Lackluster school board race

Does anyone know what became of the many "diverse" candidates who were vying for the empty school board seat back in December? It's not that I'm unsupportive of Pam, Lisa, or Jeff, but I can't think of anything that differentiates these three on any issues.

Is the public just worn out by school controversy? Does no one want to think about our ailing schools for awhile? It's a shame. "No Child Left Behind" is leaving our children behind. We are spending too much time and money measuring, and not enough time teaching. We're losing sight of the social, cultural, and spiritual needs of our children.

We've abandoned differentiation, and the Chapel Hill Herald applauds this move by congratulating our "persevering" parents for removing 85 fourth and fifth graders from the regular classroom this coming fall. I must say that I don't understand how the Herald-Sun opinion writers can lament that fewer than one in five of East's approximately 200 black students are proficient in reading, and then applaud our ‘persevering' parents for isolating more students than ever from our African-American students through LEAP (Learning Environment for Accelerated Programming). Does no one see the connection?

GWB would be proud of us: Our school board has abandoned the differentiation model in favor of the right wing's "strict father" model. I don't even hear a gasp.



I share the disappointment that there is not more interest in the CHCCS Board of Ed race. As I recall, 10 people expressed interest in filling Valerie Foushee's vacated slot last fall.

However, I have to disagree with the assertion that the expansion of the LEAP program is an indication that the district has abandoned differentiated instruction. Differentiation will continue to be used with the vast majority of district children who are not in the LEAP program. Additionally, it will be used within the LEAP program itself as that student population also has diverse academic needs.

A good question, Mary. I've been wondering this myself: what happened to all of the school board candidates?


A two-tiered differentiation program isn't differentiation; it's tracking. What's next? Three tiers? Four tiers?

I'm all for a special program for the rare child genius who can graduate from college at age 14, but I simply can't believe that 85 children are so endowed. For the most part, I believe that LEAP serves as a special perk for the parents of bright children.

I know my assessment sounds harsh, but I want it to sound harsh. The message LEAP sends to our African-American elementary students is emotionally devastating. LEAP models to children that they belong in different rooms (based on academic achievement at age 8!)

I feel so strongly about this because, for most, this devastating message carries over for life. I think we can do better than LEAP.

I would like to see someone run for school board who is creative, someone who will push to re-work the AG program and minimize the perception that some children are superior to others.

BTW, here's what I know about Jeff Danner from his public SGC application:

He grew up in an academic family. He attended a school system much like Chapel Hill's. He has a Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering from the University of Pennsylvania. He works at a biotech company. His career has provided him, ‘experience in budgeting, strategic planning, and capital project planning and execution.' He will have two children at Seawell this fall. He believes in the importance of education at an early age. He's committed to ensuring the ‘continued success and advancement' of our schools. He wants to ‘further the educational goals' of our schools.

I have met Jeff. He impresses me as serious, thoughtful, respectful, and pragmatic.

New candidate filed today for school board:

Hamilton, Jean, 2466 Foxwood Drive, Chapel Hill 27514

As I recall, Jean was one of the people who applied to fill Elizabeth Carter's seat back at the end of 2004. And a quick search of shows that I am remembering correctly:

Ms. Carter is still on the Board.

I think Jean Hamilton showed interest in Valerie Foushee's slot but did not ultimately join the final 10 that applied and met with the Board last November.

Regardless, the "lackluster" problem might be solved.

Sorry Frank! Valerie is who I meant of course!

Anyone know anything about Jean?

I did a quick search. I have no idea if this is the same Jean Hamilton:

Jean Hamilton, the parent of two children in the city schools, was one of several to call on the commissioners to fund both school systems to the highest level possible.
"I say raise our taxes," she said. "Raise the district tax if that's what we need to meet the needs of our children." (CHN 5/30/2005)

Jean Hamilton, a parent co-chair at Estes Hills Elementary, was at the information session but could not be reached for comment. Others attended as well, but it's unsure if they were gathering information on someone else's behalf. (CHN 11/14/2004)

“Jean Hamilton stated the Board should reflect diversity in the community. She also spoke about the assessment of advanced classes in 6th grade. Ms. Hamilton opposed the change from the beginning. She stated her child's math experience has not been positive; that he is bored. She stated that nothing in the statistics support a change in student's learning.” (School Board minutes 12/2/2004)

More about Jean:

This isn't much to go on. She wants better working conditions for teachers and improved relationships with parents. She wants parents to be respected more and programs to be studied more....

