Here’s what some readers had to say about our story “District 96 will review special ed in 2012-13” in the Jan. 25 edition of the Landmark.

It is often said that a measure of a school is how good the programming is for both ends of the spectrum. That the programs at either end of the spectrum, special ed, and gifted ed, are as bad as they are shows the absolute lack of leadership by the board and administration. Anyone who thinks that a gifted program can be effective when it provides only an hour a week for math does not understand the needs of gifted kids. That the quest teachers are part time clearly shows priority that this district gives to gifted education – almost none. There are clear standards for gifted education and special education and this district is clearly ignoring those. (See the National Association for Gifted Children, for more information.) Part of that is the problem at a state level. The state of Illinois is one of the few states in the US that has no gifted education standards. District 96 is living down to the standards, because they can. Other states require Individual Education Plans for kids at both ends of the spectrum – because kids at both ends of the spectrum are defined as at risk. It seems that the district looks at kids who score extremely high on reading or math tests as “tiara’ kids. Parents of kids are often told that they don’t know what they are talking about, and just think their kids are smarter than they are.

This district could provide clear goals such as getting kids to qualify to go to the Illinois Math and Science Academy or skip freshman algebra. There should be a clear line of sight and alignment in a gifted curriculum, and the standard curriculum from first grade through high school. At this time, there is no connection between grade school and middle school or for that matter between grades. The Quest program is completely disconnected from the standard curriculum.

The board and the administration are fully aware of the discontent of parents, and yet do nothing. When the administration and board hears complaints, they denounce the parents for “criticizing the teachers” or belittle the parents as not knowing about education. This is not about the teachers. This is about the lack of planning, lack of attention, and desire to do the least, by the administration.
– Another Parent

I continue to be disappointed by this school board. You were elected by ALL the parents of district 96 and serve ALL the children of district 96…not just the ones who fit neatly under the bell curve.

There seems to be a new air of fiscal stewardship with some board members. Bravo. But that has to be balanced with social responsibility. Is that the reason behind trying to ignore the problems with special and gifted education? Or is it that it’s too complex an issue for this board to tackle?

I think people get caught up in the idea of fairness. Is it fair to do extra things for the kids with special needs or who are gifted? What about the other kids? Will that take away from them? Will they be forgotten?

I want to introduce a concept to this school board that they are really missing here. Being fair does not mean being equal. What being fair really means is giving each child what they need. Right now everything is nice and equal. Everybody pretty much gets the same thing. I guess I don’t see the fairness in that since kids at both ends of the spectrum need different or more resources to be successful. Meeting the needs of learners on both ends of the spectrum improves the education experience for ALL learners.

The current system is dragged down by poor leadership, lack of support to our wonderful teachers of District 96, lack of resource allocation, and lack of initiatives on this topic.
– Fair Does Not Mean Equal

It seems to me that D96 has tried to tie the Quest reading program with the programs kids see in guided reading if they are not in Quest. My personal opinion is that the program is not as good as it once was, but sometimes things must change and at least the kids are pulled out three days a week for reading.

Math, as you point out, is another story. Not only is there little to no support for gifted kids within the regular classroom when it comes to math, they are given Quest math that is simply often not of great enough difficulty/challenge for these capable kids. One hour a week for this important subject, at a level closer to a child’s ability and interest? The district (and the state) should be ashamed.
To Another Parent