By Benjamin Lanka, Gannett Ohio
Newly proposed standards for identifying and educating Ohio’s gifted students would undermine those kids’ education by altering rules for teacher qualifications and cutting requirements for instruction time, an advocacy group says.
The Ohio Department of Education earlier this month released a draft proposal of operating standards for identifying and serving gifted students. On Monday, a committee for the state board of education heard informational testimony on the proposal, which is open for public comment through Sept. 20.
Ann Sheldon, executive director of the Ohio Association of Gifted Children, said her organization wants people to barrage the state with comments expressing concern over the proposed rules.
Her concerns were wide-ranging: The proposal reduces requirements for who can be a district’s gifted coordinator and eliminates requirements for how much instruction gifted students must receive.
“Apparently, whoever changed the draft didn’t care if gifted coordinators were actually qualified to fill the role,” she said. “They don’t believe in the value of trained professionals.”
A spokesman for the Ohio Department of Education said it would not comment on proposals until they are final. Sheldon said the proposal is part of an effort by the state to focus on outputs — how well students do — versus inputs — how much instruction students receive.
The problem, Sheldon said, is that measuring how well gifted students are progressing is difficult. The only existing benchmark, which is where the state’s report card grades came from, measures students in fourth through eighth grade in math and reading. In addition, she said some studies show a year’s worth of progress is not an adequate measure for a gifted student because they should be learning more.
School district report cards this year provided a letter grade showing how well the district’s gifted students advanced. Nearly half of all districts got a C, while 51 districts weren’t even graded because they lacked a sufficient gifted population.
Ohio schools currently identify how many gifted students they have and how many are served with specialized education plans — 21 percent of gifted students statewide were served under the existing state rules. Sheldon said the proposed changes would make it much easier to classify a student as served without actually giving them any educational benefit.
“It’s really just an illusion of accountability at that point,” she said.
The committee plans to vote on the proposal next month, and the full state board may vote in January.
Give feedbackPeople interested in commenting on the state’s proposed gifted standards should send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org by Sept. 20.
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