Ottawa

Parents criticize Ottawa public school board plans to water down gifted program

Parents urged Ottawa public school board trustees Tuesday night not to make sweeping changes to programs for gifted children and to allow more time for consultation.

'I don't even see how they communicated this to parents of affected children'

Marlaina Loveys, a parent of a gifted boy in Grade 1, says he becomes bored with repetition and the slower pace of a regular classroom. (Stu Mills/CBC)

Parents urged Ottawa public school board trustees Tuesday night not to make sweeping changes to programs for gifted children and to allow more time for consultation.

The Ottawa-Carleton District School Board is considering eliminating specialized programs for some of the youngest students in the board.

At a board meeting Tuesday night, many parents lauded the specialized enrichment curriculum and criticised what they called a rushed approach to changing it.

The public school board is considering the changes after a sweeping review found "students with giftedness do as well whether in the regular program or specialized program class."

The report on the review recommends an itinerant teacher position be created. The teacher would support classroom teachers in the education of gifted primary students in the regular program once specialized programs are eliminated.

Parents were given three minutes each to publicly address problems with the public school board's Gifted Program Review. (Stu Mills/CBC)

Gifted programs would begin in Grade 5

Under the proposal, gifted programs would begin in Grade 5.

Aidan Wilson, a Grade 6 student, called the idea "horrible."

"I learned more just since the start of school this year than I did in a complete year when I wasn't in the gifted program," the 11-year-old said.

"And, second, the work is more challenging, more engaging and I learn more."

... The work is more challenging, more engaging and I learn more.- Aidan Wilson, Grade 6 student

Marlaina Loveys's son is in Grade 1 but reads and studies mathematics at a Grade 6 level.

"You just zone out after a while, you don't listen because you already know most of the stuff that's already been said," she said, explaining her worry about her son being moved back into a regular classroom.

"You have to remember that repetition is how kids learn. When you are a gifted learner, you only have to tell them once and they learn it. So they're very unique in their learning style, so it becomes very painful very quickly, being in a regular classroom."

Loveys said she only learned about the meeting at which the education plan of her son and other advanced students would be discussed when a friend mentioned it to her.

'Serious concerns about how rushed this is'

"I'm a very involved parent. I volunteer a lot at the school. I know all the teachers, I know the principals and yet I've heard nothing about this," said Loveys.

"So, I have serious concerns about how rushed this is and I don't understand how they communicate this to stakeholders because I don't even see how they communicated this to parents of affected children." 

Many of the parent delegations, who were given three minutes to make their arguments to the board, told the trustees that challenging group instruction for their children isn't a perk but a necessity.

"They learn not only from their teacher, they learn from their peers. They learn from the environment," said parent Zhong An.

"I think it's a mistake to remove this program. The board needs to think about it."

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