October 8, 2008

Panel to Address Issues of High-End Learners Program



Duxbury school officials are setting up a communications committee that will address the controversial new high-end learners program.

Many parents were concerned this summer when they learned, just before the start of school, that officials were introducing a pilot program that would affect 14 third, fourth, and fifth graders at the Alden School.

Administrators say the program will help teachers better instruct children who have been identified as high-end learners, or talented and gifted students.

But parents say the gifted classrooms were stacked with children of school committee members and board members of the Duxbury Education Foundation, which funded training for the program.

School officials said they would not disclose the names of the students in the program or release numbers of students in the program whose parents had ties to those organizations.

School committee member George Cipolletti acknowledged on the online Duxbury School Forum that his son is in the higher end learning group.

But, he said, he had no information on whether his son was in the program until the principal called the same night he alerted other parents.

School committee Chairwoman Anne Ward said her child was not identified and said she does not know the names of the children who were.

Children were identified by teachers using a survey of behavioral characteristics. Six third graders, five fourth graders and three fifth graders were identified, Assistant Superintendent Edwin Walsh said.

"I believe the process was very objective and the teachers are very professional and not prone to any town politics in the least bit or any perceived politics," Walsh said.

Nine teachers and three administrators attended training in the teaching methods this summer, paid for by the Duxbury Education Foundation. They will teach the methods to other teachers during the school year.

Walsh said good teachers have always recognized high-end learners and worked with students on different levels. The difference now is that teachers will be better prepared to identify high-end learners and teach to them.

He said other students will also benefit from the program because the strategies will be used throughout the classroom. Teachers will be able to reach more students effectively.

Walsh said more than 30 parents showed interest in being part of the communications committee, which will address issues of student identification and ongoing assessment throughout the year.

"We had a wonderful overwhelming response from parents on it," he said. "The feedback that we've gotten is that it's been a long time coming. It definitely is an unmet need for a segment of the students."

Sydney Schwartz may be reached at [email protected]

Originally published by By SYDNEY SCHWARTZ, The Patriot Ledger.

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