Dd13 asking for a grade-skip

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Registered: 12-31-1969
Dd13 asking for a grade-skip
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Sun, 08-26-2012 - 4:58pm

She's subject-accelerated in Math and Science. One grade ahead in those. Last year wasn't academically challenging, but it was her first year in school ever, and so that was fine. She was adjusting to being in school, learning to write exams and essays, figuring out what expectations were for assignments and projects, there were lots of field trips especially at the beginning, she was inserting herself into the social milieu, she had just added a challenging choir experience which took her out of school an afternoon a week, she had her music, she volunteered with the Youth Centre Initiative and ended up on their Board of Directors which added a meeting every week for most of the year. 

The teachers were on partial job-action all year, so we didn't get any report cards during the year. The end of year report was just letter-grades. I was verbally told that she had the top mark in the class in Spanish, Math and Science. She got straight A's. She hardly studied, hardly ever had homework, maybe once a week. 

It's a tiny school with just 48 students in the "high school end" which this year covers 7th through 12th grades. All classes are multi-grade. For instance, last year for math she was in a class comprised of 8th graders, 9th graders and the academic and applied streams of 10th grade. 

This year her four core academic subjects will be taught in multi-grade classrooms covering 7th, 8th and 9th grades. She is dreading this. First of all, with just one exception her friends are all in the upper class (10/11/12) and she intensely dislikes the social milieu that dominates the 8th/9th grade cluster and without going into details I totally agree with her on this. Secondly, English and Social Studies tend to be taught with the same content for all students, aimed at the middle of the pack, and the expectations for student work and mastery adjusted depending on grade-level. While she's wanting considerably more challenge than she got last year as an 8th-grader in the 8/9/10 classroom, she's now going to be a 9th-grader in a 7/8/9 classroom. She'll be able to work on 10th grade material in Math and Science, just by working independently during those blocks. But she'd much rather be in with the older kids who are actually working at and beyond that level. And she wants the challenge of teaching and content at a 10th+ grade level in English and Social Studies.

Finally, the way the funding and diploma structure works, she would not be eligible to get grad diploma credit for the music courses she'll be taking alongside two other students who are getting credit. She attends her youth choir with three other students from this school: they're all earning credit for their participation. She won't because her age places her in 9th grade and she is ineligible for the dual enrolment that would be necessary for credit. We've also just received word that her instrumental music trio will be eligible for credit for the course proposal they submitted. (This is the last year for the trio because the older student is graduating.) The other two trio members will receive 11th and 12th-grade instrumental music credits for successfully completing the course. But dd, even though she'll be doing all the same work as the other two students in the trio, won't be getting credit on her transcript for the course because she's "in Grade 9" and credits at that level don't count towards the grad diploma.

Dd has not had any achievement or IQ testing. In general this school has been incredibly accommodating of our older kids without requiring testing (though both were eventually tested, scoring HG+). All of which leaves me a bit mystified by the response I got.

I wrote to the principal and guidance counsellor asking for a meeting to discuss dd's request for grade advancement. Administrative offices aren't officially open for another few days but I did get an email back. Basically the email was quite discouraging in tone. "Grade advancement is a complex question. We approach it on a case by case basis. It would not be considered based simply on parental request, as we commonly find that a broader review of considerations suggests an unfavourable outcome. Generally it is reserved only for students who are head and shoulders above their peers, would benefit from improved social/peer relations and who need increased stimulation and challenge to be successful. We need to ensure that the grade adjustment is in the best interest of the student in all respects." Then there was a bunch of stuff about how flexible multi-age classrooms can usually effectively meet the needs of a broad range of students. She said she would have an informal chat with the principal and then they'd get back to us after school starts to see about setting up a meeting. I wasn't expecting an unqualified and enthusiastic "yes" but why all the qualifiers and hedges? It felt like a canned response designed to discourage a parent from pursuing such a matter. I'm thinking ... "This is Miranda you're talking to! You know me. You know my kids! I know all this stuff!"

My older two kids were placed ahead, at this very school, at this very age. They started school part-time when they were Grade 9 age, both taking only 10th and 11th grade courses, and the school placed them officially in 10th grade that year. The school was incredibly easy-going about it: they said "If they want that level of challenge, they should go for it. If they over-reach themselves, it's only themselves who will pay the price. But if they're keen for the challenge, they'll almost certainly be successful." There was no complex process of weighing criteria. 

So I'm wondering why I got what felt like a form letter that felt like they were aiming to discourage me. If anything I think dd13 is more likely to succeed than her siblings were: she's very much a diligent "pleaser" of a student, and has proven herself with a year of full-time school already, scoring exceptionally well in her courses at the accelerated level. My older kids were complete unknowns in the achievement department, having not been to school before, and were much less "other-oriented," more inclined to do only what served their personal and sometimes mysterious learning needs and desires. 

Maybe this is just posturing by the school for the sake of appearances. Because she was "in 8th grade" last year, moving her into 10th would constitute a school-based skip, and other parents could point to her and say "Why can't my kid move up? She has been an A-student too." Whereas with my older two they entered school at an accelerated level directly from homeschooling, so it looked like they were already accelerated as the result of homeschooling. They could say "Oh, they had already done 9th grade at home." Maybe we should have put her in 9th last year when she started school and had done with it. But at the time she (quite sensibly, I think) said that adjusting to full-time school would take some energy, and she'd like to hedge her bets and take courses at a level that she knew would be easy for her.

???

Anyway, I'm just whining a little here, while doing my best to be patient and wait to hear back about whether they are at all open to the possibility.

Miranda

Avatar for turtletime
iVillage Member
Registered: 05-13-1998
Sun, 08-26-2012 - 8:44pm

she's very much a diligent "pleaser" of a student, and has proven herself with a year of full-time school already, scoring exceptionally well in her courses at the accelerated level. 