I'm a little surprised that Gloria Faley did not run again. Anyone know why?

I agree that kids should be continually evaluated and not permanently tracked.

I am not making any claims about Naglieri, but I agree with the district's intent of finding an aptitude test that is not culturally biased nor reliant upon achievement, particular given our understanding of the lack of diversity in LEAP. In an ideal world, testing would not take time from the classroom and the achievement test and aptitude test would be all rolled up into one test.

I don't see the intent of the LEAP program as a 'removal from a source of anxiety', but rather as a means for students who are typically singletons in their classroom to get services rather than being such a small grouping in the classroom differentiation that the teacher deems that particular differentiation as not worthy of his or her time.

Melanie makes some good points about children typically being gifted in just some areas and not all around. This is a challenge for any program that deals with these issues.

At any rate, I joined this conversation because I felt that the district was genuinely trying to address some of the issues brought up in the initial post. I am not suggesting that the district has a perfect solution. I think this is a moving target that will be refined with each iteration and as the district gains experience with Naglieri, etc.


Thanks for the thoughtful post, Mark. I have often felt that I would feel so much more compassion for PAGE (Partners for the Advancemant of Gifted Education) and others promoting gifted education, if their concern for every student, not just their own, could come through. Just once, I'd like to hear one of them sounding like Kenneth Clark.

I don't really have enough information to assert this, but I'll be reckless: I suspect many of those vying for Valerie's seat last fall had no interest in running this fall because their main concern for running last year was the furure of LEAP (elementary and middle school levels). Once these programs were saved, the impetus for involvement was gone.

The following link is to a critique of the meta-analyses on ability grouping conducted by Kulik and Kulik (Univ. of Michigan) and Slavin (Johns Hopkins). The author, Susan Allan, not only discusses the findings of Slavin and the Kuliks, but also addresses the methodological approaches and limitations of each body of work.

I realize this is beginning to stray from the central topic, but felt it would be useful in light of Mary's mention of the putative link between ability grouping and self-esteem/underachievement.

Thanks for the link Frank. I haven't read the study yet.
We need to mesh research advocating tracking with research and ideas similar to those of now deceased, Kenneth Clark:

I personally believe that each child should be educated to the fullest of his or her potential.

We discussed LEAP several times in the Seawell SGC last year and while I am no expert, I do want to point out a few things.

We've abandoned differentiation

It is my understanding that differentiation is still the norm, but there are limits to the differenentiation that teachers can provide. They cannot come up with 28 different class lessons. If they have one student who is truly gifted, then that student will likely not be educated to the fullest of his or her potential (based on experiences shared by parents). I can see there being cases where the normal classroom environment is not ideal for some kids, however I share the concern that children in LEAP may not have an ideal social situation and I know that there are some parents who have not enrolled their children in the program for that reason alone.

isolating more students than ever from our African-American students through LEAP

It is my understanding that the intent of testing/screening all 3rd graders with a non-verbal aptitude test was meant to address some of your concerns. (The Seawell SGC last year shared the same concern with the district that LEAP did not have adequate minority population) The screening was to assess early enough for the district to identify gifted children who were not achieving so that the achievement could be addressed in time for entry into LEAP. This should put minority students who are identified "on track". Perhaps you can study the current implementation and track the results and come up with feedback on the implementation that will help them make sure this works.

Mary, Do you object to gifted services in general? Or with gifted services as long as a minority achievement gap exists? Or just with too many students being admitted and with inadequate diversity?

And congrats on the green box. You now have the power to change history.


It is my understanding that this year's LEAP program will have African American students in it.


The green box was more power than I could handle. I really didn't know what to do with it, and, alas, it is gone.

I don't object to AG education at all (why we have to call it ‘AG' though, I don't know). I only object to blatant tracking of elementary- age children ala LEAP. (Again, I'm not talking about our true geniuses; I'll concede a different program for them.)

Additionally, I think our schools should take the attitude that a child who has measured achievement matching measured ability is a child who is being well-served by the regular classroom. It is the child with the achievement/ability gap who needs the most help.

I have listened to some LEAP parents describe their children, and it sounds to me like many of these children have anxiety spectrum disorders. Now, here's my problem: how is it fair that children who are high achievers get the ‘removal from the source of anxiety' treatment, whereas children who are not high achievers mostly get the ‘sink or swim' treatment (and a crummy label). I simply would like to see our school board give all children the same amount of consideration and sensitivity, regardless, of how ‘persevering' their parents are.

