WEST ORANGE, NJ — Eveny de Mendez, assistant superintendent for West Orange Public Schools, presented the changes to the township’s Gifted & Talented program on Monday that are being recommended by a committee she is overseeing. The changes will be voted on at a future meeting of the West Orange Board of Education (WOBOE).
“Right now, we only use the InView test to determine who gets into the program,” said de Mendez at Monday's WOBOE meeting. “If these changes are adopted, we will have multiple criteria.”
Eric Price, principal of the St. Cloud Elementary School, who serves on the committee, said that for the first time the township will offer enrichment programming in kindergarten and first grade for students deemed to be gifted. He said the second-grade program will include enrichment programs for eight weeks through December, and then meetings once a week for half a day for gifted students beginning in January.
Price said gifted students in grades 3-5 will also get to participate in “authentic experiences with real world problems.”
“In high school, gifted students will be able to take advanced course work, and earn college credits,” he said. “We are excited to provide a continuum of services from K-12.”
This program will be implemented in January if approved by the board, according to de Mendez. She said this will provide the necessary time to organize it well and write the curriculum.
When asked by board member Mark Robertson why the PARCC test is still being used as part of the assessment to determine giftedness, when it is increasingly being viewed as a flawed exam, de Mendez said that the PARCC test is still a valuable assessment tool.
“We have seen a correlation between PARCC scores and assessment scores,” she said. “We will monitor it, and readjust if there are gaps.”
Brent Scott, a parent who serves on the committee and is looking into this issue, asked the board to postpone a vote on this issue. Among the concerns he expressed included the continued use of the InView exam, which he called biased.
He also asked for better bias training for West Orange educators and administrators, stating that there is a national bias against both black boys and girls in general to be designated for a gifted program. Scott recommended using the Naglieri Nonverbal Ability Test (NNAT), which he said takes diverse backgrounds into account.
Superintendent Jeffrey Rutzky said that the NNAT test has been embargoed in this region by New York, and cannot be used in New Jersey. He agreed to look into new bias training programs that are effectively done.