PACT on Community Radio

PACT! is about community

 Last Friday morning, Suepinda and I joined Lori Hoyt on WCOM 103.5FM, Carrboro's low powered community radio, on her weekly radio program WILPF Wake Up Call.  We were discussing the beginnings of PACT! as an organization and the need for parent and child advocacy in the CHCCS district.

 When we first arrived, scurrying through the doorway just minutes before going on air, Suepinda dropped the bomb that I was to be the sole speaker.  Boy! was I surprised.

 I asked how long was the segment.  Lori told me we were on for the full 30 mins.  I thought, "OMG, what can I talk about for 30 minutes? We tested mic's, started a bit of conversation and then went on the air.

 Well, in the real world, 30 minutes is NOTHING.  Part of the reason were were scurring in the doorway at 7:20am was the fact that we had just got the four little children out the door for school to make the bus.  To say that our mornings are busy and 30 minutes is nothing is an understatement.

 Anyway, we went through the introductions, convinced Suepinda to speak and tried to inform the community of our efforts.  We are "grass roots", to say the least.  There were SO many things left unsaid and so many things that could be misinterpreted.  PACT! stands for Parents Advocating for Children Together!  we give no delineation between ethnicity or culture.  Children are just that, children.  Part of the reason our group has formed was the focus on children in this district had become financially lopsided.  Because of this "lopsidedness" parents find themselves pitted against one another for resources.  That should not be!  All boats should be lifted by this great tide of the common goal to educate the children in the best way possible.

 African-American and Latino children have programs to assist them in "making the grade" and becoming proficient.  There are many stop-gaps put in place to catch the kids who are failing but they are not implemented fully across the board.  The teachers are, at times, not as fully engaged as they should be (and there are many reasons/excuses for this~there's a thin line between an excuse and a reason).  The programs in place are resources.  I will have to add up the dollar figure.  It may or may not be commensurate with what is being spent on the exceptionally gifted children.  That will have to be seen.  But, what I DO know is that the expectations from some, if not  a majority, of the teachers in this school district range in the pretty low area of the meter when engaging African-American and Latino students for learning. 

While expectations for the gifted children are much higher.  Studies have proven ( as I am writing this off the cuff I will have to get the studies for you ) that expecting MORE from the child has a greater effect on their learning.  When teachers see gifted children their expectation is that the child can do more.  When that expectation is backed by a parent who insists that the teacher provide more stimulus to their child the teacher is compelled to do so.  When I hear how gifted children need certain programs to continue their education moving in a forward direction;  how, at times, the earth and tide is moved to make it happen I question why the same thought processes and actions are not applied to the children who are failing.  What I am saying, to be clear, is IF they can have a LEAP program focused on the needs of a truly gifted small minority (its about 1/3) of students because of the need for advanced stimulation and instruction why can they not do so for the small minority of students (another 1/3) who are failing?  To NOT do so says much more against education than it does for it.

 I'm getting off on a tangent here.  Let me sum it up to say that we need to expect more from the children of this district whether they are Asian, White, Black, Latino, Burmese, you name it.  Expect more and the children will deliver more.  Giving up on the child is not the answer.

 It starts in Early Childhood Education and by the time the child, who can't afford that early education begins attending school they are already behind. There are MANY reasons for this.  So, let's not place blame, get angry, indignant or point fingers.  Let's just point forward.




I would love to hear the interview but can't seem to locate it online. Do you have a link?Thanks,Kimberly

I don't see it on their archive so I don't think they've posted it yet. ~ kvn

Motivated by doing what is right for children!