As far as Naglieri testing goes, I don't have a high opinion of it. With the information I have, I believe this testing is a waste of money. It gives us no additional information needed for LEAP or AG placement.
Here's the only objective (non-Naglieri sponsored) study of the test I have ever read:

And how do we define "genius?"

IQ? Inability to cope in a normal classroom? (I know some genius IQ level ADHD kids that could benefit from special programs--though I doubt LEAP would work for them.)

Broad spectrum advancement on ALL levels--or just a few? What should we do with kids who read 3-5 grades above level, but struggle with math? Vice-versa?

I had two kids who would have qualified for the old Tier One program--I didn't want them socially isolated from their peers. Sooner or later one has to learn to work and play well with others. I think sooner is better.



I read your link to the 1991 paper by the gifted education consultant. (I promise I'll stop after this post).

Among her conclusions:

"The preponderance of evidence does not support the contention that children are academically harmed by grouping."

"It is unclear whether grouping has any effect on the self-esteem of students in the general school population."

Frank, this isn't strong enough research for me simply to ignore what I see, hear, and feel when I am in the schools.

Perhaps the important conclusion for me to read was this:

"The strongest positive academic effects of grouping for gifted students result from either acceleration or classes that are specially designed for the gifted and use specially trained teachers and differentiated curriculum and methods."

Again, I believe that child geniuses who need to be accelerated far beyond the norm need special consideration. But, I suspect that ‘specially designed classes that use specially trained gifted education teachers and differentiated curriculum and methods' would give students in the regular classroom an academic edge too. The bottom line, a very good teacher makes a difference for any child who is ready to learn.

As the study I site for you says, “The primary question to be addressed in selecting students for special programs is one of readiness, not of innate ability.” What this says to me is that LEAP rewards ‘good' students by giving them a superior learning environment. I would like to see every child given a superior learning environment and an IEP (individual education plan), and recognition for being special. A very common statement about our school system is that the student in the middle is lost. I look forward to the day when parents no longer say this.

I do know I'm fighting a losing battle here, and, believe it or not, I don't judge parents for taking advantage of a program designed for their children. I merely want someone to admit that we are doing more for some children, and less for others, and that this inequity is parent-driven. In my ideal world things would be different.

It's all very complicated. Maybe I don't have enough information. Maybe we're doing the best we can for now….


Your discussion of the ability/achievement gap in your 6:18 pm posting gets at the heart of why LEAP is needed. In a regular classroon, these children are not able to achieve at a level that reflects their ability/aptitude. Differentiated instruction can successfully match potential achievement with aptitude/ability for most students. However, even some of the district's staunchest advocates of differentiation acknowledge that the regular classroom does not work for everyone.

Thanks for the link on the critique of the Naglieri. I do not know that the district is using the optimal aptitude and achievement tests for LEAP. Those of us who served on the LEAP Task Force wanted to include testing that minimized cultural/language bias but the choice of tests was beyond the scope of the Task Force's mandate (not to mention our expertise). My guess is tests were chosen to strike a balance between utility, cost, and minimal impact on instruction time. My expectation is that LEAP testing will be an evolving process.

The first paragraph of your 10:24 pm posting last night is an old and pernicious canard. You have just offended a lot of dedicated parent volunteers in our community who put in a lot of time for EVERYONE'S children.


You make a good point about children who tend to be much stronger in one academic area. The data I have seen show that, in general, there tends to be a strong correlation between quantitative and verbal scores. To the extent that there is some disparity, differentiated instruction should address that.

I think the "social isolation" argument is a bit of a red herring. The LEAP program is not exactly a social Siberia. In fact, my son's 4th/5th grade classes at Glenwood were far more diverse (ethnically and socio-economically) than Scroggs. As far as middle school LEAP goes, fear not. Only 3 of 7 periods will be LEAP classes. LEAP students will spend a majority of their day in regular classes.

I truly do not mean to offend. I appreciate everything you and others contribute to our schools. I am often guilty of being 'part of the problem'. I will try harder.

"I am often guilty of being ‘part of the problem'. I will try harder."

Mary, you would only be "part of the problem" if you did not care . . . which is clearly not the case.

