Vote tomorrow on G/T Funding

From our friends in Baton Rouge:

  • From: BRAGTS: Baton Rouge Association for Gifted and Talented Students
  • Date: May 14, 2013, 12:34:08 PM CDT
  • Subject: Urgent! MFP resolution to reduce G/T funding will be heard by Senate Education Committee Wednesday!

Write to your legislator today! Say NO to SCR 23! Protect Gifted and Talented!

SCR 23, the resolution implementing the 2013-14 Minimum Foundation Program (MFP) and cuts the dedicated Gifted and Talented weight from 60% to 30%, has been scheduled to be heard in the State Education Committee tomorrow!

Senate Committee on Education
May 15, 2013
1:00 P.M.
John J. Hainkel, Jr. Room
Louisiana State Capitol Building
The Legislature only has two options: Vote “Yes” or Vote “No.” A Vote of “NO” will require the formula to the reworked or keep the current funding in place for another year.

If you want to help STOP THIS CUT to dedicated Gifted & Talented funding you need to:
1. Contact your Senator, personally, by email, letter or phone and ask them to: “PLEASE PROTECT GIFTED & TALENTED FUNDING AND VOTE NO ON SCR 23”. Your personal contact will make a difference. To find out how to contact your Senator CLICK HERE; or
2. Attend the Senate Education Committee hearing and ask the Committee, in person, not to approve SCR 23 and not to cut Gifted & Talented Funding.

MFP G/T Forum in Baton Rouge

From our friends in Baton Rouge:

Note: There was an error in the address of the venue in the previous email. It should be 5550 Florida http://www.lrce.org/maps/

Forum: Changes to the MFP funding formula and potential impact on G/T education

The Baton Rouge Association of Gifted and Talented Students invites you to attend a forum on the potential effects of recently proposed changes to G/T funding on the special educational needs of gifted and talented students. Please take this unique opportunity to learn more and make your voice heard.
Speakers

Mr. Chas Roemer, President of the LA Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (confirmed)

Jennifer L. Jolly, PhD., Associate Professor, Gifted Education and Director, Gifted Education at LSU,
Editor- in-chief, Parenting for High Potential (confirmed)

F. Neil Mathews, PhD., Professor, Education and Gifted Education at LSU (invited)

WHEN
Tuesday, March 19th at 6:00 pm

WHERE
Louisiana Resource Center for Educators
5550 Florida Blvd, Baton Rouge, LA

http://www.lrce.org/maps/

Please attend and show your support for G/T education at this critical time.

My Letter to BESE Member Garvey

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.

Mr. Garvey,

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.

Thanks.

Clark Rowley

Baton Rouge Forum on MFP Cuts to G/T Funding

Courtesy of our friends in Baton Rouge (check their Facebook page for updates):

Come to the BRAGTS Forum with BESE Pres. Chas Romer, Dr. Jennifer Jolly and Dr. Neil Mathews from LSU Gifted Education:


Changes to the MFP funding formula and its potential impact on G/T education
The Baton Rouge Association of Gifted and Talented Students invites you to attend a forum on the potential effects of recently proposed changes to G/T funding on the special educational needs of the G/T population.

Invited speakers:
Mr. Chas Roemer, President of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education

Jennifer L. Jolly, PhD., Associate Professor, Gifted Education, Director, Gifted Education at LSU, and Editor-in-Chief, Parenting for High Potential

WHEN
Tuesday, March 19th
at 6:00 pm

WHERE
Louisiana Resource Center for Educators
5500 Florida Blvd, Baton Rouge, LA

Please attend and show your support for G/T education at this critical time.

I wonder if we could get Jim Garvey to come speak with us?

2013-2014 Cuts to Gifted/Talented Program Funding – Part 3

In Part 1 we looked at the 2013-2014 Minimum Foundation Program proposal from John White and BESE.  In Part 2 we looked at the potential impact on our G/T budgeting.  Here, we look at the High Standards switcheroo.

In Part 1, we mentioned the new “High Standards” component of the MFP proposal, which adds a new 30% weighting in the MFP calculation for students meeting certain academic achievement standards, counting:

  • Students in 8th grade that [sic] score excellent on Algebra I End Of Course (EOC) tests
  • 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
  • Students in 10th grade who score 3 or higher on an Advanced Placement (AP) exam
  • 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 [sic, should be "baccalaureate"].

Any student achieving one of these would presumably count the next year as an “extra” 30% of a student in allocation the MFP funds, but since students only count one for special ed, gifted, or talented, students with exceptionalities may not even help the parish by achieving the High Standards criteria.

The High Standards piece is “provided to recognize the cost of providing advanced coursework,” including providing access to more Advanced Placement courses and getting students enrolled and successful in them. From the perspective of a high school parent with good academic students, this sounds great, right?

