For our team and the members of our group, gifted education is not about speeding through school or having Ivy League kids. It is about our children receiving an education that causes them to work hard, overcome obstacles, and fail and recover. It is about finding friends who understand them and are OK with their quirks. It is about not being ashamed to ask for differentiation for our kids.
–Joshua Raymond, Michigan Parent and Gifted Student Activist
Stories where parents work with public school administrators and teachers to create new programs to fill a need for children are always lovely. I think it reflects the kind of democratic public school system we should all seek.
Joshua Raymond has often commented on posts I have written about gifted education. We don’t always agree about minor points, but we have a mutual respect for one another.
Joshua led a group of parents in Metro Detroit to create new programming for the gifted population which was sorely needed. By forming a team with diverse strengths, they were able craft a presentation explaining the needs of gifted children and how a magnet program would support these learners and benefit a school district.
For some time this has been a struggle, but parents persevered and climbed many hurdles. I am happy to report that in September 2017, third and fourth graders will have a gifted magnet program that will eventually expand to K-12 grades. It will be the only program for gifted learners in eastern Oakland County.
It is important to note that some parents, who pushed for gifted programming, now have children who are older than the grades that will be covered. But they continue to be committed to seeing the program implemented for others.
The gifted magnet program could not have happened without a responsive school district which parents found in Avondale. Superintendent Dr. James Schwarz said “Let’s make this happen!”
How many of us wish more superintendents would be as responsive as Dr. Schwarz? I am not surprised to find he has an impressive list of credentials starting when he was a public school elementary teacher. His master’s degree is in curriculum and instruction leadership.
Carmen Kennedy and Marty Alwardt are assistant superintendents who have worked to make this school a reality too. Their openness to new ideas and their commitment to the children of Avondale and Oakland County is commendable.
Gifted students will be identified with a multi-part identification currently being developed, including teacher and parent nominations that focus more on gifted indicators than test scores; iReady data, Fountas & Pinnell reading data, and student evidence of creativity. In addition, parents and teachers can submit other evidence of giftedness, such as IQ scores or a portfolio, for consideration.
Another plus to this program is the diverse community it will serve. Joshua acknowledges that while many in Troy and Rochester can afford extracurricular programs, or even the Roeper School (a private school for gifted students), students in low-socioeconomic areas don’t have as many options and opportunities.
This program is committed to identifying and educating gifted students that may be overlooked or not given opportunities.
Public gifted education should be available for every gifted learner, not just the wealthy!
Such cooperation between school officials and parents deserves to be highlighted and perhaps replicated. If you are interested in learning more about Avondale’s magnet school, contact the following individuals:
Martin.Alwardt@Avondale.K12.MI.US – 248-537-6015
Hillary.Olance@Avondale.K12.MI.US – 248-537-6049
Joshua Raymond, Kathryn Clements, Ali & Drew Weadock – NEOgifted@outlook.com
Prospective Parents Group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/NEOgifted/