Also, if you are posting about this stuff before 7 AM, you probably don't need to try harder.

Thanks, Frank.
I know I said I would stop; I'm trying.

I'm curious to know what people think our schools should do about non-LEAP elementary children who have measured ability/achievement gaps?

If filling this gap is of utmost importance, do people think we should be identifying all gaps in all children? Does every child with a gap need a ‘learning environment for better learning'?

Where does all of this begin and end?

(And let's be clear that measured ability is not independent of culture and learning.)


When I was writing about social isolation I wasn't writing about ethnic diversity. I was writing about being isolated from the NEIGHBORHOOD kids by being sent off to a school across town. I was writing about the isolation the Tier One MS kids had...sounds like they've changed that program considerable. The former program kept the kids together for everything except art, gum, and the like. They even rode their own bus, if Culbreth wasn't their "home base" school. back in the day, few kids from Phillips WENT to the Tier One program, so if your HS was East, you were isolated from your MS peers. (I know this for fact--I know kids who were in the final year of the Tier One MS program.)

I was also writing about not learning to cope with being in class with kids who didn't catch on as quickly as the Tier One kids did. This was a PROBLEM in HS for at least two Tier One kids I know--and it only surfaced in academic classes. Being mixed in with the not-quite-as-bright in art or music didn't teach them the coping skills they needed. They hadn't learned to keep themselves interested and occupied while the teacher was HELPING the not-quite-as-bright. Because they hadn't EXPEIENCED it until HS. Where is it written that being bored on occasion is ALWAYS a bad thing? Have you ever had a job that wasn't boring on occasion? I know I haven't.

Perhaps the above problems have been solved. I certinly hope so. Even so, I doubt I would have sent my high IQ kids through the program. As a friend of mine (who also kept her kids in their "home base schools") says:

"Public school is a footrace, and we are all holding hands." It's an important lesson.

I will attempt to refrain from adding to this threadjack.



I was appalled when I read that East had failed to make adequately yearly progress in NCLB because of the 10th grade African American reading scores. WHY hasn't anyone picked up on that statistic? East only needed a 35% pass rate to make AYP. (Which is a disturbing statistic in and of itself.) WE DIDN'T EVEN MAKE THAT. Over 80% of the black kids who took the test FAILED.

Now, I'm not certain what the individual teachers are supposed to do with a figure like that. I don't even know what the PRINCIPALS at the HS's are supposed to do with a figure like that. I think it's a COMMUNITY problem that needs to be addressed on a COMMUNITY level. You'd think SOMEONE would include it in a platform. Oh, wait, someone did. Last election. Gloria. But she didn't get re-elected, did she?



Mary, we've gotta wrap this up. School starts in a couple of weeks!!

I think a key problem in this whole debate is the misperception that LEAP is "better" education for "better" students. Understandably, this would lead to the idea that LEAP is a perk, privilege, reward, etc. In reality, LEAP provides different education for students with different learning needs. As Lisa Stuckey, our school board chair, pointed out when LEAP was discussed last spring, education for these students falls under "exceptional education" in some states (along with education for kids with learning disabilities, autism, ESL, etc.). Again, it is about being different, not better.

Many parents would find it quite ironic that some in this community see LEAP as the end of the educational rainbow. I have been told by at least 12-15 families that LEAP was described to them as a Nerd Siberia or sort of Witness Protection Program for propeller-heads.

You are absolutely correct that the gaps between a child's potential and what he or she gets in the classroom should be addressed for each student. LEAP addresses the most serious of these gaps but, regardless of their size, all of these gaps must be closed.

I think that this is being addressed through better differentiation of instruction and more careful clustering. Although the district adopted this philosophy some time back, I don't know how much training teachers have received. And as always, there is no substitute for parents paying as much attention as possible to what is going on in their children's classroom. Finally, I think teacher retention is key. My limited observation is that experience is the best predictor of a teacher's ability to teach a heterogeneous class. Personally, I hope that teacher retention will be in the Top Three topics for the Board of Ed election.