Kevin, you know I support all of what you're doing 100% but I think I need to correct a couple of points in here. Specifically, LEAP is not for all gifted (1/3 of the population) students.  LEAP in its current implementation (who knows what it will be after the gifted plan is revised this year) is for about 20 kids in each grade (2%?).  When gifted parents speak of needing something different, it is not because LEAP is an issue.  It is because there is a huge gap between what the LEAP kids are able to receive (not necessarily because more $ is spent there, more because they are self-contained) and how kids who are gifted but don't make the high bar for LEAP are adressed.  This 90% of gifted kids are "served" by the district's "differentiation" policy, which makes teachers teach to basically 3 levels of children in every classroom, regardless of how wide the spread between child #1 and child #30 actually is.  I personally don't think this serves anyone well.  It says the teachers face huge challenge to make learning happen for all levels (but are only graded themselves on the amount of proficiency in the class).  I also completely disagree about the expectations being high for gifted children.  Because teachers are graded on proficiency only, they are content to let gifted kids learn nothing and focus on other parts of the class.  My son's experience was very telling.  He was identified as gifted in 1st grade.  He was completely bored especially in 3rd grade until he was identified for LEAP.  Then, the teacher realized she would look bad if he entered LEAP in 4th grade unprepared.  And he started getting a whole different set of assignments and challenges.  Until that point, regardless of the gifted label that he had, there was no incentive for the teacher to challenge him.  There was basically no expectation that he should learn anything if he was already proficient at grade level.  What gifted parents have pushed for is a couple of things -- either fully implement the differentiation policy as indicated by the consultant who wrote the policy (ie, have the proper training for teachers and time to plan and focus on all children), or scrap it and come up with something else to be able to serve a broad range of students ("flexible" grouping is the most common alternative you hear about these days).  And make sure that kids are measured on achievement (a year's growth for a year in school sounds like an easy measure), not proficiency.I don't think either of those proposals are intended to get more $ for gifted services (although there is a documented gap between what the gifted plan says we need for specialists and what is actually budgeted at the moment).  And I think changes like this would benefit all students.Personally, I am appalled that my son's LEAP class has no AA or Latino members.   While I wouldn't advocate for lower standards based on race, I do think the district needs to consider some way to make sure AA/Latino populations are challenged to the same high performance as whites/Asians.  I don't consider my son to have had a full education if he only relates to some races in his self-contained class.  I hate it when the district creates situations that pits groups against each other.  As a person with a stake in our country's economic success, I truly believe we need all kids to excel for our future.  I look forward to continuing to work with you in particular on solutions that are truly helpful for all children.  Because "what a waste it is to lose one's mind or not to have a mind is being very wasteful."  :)

Thank you, JCB for the clarification and the correction on the numbers estimate.I welcome the dialogue between you, being a Gifted parent, and myself and others dispel the misconceptions and miscommunication.   My children perform execptionally well in this school district and we continue to expect that they do well and succeed.  From your statement above it's clear that, as parents, we have to ensure that our children are given what they needto be successful.  Your child being labeled Gifted and still not receiving the instruction that comes with that delineation is disturbing.  But the fact that the teacher made a course correction with your child says that it can be done.  For whatever reason she did it. But what of the student or parent that is not able to raise the questions about instruction?  What are they left with?  That issue speaks more to the role of the school board as the head of the district to lead the way.   Teachers are human.   They do GREAT and MARVELOUS things with our children to engage them in the process of doing something that, at times, they really DON'T want to do.  I applaud them for that.   And we need to support them.  But as anyone who has a job knows, all the passion and compassion in the world can't sustain you everyday and at times you, they, we become apathetic.  And my thought is that the district has allowed the wonderful teachers to become apathetic (I qualify that statement by saying NOT ALL TEACHERS because I know a few GREAT ones that continue to outperform). Teachers mean everything to the students.  One bad comment, discouragement or reprimand goes a long way and it takes a lot to dig out of that hole.  If this happens in middle school sometimes you lose the child.  We are not against each other but united in the desire that the children in this district, state and country are educated to the highest degree.  They are our future.  I think we can do more together in ensuring that all children in the district obtain a GREAT education. I too, find it interesting and telling that there are no children representing the African-American or Latino population.  To say that there is no indigenous people that are truly gifted is one thing, keeping in mind the lack of early childhood education in this district ( which I don't believe there can be no gifted children in that group can be completely true) but to say that others who come from outside the district, state or country do not have gifted children is absurd. I don't think that the admission of African-American or Latino students would require the lowering  of standards, either. I think that's a false perception that sometimes permeates the district. It's a poisoned thought that goes back to the need of higher expectations for ALL students.  Because NO ONE knows the potential of an individual, not even up until death. ~ kvn

Motivated by doing what is right for children!


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