There are a few of problems with this proposal.

  • First, the resources to pay for this are obviously those that will be cut from the Gifted and Talented portion of the MFP formula. To argue otherwise would be ludicrous.
  • Second, the cut is taken at least in part, if not mostly, from the Talented Arts portion of the G/T portion.  Many of the students in the Talented Arts program are also identified as academically/intellectually gifted, but many are so-called regular ed students (or special ed students, though they would already be weighted according to their disability).  These students are not necessarily interested in or suited for advanced coursework like AP classes.
  •  Third, students identified as intellectually gifted are also not necessarily academic high-achievers.  Along with intellectual giftedness can come a range of emotional and social difficulties, disaffection with routine academic work, or extremely narrow focus on a topic of interest to the student.  This is why the state certifies teachers to teach the gifted, and keeps giftedness under special education – these students have distinct needs that teachers need to be trained to recognize, and to work to serve.
  • Fourth, the High Standards weighting is all a result of standardized testing, either a state end-of-course test or an AP test.  The gifted student – like the regular ed student – may be both gifted and have a disability, perhaps making standardized testing an inadequate measure of  student progress and achievement.

If we let this funding switch go through without comment, we’re contributing to the common misunderstanding, that giftedness and academic achievement are somehow equivalent.  Ask around,  and teachers can tell you about brilliant students who had difficulty navigating school socially or lacked motivation to do academic work.  Those students need to be with teachers with the training to work with them so they can reach their potential – the same goal we have for every kid in our schools.

2013-2014 Cuts to Gifted/Talented Program Funding – Part 2

In Part 1 we looked at the 2013-2014 Minimum Foundation Program proposal from John White and BESE.  Here is the potential budget impact.

Our parish receives roughly $5100 per student, and we have a population of about 3100 G/T students, so the MFP funding specifically to account for St. Tammany Parish Public Schools G/T services was of order 0.6 * 3100 *5100, or something like $9.5 million.  For reference, our district  population is about 36000 students, and we spend $11 thousand per student each year.  I’m mixing numbers from different years and rounding, but you get the point.

So what’s the cut?  This is speculation, but we can only work with the numbers we have:

  • If our G/T students were distributed evenly in grades, and the high schoolers were about one third of our G/T population, we would see a cut of 1/6 of the total, or about $1.6 million, or about $1500 per high school G/T student.
  • In fact, though, the situation may be worse.  Administrators told us that high schoolers make up *half* the Talented Arts Program student population.  That pushes the cut to almost $1.9 million.

From the STPSB 2012-2013 General Fund budget, we spend about $9.5 million – the full MFP G/T allocation – on G/T teach salaries alone, not counting retirement or health care for the teachers, classroom materials, travel costs for itinerant teachers, etc.  Clearly the parish spends much more than the MFP “extra” to provide G/T services.  This demonstrates a commitment from the parish to keep these programs thriving.

However, parish administrators have told us that they have already squeezed the program, in some cases nearly doubling teacher caseloads for the talented arts teachers;  the General Fund budget also suggests that the parish eliminated any funding for materials for gifted classes, and cut in half the funding for talented arts materials.

Follow me to Part 3 to look at the new High Standards proposal.

2013-2014 Cuts to Gifted/Talented Program Funding – Part 1

Folks, here’s my summary of the proposal from John White and BESE for state public education funding next year.  Feel free to offer corrections.

The Minimum Foundation Program is state money – our tax dollars – distributed back to public schools in the state to support basic education services.  Districts get back from the state a certain amount of money per student enrolled in their schools as of a certain date.  The amount per student varies among districts because there is some accounting for local tax dollar contributions, district size, etc.

Because the federal and state governments mandate services for special education, and because the state mandates services for gifted and talented students, districts receive more money to reimburse districts for those costs.  This year, every special education student counted as an “extra” 150% of a student, so the district received 2.5 times the basic per-pupil amount for each student identified as needing special ed services.  Similarly, each gifted or talented student counted as an “extra” 60% of a student, so the parish school received 1.6 times the basic amount for each of our gifted kids.

For next year, White submitted and BESE approved an MFP plan that cuts in half the G/T fraction for high school students, from 60% to 30%.  The 60% is maintained for PreK through 8th grade.

A related part of the proposal adds a new 30% weighting for students meeting certain academic achievement standards, quoting:

  • Students in 8th grade that [sic] score excellent on Algebra I End Of Course (EOC) tests
  • 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
  • Students in 10th grade who score 3 or higher on an Advanced Placement (AP) exam
  • 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 [sic, should be "baccalaureate"].

Follow me to Part 2 to look at the potential impact on the parish.

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