I think it is an unsubstantiated charge that the
parents of gifted children are motivated by a desire to isolate their children from African-American children, and as a LEAP parent I resent it. For one thing, the Tier 1/LEAP students contain a smaller proportion of white children than the general school population.
For another, Smith Middle School has the highest proportion of African-Americans and of students qualifying for reduced or free lunches. LEAP students will spend much of the day with the general Smith population.
Parents motivated by a desire to avoid black children would probably keep their children at their home school.
It is irrational to blame the reading scores of high school students on the participation of a small percentage of 4th and 5th graders in LEAP!
All of the schools have a large proportion of staff devoted to helping students who are underperforming, ED & LD specialists, Reading Recovery, family specialists etc. These staff members represent a large amount of financial resources. On the other hand, LEAP doesn't cost anything beyond what the school system would devote to the students involved if there were no LEAP program.
LEAP is nowhere to be found in the budget.
It is unlikely that LEAP is emotionally devastating to the other students, most of whom are probably unaware or unconcerned. LEAP may well be very upsetting to adults with strongly egalitarian views, but children have other concerns. And finally it is news if indeed the school system has abandoned differentiation, the last I heard they were still using it extensively.


Occasional boredom is part of life. However, if a child is bored most of the time, something is wrong. The latter is what many LEAP kids report if you ask them about their third grade experience.

The footrace holding hands analogy is cute but I don't think it is applicable. When the whole differentation thing got hot about 2.5 years ago, the district had a parent info session at Smith. We were told that the goal was to find an appropriate level of challenge for each child and, "to find the point at which a kid's brain gets just a little bit tired." That is a very broad spectrum. I think that a marathon is a better analogy for K-12 education. Most participants finish although their times vary greatly, all can rightfully feel a sense of accomplishment, and very few need be concerned that they did not cross the finish line first. (Based on personal experience, it can be delightful to finish in 5578th place!!)

You have mentioned in several posts that you had a choice of whether to send your children to Tier One or not. It seems that opting out was the right choice for your family and that you are happy with it. I know that LEAP is the right choice for my son and my family and we are very happy with our choice. Surely, this "pro-choice" argument resonates on a "progressive" site.

... LEAP doesn't cost anything beyond what the school system would devote to the students involved if there were no LEAP program. LEAP is nowhere to be found in the budget.

This is my understanding also. This is an important point because there have been assertions that the provision of LEAP is done at the expense of funding for other students, and that does not appear to be the case.

Thanks Frank and Bob for sharing your experiences as LEAP participants.


"LEAP may well be very upsetting to adults with strongly egalitarian views, but children have other concerns." The implication here is that LEAP students won't be exposed to parents with 'strong egalitarian views.' Probably not your intention, but something that really should be considered. School is about more than academic achievement.

Bet this isn't a topic of debate among the candidates for school board.

' LEAP addresses the most serious of these gaps.'
Is 'serious' the word you mean to use? Do we know that there are fewer gaping ability/achievement gaps outside of LEAP than there are inside of LEAP? Have we looked into this?

'It is irrational to blame the reading scores of high school students on the participation of a small percentage of 4th and 5th graders in LEAP.'
Fair enough. Of course, LEAP is not to blame. I was merely trying to imply that there is a connection between exclusion, esteem, motivation, and achievement. (Apparently, some researchers prove me wrong.)

Also, let me acknowledge that I do understand that it is incredibly painful for a parent to watch his/her 'unusual' child suffer. There are children out there suffering greatly despite loving parenting, psychotherapy, and medication. These are exceptional students who may or may not need a special environment. Certainly they need extra attention and compassion.

Bob, did I EVER, even ONCE, suggest that parents were trying to segregate their children from black kids? No, that statement was made by a fellow LEAPer parent...and it was an accusation I denied.

or did I ever say that LEAP was costing the LD/reading recovery programs money. What I SAID was "I think it's (poor reading scores in the black population)a COMMUNITY problem that needs to be addressed on a COMMUNITY level. You'd think SOMEONE would include it in a platform."

HUGE hue and cry over the loss of advanced classes, LEAP, Tier One, WHATEVER.

COMMUNITY reaction to the lack of AYP in the High Schools?

Can ya HEAR the crickets chirping?


Should read "NOR did I ever say.." sometimes even print preview isn't enough.


Melanie, I could be wrong, but I don't think that Bob had read you to suggest that LEAP parents were trying to segregate their children from African-American children.

I think that perhaps Bob inferred that accusation from Mary's post that got this thread started--specifically, her questioning of the Herald-Sun's praising "‘persevering' parents for isolating more students than ever from our African-American students through LEAP."

I certainly don't think Mary's post must be read to imply a desire on the part of LEAP parents to keep their kids away from black kids. But it certainly could be read that way.

