Last month, Waterford’s board of education . Included in the plan was the removal of the talented and gifted program (TAG) at Clark Lane Middle School.
The cut did not go unnoticed. Four seventh-grade TAG students attended Thursday’s board of education meeting, arguing that while so much is done for those who fall behind in school, so little is done to help the high achievers.
“The message our town is sending is it is OK to be average,” Kate Ashbey said. “(That message) is affecting the future of our country.”
Ashbey and fellow TAG students Teresa Price, Lily McCormick and Sarah Karlberg all argued that regular classes are not challenging enough for high achievers. That leads to boredom, and eventually disinterest, for the most competitive students.
“We love TAG; it is our favorite class,” Price said of her TAG science class. “It is the one class we take where we can learn at our level.”
TAG students at Clark Lane Middle School have one trimester in science, where the same subject is taught as it is to other students, just at a much faster rate. Tests are given once a week, the girls said.
And while many students would cower away from such demands, the girls all thrive on it. It is the one class they have that is being taught to them at their speed, so they don’t fall behind, they said.
“The other classes, we learn the same thing over and over again, and it gets boring,” Price said. “TAG is the one place we can go for a real challenge.”
It also is a place to feel comfortable with peers, McCormick said. In regular class, when you are raising your hand to every question and are learning the material days before everybody else, some people make fun, she said.
“TAG just makes me feel comfortable,” McCormick said. “It is the place where I really feel like we fit in.”
The girls also pointed out that if students are diagnosed with a special need, that special need, by law, must be addressed. However, when students are labeled as high achievers, their needs are not addressed.
Yet by putting high achievers in regular class, it is just as damaging, Ashby said.
“You get bored, and ultimately will not receive the proper education,” she said. “It is not fair.”
Overall six teachers are retiring at the end of the school year, and only three were replaced. That left three positions unfilled, including one at Clark Lane.
To make up for that lost position, the TAG program was cut, Assistant Superintendent Craig Powers said. The move was not one anybody was proud of, but one that was necessary because of the tight budget, he said.
“I agree with everything the TAG kids are saying,” he said. “When you cut something, it means you once strongly believed in it.”
TAG was cut because the participation was fairly low (around 18 kids), Powers said.
To keep TAG, another teacher would need to be hired, Superintendent Jerome Belair said. That would cost roughly $55,000, he said.
The board of education agreed Thursday night to look back at the budget. Keeping TAG will be on the priority list, Board of Education Chairman Donald Blevins said.
“I don’t think it is the intention of anybody on this board to cut the TAG program,” he said. “But we have to work within the budget to see if it can be restructured.”
The board of education will present its budget to the board of finance on March 18. Even after the board of finance, and eventually the Representative Town Meeting, approves the budget, the board of education can move line items around within the budget, so long as the bottom line stays the same.
TAG is not offered at the high school, where students can take AP courses. TAG is offered at the town’s three elementary schools in math, and will continue there.
“It is the reverse of ‘No Child Left Behind,’ ” Ashbey said of the cut. “It is ‘no child get ahead.’ ”