SIOUX CITY | A group of parents three months ago aired their concerns about a shift in the talented and gifted program in the Sioux City School District.
With nearly three weeks having played out in the new school year, on Monday some of the same parents returned to a Sioux City School Board meeting to blast what they see as a poorly designed program serving pupils who have been identified to get the benefits of TAG services.
"There is no gifted programming being given to my daughter," Tim Duax said, summarizing how the year has gone for his child attending eighth grade at West Middle School.
Duax and Larisa Chmielewski asserted no students who are in TAG can recognize any specialized instruction they have been given or can pinpoint any other TAG students who are receiving teaching in a concerted program.
Further, the two parents said the school shifted to so-called cluster grouping in order to lump TAG students in with regular students, so the school district as part of a budget squeeze can use the special TAG money for general education expenses.
"Stealing money from the TAG kids is not right," Duax said.
School board members and district Superintendent Paul Gausman said there is a lot of confusion about the TAG program changes, which were first announced last year.
Gausman said, "The catalyst for this change was not and is not financial," and the superintendent added that TAG dollars must only be spent on TAG instruction.
In late 2016, Gausman aired the change from the practice of pulling out gifted students in grades 6-8 from classes to teaching them in cluster grouping, with both other TAG children and students within regular classes.
That change to cluster grouping came about after a school district Talented and Gifted Advisory Group processed through issues in the 2015-16 school year. Additionally, school officials made a change so that TAG students in all grades would get a Personalized Education Plan. Those PEP's were to diagnose a student’s needs and formulate a plan that best addresses an individual’s strengths and learning requirements.
Chmielewski on Tuesday said "there are a lot of parents" with "frustrations" over the TAG functioning in 2017-18. She said a daughter now at North Middle School could read prior to kindergarten, and "we have had to fight for our daughter's education since the beginning."
Duax said the only TAG instruction his daughter has received this year is silent reading in the last period of the day.
"I taught 44 years and I never found silent reading to be effective TAG teaching," school board member Jackie Warnstadt said.
Board member David Gleiser, who said he has a daughter in TAG, said teachers need to let pupils know how "their TAG instruction is being differentiated."
Board president Mike Krysl added, "The TAG revamp...is clearly a work in progress, that will come together."
Board member Perla Alarcon-Flory and Gausman said in one more month people would see a more focused TAG program functioning.
Back in a June school board meeting, when five parents spoke, some said it isn't clear that elementary and middle school teachers would have had enough training on how to embrace the cluster-oriented teaching. On Tuesday, Duax and Chmielewski said that training didn't pan out over the weeks since.
In June Gausman said the Sioux City School District has 10 TAG-endorsed personnel. Roughly 400 students have been placed in the Talented and Gifted program.