On the other hand, Mary has since said--and I believe her--that she did not mean to offend. So she probably didn't mean to imply that non-black LEAP parents are in fact trying to segregate their children from African-American children. I would imagine that she meant that LEAP parents are doing what they think is best for their kids, and that one effect of that effort is increased segregation of non-black kids from black kids.

Thanks, Eric. I think LEAP parents would be delighted to have more African-Americans in the program.

I must learn not to put people on the defensive when I talk about problems in our schools...


It is almost impossible not to put people on the defensive when one talks about problems in the schools. Start talking about schools and you are, de-facto, talking about people's kids. And people immediately go ont he defensive. WHy is this so? I wish I knew.

Now, what would be NICE, is if people talking about schools would choose NOT to get offended/defensive. This IS a choice we can make. We are, purportedly, adults. Instead of IMMEDIATELY assuming a negative implication, or making a negative inference--assume a NON-negative implication. It is difficult to do--I may have failed to do so myself in reading Bob's post. But it can, and MUST be done. Otherwise one ends up with...Durham. And we don't want THAT.

Do we?


It seems like all the discussions on education come down to a difference in perspective. For some, their own kids take precedence. Others have a more global approach to education. I don't think either is exclusive; more a matter of weighted priorities.

Everytime we get into one of these discussions, I think about the book Bowling Alone. In general, it seems that the 'individual' is more important than the 'community'--not just in Orange County and not just in the schools. Unfortunately, individuals live in communities or 'systems' and if we don't start recognizing how inter-related we are, in nearly everything we do, it's the kids who will pay the price in the future, from segregation (more SES than race) to environmental degradation.

Let's carry the marathon analogy a bit further. Yes, most participants in a marathon do finish -- I have twice -- but that' s only if they enter prepared and trained, and make use of the support system they need. Some need to have peer groups to run with; others need to use the run/walk method, many rely on vigorous crowd and family support, and virtually all rely on the volunteers and the sustenance they provide. Furthermore, they need to start with adequate equipment -- the right shoes, sweat-wicking socks, etc. -- or blisters and other maladies will sideline them before it's over.

Clearly, though, children from lower SES often lack many of these elements in trying to complete their K-12 marathon. They start without the right preparation, they often don't have the same level of family-support (either single-parent or two-parent families whose struggle to make a living takes precedence), lack the right equipment in the way of technology, tutors, and other home support, and enrichment activities that wealthier kids have, and lack a peer group that can help model success (such as the pace leaders and coaches that accompany runners).

Our schools just never seem to get this. Wealthier parents never seem to get this. The real need is related to economics.for both kids who will struggle just to perform acceptably, and high-end exceptional kids who can't get the extra programs outside of school to keep them engaged and fully cultivate exceptional intelligence. Wealthier parents who have very smart, but not truly EXCEPTIONAL kids strain the resources of the system by demanding special exceptional classes for their kids.

If instead, exceptional classes were limited to the truly exceptional -- such as a friend of my daughter's back in pre-school who wound up graduating from college at the age of 17 -- then we could really focus on ways to serve the other kids while recognizing these economic inequities that allow some to get so much extra support due to their familes' resources. And these ways would include the kind of peer support in school that comes from more SES integration. One has to look no further than the almost complete absence of poor kids in band, orchestra, and even the vocal groups to begin to understand how these SES differences play out. (I note with pleasure that we've "stolen" a wonderful drama teacher for ECHHS from Jordan who intends to change that dynamic in theatre classes; see today's Herald-Sun.)

Anyway, with this change in perspective, maybe then everyone would really have a good chance on finishing the marathon.

In kindergarten my mother was told in a parent-teacher conference that I was mentally retarded and needed to attend a "special school". Thankfully, my mother did not agree. I was, in fact, distracted, withdrawn, and bored, constantly looking for ways to smuggle books into class, always daydreaming. My sister, a true prodigy two years my junior, had taught me to read and write in two different languages a year earlier.

The news of my supposed mental debility left me bewildered and confused. In my early adulthood I overcompensated. I took over a dozen IQ tests and joined numerous "high IQ" societies. Looking back, it's hard to believe I wasted so much time and money to prove to myself that I am not limited in my intelligence. Sadly, despite the results of all those tests, I have never had a job that required the use of my intelligence. I am middle-aged and not one year of my life have I earned over $20,000. Gladly, that's all about to change.

