HISD policy for 'red shirt' students causes confusion

December 4, 2012 9:24:21 AM PST
A policy change at Houston Independent School District caused outrage and confusion among some parents, and it's already been rescinded. It involved how so-called "red shirt" students are tested for the Gifted and Talented program. These are children whose parents have decided to delay kindergarten by a year.

On the 2013-14 magnet application, it said children who turned six years old prior to the September 1 kindergarten cutoff would be placed in the first grade GT program, not the kindergarten GT program.

"They were worried their child would automatically have to be put into first grade," said West University Elementary School Principal John Threet.

He says he's fielded a number of calls from concerned parents, and others have expressed concern that the procedure was pre-empting their intention to have their children delay kindergarten by one year; something parents will often do when their child is not socially or academically ready for kindergarten, figuring that extra year gives their child a chance to develop.

Jason Spencer, spokesperson for HISD, says the procedure change was not approved by the board and that many parents found it upsetting.

"We realized very soon after that went out, that that decision hadn't gone through the proper channels, hadn't been vetted properly. We rescinded that," Spencer said.

District-wide, there are only 25 kindergartners who are over-age and in the Gifted and Talented program. Those applying to next year's kindergarten classes will now face the same testing and procedures as they always have. It might seem counterintuitive that a parent might delay entry in school for academic reasons if their child qualifies for any gifted program. Spencer denies that any parent has held their child back in an effort get him or her into a magnet school.

"I think what most parents are doing is trying to get the best for their child," said Spencer.

HISD says it is going to look at better ways to identify gifted and talented students and how to better implement the placement process.


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