the tally

Finally, G&T admissions letters go out, but good news is scarcer

A chart prepared by the Department of Educations shows
A chart prepared by the Department of Educations shows the proportion of children screened for gifted programs who were deemed eligible, applied, and were offered a seat in a program in the last three years. The department offered seats in gifted programs to fewer applicants this year than in the past.

A smaller proportion of applicants to city gifted programs this year will get good news in placement letters that the city mailed today, nearly a month after it was originally supposed to notify families.

After the city changed its policy so that eligible applicants are no longer guaranteed seats in gifted programs, just 68.5 percent of applicants were given one, according to data that the Department of Education released today.

Last year, 82.7 percent of applicants were given with seats, down from 87.2 percent in 2011. (Applicants were only guaranteed seats in the past if they ranked every gifted program in their district, which is why not every applicant ended up with an offer.)

The lower placement rate means that fewer children were offered spots in gifted programs this year than last year, even though the number of students meeting the city’s standards was significantly higher. The tally of eligible children rose sharply after Pearson, the company that administered the screening tests, revealed that it had made major errors in calculating the scores.

The errors delayed the admissions process by weeks and could cost Pearson its contract with the city. A legal challenge to the city’s methodology for calculating giftedness further delayed the admissions decisions.

Department officials said they had made fewer offers in part because less than 60 percent of families offered seats last year ended up taking them.

Officials also cautioned that gifted programs should not be viewed as the only way to get a high-quality education in the city.

“We try to make offers to as many families as possible, but our gifted and talented programs are just one part of the wide menu of school options we’ve created for parents,” said a Department of Education spokesman, Devon Puglia. “A great neighborhood school or program can deliver instruction that is just as good as any gifted and talented program.”

What's Your Education Story?

As the 2018 school year begins, join us for storytelling from Indianapolis educators

PHOTO: Dylan Peers McCoy/Chalkbeat
Sarah TeKolste, right, and Lori Jenkins at a Teacher Story Slam, in April.

In partnership with Teachers Lounge Indy, Chalkbeat is hosting another teacher story slam this fall featuring educators from across the city.

Over the past couple of years, Chalkbeat has brought readers personal stories from teachers and students through the events. Some of our favorites touched on how a teacher won the trust of her most skeptical student, why another teacher decided to come out to his students, and one educator’s call to ramp up the number of students pursuing a college education.

The event, 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 13, is free and open to the public — please RSVP here.

Event details:

5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
Thursday, Sept. 13, 2018
Tube Factory artspace
1125 Cruft St., Indianapolis, IN 46203
Get tickets here and find more on Facebook

More in What's Your Education Story?

School safety

Hiring more security officers in Memphis after school shootings could have unintended consequences

PHOTO: Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post/Getty Images

Tennessee’s largest district, Shelby County Schools, is slated to add more school resource officers under the proposed budget for next school year.

Superintendent Dorsey Hopson earmarked $2 million to hire 30 school resource officers in addition to the 98 already in some of its 150-plus schools. The school board is scheduled to vote on the budget Tuesday.

But an increase in law enforcement officers could have unintended consequences.

A new state law that bans local governments from refusing to cooperate with federal immigration officials could put school resource officers in an awkward position.

Tennessee Education Commissioner Candice McQueen recently reminded school personnel they are not obligated to release student information regarding immigration status. School resource officers employed by police or sheriff’s departments, however, do not answer to school districts. Shelby County Schools is still reviewing the law, but school board members have previously gone on the record emphasizing their commitment to protecting undocumented students.

“Right now we are just trying to get a better understanding of the law and the impact that it may have,” said Natalia Powers, a district spokeswoman.

Also, incidents of excessive force and racial bias toward black students have cropped up in recent years. Two white Memphis officers were fired in 2013 after hitting a black student and wrestling her to the ground because she was “yelling and cussing” on school grounds. And mothers of four elementary school students recently filed a lawsuit against a Murfreesboro officer who arrested them at school in 2016 for failing to break up a fight that occurred off-campus.

Just how common those incidents are in Memphis is unclear. In response to Chalkbeat’s query for the number and type of complaints in the last two school years, Shelby County Schools said it “does not have any documents responsive to this request.”

Currently, 38 school resource officers are sheriff’s deputies, and the rest are security officers hired by Shelby County Schools. The officers respond and work to prevent criminal activity in all high schools and middle schools, Hopson said. The 30 additional officers would augment staffing at some schools and for the first time, branch out to some elementary schools. Hopson said those decisions will be based on crime rates in surrounding neighborhoods and school incidents.

Hopson’s initial recommendation for more school resource officers was in response to the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, that killed 17 people and sparked a wave of student activism on school safety, including in Memphis.

Gov. Bill Haslam’s recent $30 million budget boost would allow school districts across Tennessee to hire more law enforcement officers or improve building security. Measures to arm some teachers with guns or outlaw certain types of guns have fallen flat.

For more on the role and history of school resource officers in Tennessee, read our five things to know.

Sheriff’s deputies and district security officers meet weekly, said Capt. Dallas Lavergne of the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office. When the Memphis Police Department pulled their officers out of school buildings following the merger of city and county school systems, the county Sheriff’s Office replaced them with deputies.

All deputy recruits go through school resource officer training, and those who are assigned to schools get additional annual training. In a 2013 review of police academies across the nation, Tennessee was cited as the only state that had specific training for officers deployed to schools.