It has taken me a lifetime to believe that I am at least as smart as other people.

I am not blaming anyone other than me for my lack of worldly success. Perhaps I am overstating it a bit, because in fact I have had a good life, just not an intellectually or financially rewarding one. My point is that the school system, my teacher, even my parents, were ill-prepared to deal with me or my needs (my much smarter and wiser sister, on the other hand, had a better time of it, learning early the importance of dumbing down--her natural gregarious nature often hiding her true brilliance. It wasn't until much later, when she graduated with two majors in two years with highest honors from a nationally recognized university, that even her closest friends discovered her intelligence).

What I would have given to understand that my difference wasn't something bad! Would LEAP, or even the testing for LEAP, have been my lifeline to a more actualized existence? I don't know.

I am not good at abstracting hypothetical futures. No one really is. It's the marvel of living in a world only partly if not significantly controlled by ourselves.

But what I would have done, my friends, to change the careless words of an overworked kindergarten teacher.

Alan, would you please identify your criteria for identifying the "truly exceptional," and then specify the financial savings to the district that would come from your desired reduction in the LEAP class size? It would also help if you'd explain how the district can use the funds freed up by the reduction in LEAP class size to ensure that more children "finish the marathon" than currently do with the current LEAP program in it.

Here, incidentally, are the current placement criteria:

Students who score at the 99th percentile on district-approved aptitude and achievement in reading and math tests will be guaranteed placement in LEAP classrooms.

Students who do not meet those test criteria, but score in the 99th percentile on either the aptitude or achievement test and 97th percentile on other test may be recommended for
placement based on additional evidence of needs.

Placement will not be recommended for students who do not score in the 99th percentile on either test.


I'm not going to succumb to a cross-examination -- even from a fine legal scholar such as you. Duh, less money spent on one program means more for others. As to the LEAP standards, a significant percentage of kids in this district meet those critieria, because those percentiles don't apply to THIS district.

And the lack of an absolute standard means that all the above-average Lake Woebegoners are certain that their kids should be the ones to get in under the 97th percentile "maybe" standard.

Let's put it this way, many kids who broke 1300 on their SATS and had weighted GPAs exceeding 3.9 ranked below the top third in the most recent graduating class. In a district with that type of top-heaviness, you simply can't indulge the wannabes if you want to have any kind of socio-educational equity.

Gee, Alan, I'd think that if you wanted to advocate the district's taking away an existing resource from people who are now being served, it would at least be fair to ask you to demonstrate how the removal of that resource will produce your desired result. Is that really so much to ask?

As for the LEAP standards, you are mistaken. The standards I quoted do not refer to the EOG tests; they refer to tests specifically chosen and administered for this purpose. So while it is true that a sizeable number of kids in the district score in the upper reaches on the EOG tests, it is not the case that such "a significant percentage of kids in the district" score in the top 1% of the tests used for the purpose of screening into LEAP.

And if your argument is that the district is too indulgent with the "wannabes," then you should be arguing for the district to toughen up on its treatment of the discretionary pool of kids who score in the 99th percentile on one test and in the 97th or 98th on the other. Rather than arguing for the elimination of the program even for those who score in the 99th on both. Right?

(Incidentally, "wannabes" is a lovely term for our district's students; is it OK to use a derogatory term like that to describe other children, or just the kids who score in the 97th and 98th percentile on the screening tests?)


Hopefully, the following exhibit is admissible for discrediting your testimony regarding what tests are used/allowable:

I repeat, a significant percentage of kids in this district can thus argue to be qualified. In fact, because of the clause regarding "similar programs in other districts," students who come from less top-heavy districts than Chapel Hill can argue for inclusion even when they're nowhere near the standard intended.

It's time to wake up and realize that regardless of what you might think of No Child Left Behind -- and what I think of it can't be printed on a "family blog," our high schools' failure to meet its standards this year, if repeated for the next two, will have serious funding consequences for the district.

20 percent of East's African-American students met the NCLB standard. It doesn't take much of a LEAP in logic to see where priorities need to be placed.

Bob said, “LEAP doesn't cost anything beyond what the school system would devote to the students involved if there were no LEAP program.” This probably isn't true. If there were no LEAP program at all, the hidden costs would probably be much higher. If there were no LEAP, just imagine the vast amount of time parents would spend complaining to teachers, support staff, and central staff. Think of the sheer emotional exhaustion of staff that has to deal with the same frustrated parents day after day. Think of the staff that exits the system, mumbling about ‘those Chapel Hill parents.'

