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The Washington Post Transcript of the online chat with the

Superintendent of Arlington Public Schools, September 2005


Excerpts from The Washington Post transcript of the September 8, 2005 online chat with Dr. Smith, the Superintendent of Arlington Public Schools:

Arlington, Va.: Dr. Smith:

Thank you for making yourself available for this discussion. I followed with interest the budget debates this spring about funding full-time resource teachers for the gifted in Arlington's elementary schools. Although your proposed budget added no funds for gifted services, the Advisory Committee on Instruction unanimously recommended as its top budgetary priority increasing staffing of RTGs from half-time to full-time, and the School Board initially proposed adding $150,000 in funding to gifted services. The APS staff budget report also recommended funding full-time RTG positions at most elementary schools. Will you make funding full-time RTGs a priority in next year's budget, and, if not, what are your reasons for rejecting these recommendations?

-- Lee from Arlington

Dr. Robert G. Smith: We will be considering, during the coming year, how we go about the process of providing, in cost effective ways, professional development across a variety of areas (e.g. technology, reading, mathematics, gifted. We continue to be mindful of the competing demands for expenditure of funds on specialists who do not provide direct services to students on a daily basis. Tune in this winter during our budget deliberations.

Arlington, Va.: Dr. Smith,

I know differentiated instruction is APS policy, and the Strategic Plan includes delivery of differentiated education to all students as an objective. Differentiated instruction is especially critical for gifted students, who often find the standard curriculum geared to a level well below their abilities. What measures are you implementing to ensure that students receive differentiated education, and how will you measure whether differentiated education is occurring effectively?

APS parent

Dr. Robert G. Smith: The third goal of our new strategic plan, which treats issues of responsive education, involves providing educational experiences (both instructional and extra-curricular) that respond to the individual talents, interests and challenges of all of our students. Accomplishing this goal, of course, requires differentiated experiences. I would suggest that you take a look at the objectives and indicators supporting that goal that appear on our Web site.

Arlington, Va.: I was surprised to learn that the latest school budget reduces funding for Gifted Services in Arlington by 90 percent. Is the program being eliminated entirely, or are you changing to a different system?

At the elementary school level, it takes a full school year for a child to be "identified" as needing more advanced work, and identification seems to be the end of the services offered. Last year, my child's teacher (a lead teacher for her grade, with several years experience in Arlington) said she had never heard the terms "vertical acceleration" or "compacting the curriculum."

Looks like there is a real need to modify the system, but I hope the plans go beyond de-funding it!

I'd appreciate any updated info you can share on this topic.

Dr. Robert G. Smith: We have not reduced staffing or funding for gifted services. In fact, over the last few years, funding has been increased greatly as we have moved to full time positions in secondary schools, and have assured a half-time position at every elementary school. We also have allocated new funds in this year's budget to ensure a full complement of teachers endorsed in teaching gifted children.

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