation can be addressed through either Chapter 14 IEPs that include accommodations for Giftedness, or through Chapter 15 Service Agreements in combination with Gifted IEPs. Your child can have all their needs met, gifted and otherwise. Appropriate and complete assessment is crucial. Insist that it happen.

- Supporting the Emotional Needs of the Gifted (SENG) -
www.sengifted.org

In addition to academic issues, gifted children have social and emotional needs. SENG presents information for parents on the social and emotional needs of gifted kids both in the classroom and at home.

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resource is a book Adobe Download Adobe Reader Get Adobe Reader
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Back Home Up

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Order cheetah shirts & mugs
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