Eric, ultimately, it isn't about funding. It isn't about the 99th percentile. Ultimately, it's about a limited supply of great teachers.

I think of Susan O'Neal, a second grade teacher at Seawell. She is so quiet and mild mannered that it took me awhile to realize that she is truly a gifted teacher.

She differentiates beautifully across a wide range of ‘ability'/difference. She motivates her students, and her students achieve. She cultivates curiosity and enthusiasm. She treats all children with respect and kindness. She has amazing intuition. She creates a sense of family in the classroom. There is a happy buzz in her class. She has been a teacher for over 20 years. She is regularly assigned some of our most challenging students. She is one of my heroes.

Frank is right. A top priority in our schools should be to recruit and retain great teachers.

(This thread is good. I think I'm starting to get over my LEAP repulsion. Now, if Bob can appeal to my little egalitarian heart, and tell me that there is a normal distribution of mediocre, inexperienced teachers in LEAP, I'll swear off this thread.)


No, egalitarian-wise, it's even better than that!

Last year, when the school year began, there was no teacher at all for the fifth-grade Tier 1 class at Glenwood. (There was instead a temporary teacher who, a week before the school year began, agreed to step in, and she was with the class for the first couple of months.) There were no chairs, and no desks, and no computers. There were no books in the classroom, and no decorations on the wall. The district had known since the spring that I would need to outfit a classroom and hire a teacher for it, but none of that had occurred.


That last sentence should read "it would need," not "I would need." Of course.

Alan, decisions for LEAP placement are made on the basis of performance on the Naglieri non-verbal aptitude test, the Metropolitan Achievement Test, and the Ross Test of Cognitive Skills.

You say that "a significant percentage of kids in this district can thus argue to be qualified. In fact, because of the clause regarding 'similar programs in other districts,' students who come from less top-heavy districts than Chapel Hill can argue for inclusion even when they're nowhere near the standard intended."

Is there any indication that this is actually happening? That the folks at Lincoln Center are admitting kids to the program who don't qualify?

Incidentally, Alan, I'm just asking you to support the argument you're making for taking away a district resource--as a parent, and as a city resident. Not as a lawyer or a law professor. So I don't really see why you need to poke at my profession in responding to me. The questions would be no more of a "cross-examination" if I were a plumber or a farmer asking them. (And for all I know, you too could be a lawyer--since I don't know which "Alan" I am talking to here...)


I'm not the one who posted the URL of my legally oriented web site next to my signature; you invited be addressed as an attorney by doing so. Furthermore, given the content of said site, much of which is certainly consistent with my politics and sense of the law, I find it astoundingly hypocritical that it's ok to pursue fairness and equity for society at large, but when it comes to your kid -- well, that's different.

I don't have statistics as to the degree of clamoring for slots in the LEAP program, but I have plenty of first-hand anecdotal evidence. The Franklin Street business problem in this town could be solved by lining it with tire-related automobile businesses, because the number of squeaky wheel luxury SUV drivers trying to get their child-privilege grease in this town is overwhelming.


You know nothing about the dozens and dozens of hours that my wife and I have spent volunteering in both our daughters' classrooms, since kindergarten, working not with our own daughters, but one-on-one with the kids who need extra help in math and reading. Going on class field trips and buying lunch and snacks for the kids who had no money for it. Playing music. Organizing and running a classroom newspaper. And on and on.

Yet, on the basis of nothing more than the simple fact of my support for district services for my children's needs, you decide that my views are "astoundingly hypocritical."

"Astoundingly hypocritical," "wannabees," "squeaky wheel luxury SUV drivers trying to get their child-privilege grease"--Alan, you certainly set a marvelous example of "fairness and equity."


Your involvement is obviously highly commendable. But if a pro-lifer told me that (s)he volunteers hundreds of hours a year in orphanages, and makes generous donations to boot, but also vigorously supports the denial of clinic privileges to women exercising their right to choose, my focus would still be on that.

After all, because we believe so strongly in a constitutional principles that protect the rights of the accused, we're forced to release thousands of people who we know committed crimes. The kids who watch others -- for example, your daughter(s), go to those LEAP classes will definitely be affected the most by the dual standard they see in action, not your benevolence.



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