This is exactly why. The fact that your DD did "well" last year likely equates to a "good fit" in their eyes. Even experienced schools still view acceleration as a last resort for visibly struggling children. A child who is getting straight "A's" and pleasant in class is a success story in their eyes. They fly in the face of the "sullen, intense, divergent, fierce independent" stereotype of the highly gifted child. It was one thing to take your word for it and have it be "your fault" if they failed. It's quite another to move a child who they've seen as "doing great" all year.

I don't doubt the move is good for your DD or that she would thrive. I suspect they will concede to it after a meeting. I just commiserate with your frustration over such a negative (and annoying) letter.

iVillage Member
Registered: 04-09-2006
Mon, 08-27-2012 - 2:09am
I think turtletime has nailed it...your other kids were going into school from a position of power (students the school would love to have)...possibly they're taking your dd for granted, knowing that she's already invested in attending. I wonder what they'd think if you said she had decided to be home educated this year...you could "grade skip" her for the music credits, and then she could pick up academically where she left off last year...this year throwing everything at becoming fluent in Spanish, for example...

Deborah
iVillage Member
Registered: 01-05-2005
Mon, 08-27-2012 - 11:12am

I'm not familiar with the Canadian school system, but I would definitely consider putting in a more formal request with the superintendent, Director of Gifted, or whatever equivalent you have, or at the least another note to the head saying, "I would like to set a date for a meeting. I don't feel comfortable with a "wait and see" approach."

 I can't imagine a highly advanced 9th grade student being placed with 7th and 8th graders and having it work. And if she's going to work independently, you might as well be homeschooling her! Is this the same administration that worked with your older kids? I am surprised that they responded in such a "form letter" way. Perhaps new and stricter guidelines have come down? In any case, I can only imagine your dd's frustration at both the music issue (effectively being punished for being advanced at a younger age) and the academics.

Even without ability or achievement testing, it should be obvious that your dd can EASILY do the work, and isn't that really what counts in the end? And, as a bonus, she is a hard worker who will actually TRY. UGH.... the school shouldn't care about other parents (I know, I know, easier said than done) to the detriment of your dd.

Let's hope this is just an overly cautious first response. It sounds like your dd would do really well in grade 10.

Good luck advocating for her,

Theresa

 

iVillage Member
Registered: 04-09-2006
Mon, 08-27-2012 - 12:44pm
Agree with Theresa here...a meeting after school starts is too late.

The school might have had some fallout (from other parents) from the educational options that the elder siblings had? Fox example, the eldest got scholarship money for having the highest marks...possibly some parents thought that the playing field was uneven because the student was not ever full time...possibly the school is trying to make the younger sib's educational experience more conventional?

I found that once my ninth grader went to school full time, his options shrank...he had been placed (academically) according to my recommendations, but any later attempt at a later retool was based solely on what he'd done in school.

Deborah
Avatar for turtletime
iVillage Member
Registered: 05-13-1998
Mon, 08-27-2012 - 3:50pm
"I'm tempted to coach middle dd on how to appear less pleasant and compliant at whatever meeting we end up having."

It sounds funny but there is something to this. Not so much teaching her to act less satisfied but giving her the permission to disagree, to be honest about her feelings and frank about what she wants. I've often been surprised at how even girls with very untraditional examples can fall into very "female" traps of wanting to comply, to make others happy, to be seen as a reasonable person. She may benefit from some role playing and rehearsing some ways to combat authority figures who will have very "sound" responses but simply don't apply to her.
iVillage Member
Registered: 05-18-2005
Mon, 08-27-2012 - 6:28pm

A school so small is hard for me to wrap my head around.  Ours are all so overcrowded.  With so few kids, why don't they individualize more?  It does seem weird to havea  child who's doing a fair bit of 10th grade work in class with 7th graders.

Gwen

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Registered: 12-06-2010
Tue, 08-28-2012 - 2:31am
I agree that rhetoric email has a "canned" feel to it, as though it was not written for you but for any parent asking for advancement. Yourbdaughter sounds like an obvious candidate for a grade skip. I agree with the others who say you should insist on meeting now, not after an informal discussion between the principal and the guidance counselor. Why the wait?
iVillage Member
Registered: 01-05-2005
Tue, 08-28-2012 - 10:44am

 The school district office has three administrative employees who resumed work on August 13th: the superintendent and her secretary, and the maintenance foreman. School starts September 4th and none of the school staff or admin are being paid to be at work right now so. They'll be back at work, as will the teachers, on Thursday

Ah, that makes more sense. Our principals (at Elementary, Middle and High School) work year-round, and the teachers come back a few weeks in advance. I didn't realize that no one was there yet, so I understand not wanting to push for them to work before they're actually being paid.

I also agree about not wanting to go over her head. At my local district, the head of gifted is often pulled in to consult on these issues, so it isn't considered "going around" anyone. Generally, she makes the final call on a lot of the accommodations.

I hope some good things happen in the next few weeks!

iVillage Member
Registered: 04-16-2001
Tue, 08-28-2012 - 10:53am

As others have said, hopefully this is the principal being cautious and giving you the same resposne other parents would get - that it is not done at a parent's request, but based on an analysis of the student's best interests.  I don't think waiting until school starts will be too late, although I would want the meeting ASAP after it does.  Your dd may even be able to use the level of early assignments to show how inappropriate the work is for her.

Seems as if your dd is going to have to be able to articulate the issue - that she was doing 10th grade work last year and being the oldest in the 7,8,9 group is not going to provide her with appropriate challenge. 

 

iVillage Member
Registered: 04-09-2006
Wed, 09-19-2012 - 12:07pm
So...how's tenth grade going?

Deborah