Baraboo's school administrators know that parents of gifted and talented children have some unhappy stories about not being able to get the challenging education their boys and girls need, School District Curriculum Director Lori Mueller said Monday.
However, improvements have been made, Mueller said, and the district is moving toward excellence in responding to the needs of each child within a few years, she said.
Mueller spoke before a small group of parent advocates for the district's most capable students during a public meeting at Jack Young Middle School.
Baraboo School Board member Doug Mering and JYMS Associate Principal John Gunnell also participated.
During the meeting, parents of gifted children described frustrating -and positive -experiences in local classrooms.
Aimee Wueluck attended the meeting with her husband, Jeff Wueluck.
Their son is very strong in mathematics and reading and became bored in first grade. It resulted in him acting out in class, and his teacher didn't know what to do at the time.
"We had one teacher who didn't understand (the boy), and we didn't understand he was (gifted and talented) either," she said.
A woman who did not want her name used said her child, now in seventh grade, is in the top few percent of academic skills.
However, she said her child is not getting the challenge she needs.
"I've talked with every one of her core teachers this year, and they say when she's done with her regular work, she can do extra work," the woman said. "She doesn't want to do extra work. She wants to be given something to challenge her now."
Mueller said the district is revamping its plan for providing services to gifted and talented students, and working to give teachers the skills to respond to those needing an extra challenge in the classroom.
Thirty Baraboo teachers have signed up for a seminar with experienced teachers of the gifted and talented from Waunakee to learn how to work with students. In turn, they in turn will help spread the skills to other teachers.
"I believe all our students deserve a year's worth of growth in a year's worth of time," Mueller said.
Mueller said she would like to see progress in the next year, including School Board policies to guarantee that children receive gifted and talented services - and that children who aren't being challenged enough can be accelerated in their course work.
"We need to identify staff for G&T positions (in each school) that Doug will approve," she said.
After teachers receive training from the experienced Waunakee staff, students who need an extra challenge can be "clustered" in those classrooms.
"I'd like to see the Baraboo schools become the place parents go for gifted and talented services." Mueller said. "Because, as I think you're seeing across the state, that's the first place things are being cut."
Parents attending the meeting also heard reports of improvement in the level of attention their children were receiving.
Parent Sara Bishop said her son at Al. Behrman Elementary School, who is pre-tested in math, is given a choice of more challenging learning activities when he already understands the assigned material.
She also said she liked the way he is grouped with other children in his classroom with skills similar to his.
"He gets to work with that group and develop leadership skills (and) partner-sharing opportunities and not be at a desk by himself," she said.
Parent Christine Quandt said she was happy this year when JYMS staff recognized her daughter already understood eighth-grade algebra and allowed her to take on the challenge of geometry.
Gunnell said that JYMS has established time for "tiered intervention" or "targeted intervention" at the end of the school day. The time allows teachers to work together to figure out what students need most. Time also is made available for educational activities that best move children forward.
Mering said the efforts to meet the needs of gifted and talented students means improvements that will help all children in the district.
Changes will take time, he said, but they are moving ahead.
"We need to continue to grow," he said.
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