The Peripheral View - Scott Rainey RVC-8
The "Tag Advisory Committee"

Following last months quest for information on the status of Talented and Gifted education, I attended a meeting of the TAG Advisory Committee for one of the more affluent 'burbs in the Portland Oregon metro area.

Lake Oswego is the sort of 'burb where buying a house for $1 to $3 million dollars, tearing it down and building something new on the old lot is not common, but its not uncommon either. There's even a batch of folk from Hollywierd who have second homes here. Given our booming local tech economy, I am pretty sure there are school districts with higher average property vales, but none as old and established as Lake Oswego. I give this demographic as context, because I don't want you to think that the situation in your own school district has anything to do with money. It doesn't.

The "Tag Advisory Committee" was composed of school counselors, school secretaries, and a few parents. The operative word here is "Committee." The scheduled hour was at least 53 minutes of introductions, and procedural items, with about 6 minutes left for discussions about the constituency the committee allegedly serves.

Attendance was "light" to say the least. Several people who had been expected to show up didn't. In fairness it was the second week back to school. However whatever my expectations were going into this meeting, what I saw fell substantially below that level. I learned that the past two years most of the committee's work had been devoted to designing a district TAG web site. It was still not on line, even in draft form.

One parent confessed to being surprised when her 1st grade daughter's teacher contacted her and suggested TAG testing. As it turns out, the daughter tested positive for TAG aptitudes. So was there mom, volunteering with the committee, trying to do the right thing. I really don't think her heart was in it. It seemed to me that she was much more concerned that the girl fit in and get along, than with having her child learn a substantial fraction of what she was capable of learning.

There was a discussion of a school with two second grade classes. One teacher apparently watched for TAG attributes, the other did not. The watchful teacher had found 7 TAG qualified students last year. Her peer found zero. As I reported last month, if the school administration knows what they are doing, this is exactly the correct thing to do: Group the TAG kids together, rather than spreading them out. I honestly hope that is the case here, but the feeling I got was that one teacher was watching for it, and another was not, and the latter practice found greater favor with the administrator.

There was no discussion about pro-actively identifying TAG kids or what to do with them once identified. I felt that there was a consensus with the district people, that they didn't want anybody "labeled." It seemed that there was a strong tilt to not disclose to anyone that someone has tested Positive for TAG - almost including the parent and the student.

There is a law in our state that says the needs of TAG kids must be served, but there is precious little funding. Most small to medium districts do not have a dedicated TAG person. The job is typically just a part of the responsibilities of several counselors. These counselors portfolio will also includes music and athletics. The Oregon law places school counselors, teachers and administrators in a pretty tough spot, and you just have to empathize with their situation.

If the scope of these discussions was: "what to do if you discover a TAG identified kid who cannot be ignored" it's just that there are no real resources to meet their needs.

One problem I discussed here last month was addressed - from the exact opposite POV. It seems that early readers tend to stop reading 6 weeks after they enter Kindergarten, because they do not want to exceed the expectations of their teachers or peers. The Lake Oswego TAG Committee was told that within a few months of classroom instruction, the rest of the kids catch up to the early readers. Perhaps, but is it because they really catch up or do the early readers slow down to get along and fit in?

To reinforce what I mentioned last month: schools tend to be reactive, not proactive. Unless a TAG kid is identified, and has an advocate s/he will slip through the cracks in the system. The exception is a kid with a behavior problem.