For the record, I sent this email to my BESE rep Jim Garvey’s official BESE email last week before the votes on the MFP changes.
No response yet.
I am looking at the materials for tomorrow’s Admin and Finance Committee meeting, and have some concerns about the proposed changes to the MFP related to Gifted/Talented programming.
From my reading, the previous formula was to weight 1.6 times the MFP base for the gifted/talented (G/T) students, and that will remain at 1.6 for PK-8. For high school, it will drop to 1.3 or 30% for G/T, and the other 30% will be used as incentive for high schools to have students counted in a High Standards cohort, as follows:
o Students in 8th grade that [sic] score excellent on Algebra I End Of Course (EOC) tests
o Students in 9th grade who score excellent on Geometry End Of Course (EOC) tests or score a 3 or higher on an Advanced Placement (AP) exam
o Students in 10th grade who score 3 or higher on an Advanced Placement (AP) exam
o Students in 11th grade who score a 3 or higher on an Advanced Placement (AP) exam or a 4+ on an International Bachelorette (IB)Course
My primary concern is that the administrators at DOE are apparently ignorant of the very basic distinction between the intellectually gifted and academic high-achievers. Intellectually gifted students are frequently dual-exceptional (with both giftedness and learning disabilities), or have distinct emotional or social needs that are addressed by the G/T teacher in the G/T classroom. The gifted classroom is not the equivalent of the honors or AP classroom. There are decades of research on the theory and practice of G/T education that can be referenced here.
The same is true for the talented arts education. Artistic talent does not automatically correspond to academic achievement.
A second concern is that the state is shifting the support used to provide the appropriate education required under state law, without any consideration of whether the current level of funding is appropriate, too high, or too low – again, showing an ignorance of or lack of consideration for G/T practice in the state. I did not see any justification for the change in the MFP proposal, suggesting that it was not based on any factual finding about the cost or effectiveness of LA G/T programs.
I’m all for encouraging high academic standards and challenging coursework, but G/T kids should not be treated as interchangeable with hard-working honors students.
There are a few other questions this leaves open -
- Which students are in the high school High Standards cohort for 2013-2014? The students who achieved these results in 2012-2013? That seems most likely, the way it’s worded for students in grades 8-11.
- What happens with students like mine, who achieved the High Standards criteria in Algebra or Geometry in 7th and 8th grades? Will they not contribute to the High Standards count as 9th graders?
- Is the state’s new expectation that students will be taking AP courses starting in 9th grade? That would be quite a leap for Louisiana. It would be very rare for a school to have APs available for freshmen, and there are typically only a limited number for the more ambitious sophomores even at the schools with the largest AP offerings. BESE Bulletin 741 Section 2325 lists the correspondence between LA state courses and APs; most APs are equivalent to high-level courses (years 4-5 of foreign languages, junior and senior English III and IV, and advanced math courses) not offered to freshmen and sophomores.
- The most rigorous AP courses respected widely by colleges are in the core subjects, most in the junior and senior years. It will be extremely difficult for a high school to offer these, and also to make AP coursework accessible to the high-achieving freshman or sophomore, under the constraints imposed by the state for the Core 4 diploma and other course requirements – there just aren’t that many class periods in the day for students to fit in elective AP courses. Would BESE be willing to modify the Core 4 requirements to allow students to take, say, 5 sciences but only 3 social studies courses if so minded?
I would appreciate it if you would take these concerns into consideration tomorrow, and try to get some clarification from the administration on this before jumping. If you have any questions, please feel free to call or email.