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TAG, You're Out

Students Complain Of Program Cut

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.”

District’s Side

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.’ ”

Terry February 18, 2011 at 12:34 PM
I vote to keep TAG.
Crazy-in-Wtfd. February 18, 2011 at 01:23 PM
Does anyone want TAG eliminated? I doubt it. But I'm sure nobody wants freshman sports eliminated or teachers laid off either. The BOE budget must be held in check and unfortunately that means cuts will have to be made somewhere. No matter what they cut, a group of people will be unhappy and will have great reasons to keep the program running. In a perfect world, we wouldn't be talking about this. But in reality, the town is forced to balance between services and taxes. As most people are hurting financially today, budgets must be held to minimum increases if any at all. I'm sure the BOE will look at everything and find the best case scenario for the cuts......even though nobody wants anything cut. (Myself included)
Paul Petrone (Editor) February 18, 2011 at 03:30 PM
I think the better question to ask in this article is if this can be run another way. Can there be an after-school club, or tutoring, or something that can be done without having to pay for a full-time teacher? The board discussed that last night, and the superintendent is looking at creative solutions to avoid program cuts. Can you think of a creative solution to keep these kids challenged, that would be much cheaper?
Terry February 18, 2011 at 08:22 PM
I think it would be hard as an afterschool program because then the students are taking the same science class as the other students rather than being in the TAG science class and are bored out of their mind. Plus, there are no after school buses on Friday this year so they are down to having it four days a week. Maybe Pfizer and EB could split the cost of the TAG teacher.
Kevin Girard February 19, 2011 at 02:07 AM
What if their current teachers worked a little harder at finding challenging "extra's" for them? Okay, my idea doesn't solve the "bored" problem in class, but it does challenge them beyond the norm. What's cool is that the program could be bigger in size as well (any kid that wanted to challenge themselves could try). I'm with Crazy on this one - the budget's the budget and you can only be so creative. I think it's time people knew the real cost of programs and could decide for themselves if the benefits outweigh the costs. This unfortunately goes for the state budget too. We've become too accustomed to dishing out cash to every open hand without considering the consequences.
Bob Price February 19, 2011 at 03:14 AM
I'm glad to see that the posts here are more civil than in The Day. The ideas of "extras" or after school activities may be the answer in today's budget climate. But today's budget climate is exactly why it is so important to have this discussion. My daughter was one of the girls who spoke last night and I can tell you that these girls are not giving up. They are not only going to continue the fight with the BOE, they are also planning fundraisers to help support other alternatives. They are not just sitting around with their hands out. They are helping to solve the problem!
Kevin Girard February 19, 2011 at 01:47 PM
Bob, Despite my comments that there are tough times and things that have to be cut, I don't believe your daughter, or any of the other children in that program should just give up. On the contrary, I think this will be a tremendous learning experience for them on so many levels (budgets, creating compelling arguments, fighting for what you believe in, dealing with all sorts of people, managing up, etc.). I definitely didn't mean these children specifically when I said "We've become too accustomed to dishing out cash..." If it was taken that way, I apologize, and I sincerely hope they win! But I did mean it in a much more general sense. I guess my point is that there are a zillion "worthy" programs, but not a zillion dollars to fund them. At some point, we either have to accept fewer programs, or raise more funds. Since no one wants higher taxes (the "easiest" way for our govt to raise more funds), people may be forced to either extremely creative solutions or program cuts. I might also add another "creative solution the children of TAG might employ. They could apply for grants (I don't know from who or where, but I am thinking they're out there) to fund the program. That would also be an extremely educational and rewarding experience for them. Anyway, I enjoy the civil debate here, and think Paul's doing a fantastic job covering the town, thanks to Paul and all for participating. I hope the discussion continues!
Jerry Torino February 19, 2011 at 06:07 PM
I know the economy is not that good,but if we can find the money to help the low achievers in our schools then we should also help the high achievers.what kind of example do we send to these kids if we don't help them also.
Dan February 19, 2011 at 06:09 PM
Ok, I am one of the TAG students. Not all of the students learn at the same rate! With TAG we learn everything a lot quicker and more in depth. Also, TAG is a very hands on class, so we can understand more indepth with veiwing changes. We students in TAG are trying our best to save it for at least next year. “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.” Everyone in TAG and that has been in TAG agrees. TAG is the 1 class where we can have students all at the same level of learning! Most kids in Tag are also in algebra, because 1) We like the challange! 2) We can learn more in advanced classes! Tag is my best core class because our teacher can be more direct to just the students. My TAG class only has 6 kids in it. This may seem like a good reason to cut TAG but it also allows usto learn at greater measures than in our normal classes!
Kevin Girard February 19, 2011 at 06:26 PM
I agree with Jerry, and actually, this is something I've experienced in life firsthand. At my employer, we don't waste any time developing the bottom 20% of the talent ladder, we invest all our effort on our best performers. So I'm with you - it'd sure be great if our laws were such that each child could receive exactly the right amount of teaching to reach their full potential. the unfortunate thing is, there isn't time and money available to do that. Instead, the morons in office at the time have aimed to make sure that we equalize things by bringing up the bottom. Facing increasing financial pressures, our leaders have to look hard at what to keep and what to cut. I'm sure they didn't take cutting TAG lightly. Having been a "gifted student" myself (now, with a PhD in engineering under my belt), I totally sympathize with you Dan. I remember a high school physics class where I wrote more notes to my girlfriend than I did regarding the class. I applaud all your efforts to save TAG in its current form, and hope you keep going! I dream one day my son and daughters will be able to benefit from such programs. I also recognize that this is a tough life lesson - money only goes so far, and something's got to go. So I think it's a fair question to ask what could be done to stimulate current TAG students in a different manner. When I was in school, I was moved up 2 years in science and math. Maybe that's a viable alternative with little economic downside?
Bob Price February 19, 2011 at 06:46 PM
Kevin, Grants for TAG? Thanks for the idea. Honestly in all of the discussion that my daughter and I have had on this subject that never came up. I would hope that the BOE had already explored this option, but I think we need to make sure. Thanks again.
kit February 20, 2011 at 03:42 AM
The solution is simple, place all TAG students in the same core classes for each grade level at CLMS. This way teachers could teach the required curriculum at the place of the "slowest learner" in those presumably accelerated classes. Moving at their pace without the distractions and snide comments by their peers, opens the doors for these kids to cover concepts more thoroughly and at a quicker pace.

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