From Ms. Rebecca Goldin, FCAG president.
Dear School Board members, FCPS Staff, and Dr. Garza,
My name is Rebecca Goldin, and I am a professor of mathematics at George Mason University, the President of Fairfax County Association for the Gifted, and a mother to four children in Fairfax County Public Schools. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to speak about Goal 1, Student Success, as outlined in the FCPS 2015-2020 Strategic Plan. Thank you also for your efforts to maintain excellent schools; my children are thriving thanks to the many committed teachers and educational leaders who have created what FCPS is today. I am here to discuss the relationship between AAP Level IV Centers and Goal 1, Student Success, in the Strategic Plan.
I was encouraged when I opened the document that this section of the strategic plan begins with a quote by Albert Einstein, “It is the supreme art of the teacher to awaken joy in creative expression and knowledge.” Following this quote is the FCPS statement for Student Success: “We commit to reach, challenge, and prepare every student for success in school and life.”
Challenge is one of the core components of a good education. Joy is essential to meet the emotional needs of learners. While Goal 1 speaks to many types of learners, I am here to speak about highly gifted learners. The needs of highly gifted learners are significant, as this student population is often under-challenged in a traditional classroom and even advanced academic courses; these children need that challenge, as well as community, friends and joyful learning experiences, as do all children.
FCPS has historically offered this challenge and the corresponding peer group to the most academically and intellectually thirsty students in grades 3-8 through Level IV services, and specifically AAP Centers. We hope that funding continues for Centers as well as their related transportation, as proposed by Dr. Garza.
Centers rely on students’ from several schools feeding into one school, where teachers can provide the challenge that highly gifted learners need in a classroom of kids with this same need. A critical mass of such students allows both economy of scale and community. Local level IV programs vary widely but do not generally offer the same concentration of highly gifted learners, community, or instructional level as Centers, evidenced by countless individual stories, teacher commentary, performance on challenging mathematics competitions, and research on gifted education. Local Level IV is not the same program as the Center program: it does not always meet the needs of the kids for whom Level IV was designed. As more Level IV locations are introduced, it becomes difficult or even impossible to maintain a community, or even a classroom, of highly gifted learners.
We hope that, if faced with incomplete funding for next year’s budget, the School Board does not dismantle the Center program by limiting its busing. Eliminating busing for some students may produce a small savings, but FCPS will not meet its commitment to challenge every student, including the young Einsteins, in our broad FCPS community.
Thank you very much.
Chinese American Parent Association of Fairfax County (CAPAFC) is a membership organization of Chinese American parents dedicated to the advocacy for excellence and achievement in education.