Discovering, inspiring and developing the talents of middle school students with extraordinary gifts in mathematics. Fall 2012 Our Students We’re especially proud of these students! Thanks to these Volunteers
Nomination Season What you need to know.
We appreciate your help.
New MEGSSS Center serving St. Charles and North St. Louis Counties
Note from our Academic Director Important Dates Please mark your calendar.
New Options Emerge to Enrich Gifted Students’ Education Our feature article.
Bad Weather Policy Page 3
Why Consider Project MEGSSS? ! This month’s newsletter includes a reprint of an important article, titled, “New Options Emerge to Enrich Gifted Students’ Education.” The points made in this article are extremely relevant to educators and parents of highly gifted students--and acknowledge that we live in an imperfect world where educators and parents must work together to find “one big juicy hamburger” for these students who often feel they exist on a diet of “peanuts.”[See article on page 4-5.] ! Each January, we contact the education community and reach out to parents in the St. Louis region requesting nominations of math-gifted 5th and 6th grade students. Our traditional MEGSSS program targets the top two percent of this cohort, providing an enriched mathematics experience that can be life-changing for those students who choose to participate in “the MEGSSS Challenge.” ! With nominations in hand, we send invitations to parents and students to attend an information meeting, where they can gain a better understanding of what Project MEGSSS offers a student. Through our above-level testing process, parents are able to assess their child’s giftedness in the field of mathematics, and those students who qualify are offered the opportunity to attend our summer introductory program, a flexible schedule of eight, 3-hour sessions of mathematics, taught by highly trained mathematics educators.
Board & Staff Info Do you know how to contact us?
Donations & Volunteers
Your comments and feedback are always welcome and appreciated.
Believe it or not, your tuition doesn’t cover everything. Invest in Project MEGSSS. Math kids need us!
! Here they are immersed in the study of formal logic and operational systems. They learn about truth tables and “mods.” They are presented with challenging material that requires development of critical thinking skills and are coached to learn note-taking skills and more importantly, to ask questions. They rub elbows with a diverse group of highly gifted students from throughout the St. Louis region. ! If a student enjoys the summer program, MEGSSS can offer a one day per week after-school program of material that will broaden and potentially accelerate their mathematics experience. If time constraints limit this involvement, we offer summer enrichment through the middle school years. ! We work to keep our program diverse and open to all students regardless of financial status. A quarter of our 2012 summer cohort identified themselves as minority students, and over a third were female. Roughly a third of our students attend public schools, a third come from parochial schools and the remaining third are split between private, independent and home schools. ! Financial aid is readily available through the generosity of The Saigh Foundation and the Employees Community Fund of the Boeing Corporation. Most recently, we have begun working directly with educators to streamline the aid process for students eligible for federal lunch programs. ! For almost 35 years, students have entered our program looking for a unique math challenge. At Project MEGSSS, we continue to offer “one big juicy hamburger.”
We’re Proud of Our Students’ Accomplishments
Each year, we find our alumni popping up on the lists of National Merit Scholar awardees. 2013 Semi-finalists include: •Ananya N. Benegal, Lindbergh HS (MEGSS graduate) •Gregory F. Fargo, Kirkwood HS (graduate) •Ethan M. Farber, University City HS (graduate) •R.J. (Roger L.) Mohr, Lindbergh HS (graduate) •Victoria Liu, John Burroughs (2 years) •Corina Minden-Birkenmaier, John Burroughs (1 year) •Kurt M. Thiemann, St. Louis University HS (graduate) •Lillian M. Webster, Nerinx HS (graduate) •Melissa F. Zhang, John Burroughs (1 year) We received word that three MEGSSS alumni were part of the 40 local students who were awarded National Merit Scholarships financed by colleges, universities and corporations. Congrats to: •Sarah E. Blackwell, St. Louis University •Zakary R. Krekeler, Georgia Institute of Technology •Jacob H. Luciani, Ameren Corporation Adrienne Hunt is a National Merit Scholarship Finalist. She is attending the University of Chicago and recently qualified for their prestigious Honors Calculus course.
New MEGSSS Center for St. Charles and North St. Louis County! Gifted Mathematics Students and Educators Celebrate the Grand Opening of the St. Charles Center.
This fall, Project MEGSSS opened a pilot site in St. Charles County in cooperation with the Academy of the Sacred Heart, the oldest and largest independent elementary school in the St. Louis area, located at 619 N. Second Street in downtown St. Charles. The new after-school site is located to allow easy access for students in both the St. Charles and North St. Louis County regions. The center opened with thirteen students from St. Charles, St. Peters, O’Fallon, Ferguson and Dardenne Prairie. Over half were female, a first for us! While the majority come to us from the Academy and St. Charles Borromeo, we have one student from Hazelwood Southeast Middle School and two families who home school. We look forward to expanding the number and diversity of students at this site in the coming nomination year. If you know of educators in this region that we should be in contact with, please let us know.
Thanks to our Volunteers ...who helped man our table at the annual Saint Louis Science Center Engineering Fair:
Arthur Graves Olivia Hoffman Raj Ramachandran Debbie Robertson Jaime Salvatori We appreciate your willingness to support Project MEGSSS with your time.
Nominations If you have a student or child who exhibits mathematical talent, we would like to show you our program. Designed for middle school students, we accept nominations of 5th and 6th graders (and a few precocious 4th graders) from parents and educators in the St. Louis area. Our nomination season begins in January 2013, continues with a series of parent information meetings in the first quarter of 2013, and is then followed by a three hour “above level” screening done in either March or April of 2013. Introductory summer classes give students a taste of what our after-school math program offers and serve as enrichment for students unable to attend during the school year. For more information on the process, see our web page at www.megsss.org, or contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Notes from Shelley Propst, Academic Director: email@example.com I hope everyone has had a great first quarter. First year students who need extra help, or just want to get a jump on their homework with help, are taking advantage of after-class tutoring, available from 6:00 to 6:30 after each first year class meeting. If you haven’t tried it yet, you should! All students should be visiting online.megsss.org every week for each course. This is a very important part of our program. We need to cover our entire curriculum in just one class meeting per week, so using the online resources is crucial to success. There is now a link from MEGSSS.org’s home page, so you can easily find this site. Students can find notes for classes they missed or to supplement their own class notes. They can also find homework assignments, the answers for assignments to use for self-checking (except for logic which is reviewed in class), and a forum where they can post questions and answers for each other. Some courses also include required online quizzes. Parents should encourage their students to use the website on a regular basis and especially to ask questions at the beginning of class about homework that they found difficult. Our teachers always answer questions about homework at the beginning of each class. Asking questions is an important skill for our students to learn. We will be mailing semester grades in late December/early January. In the mean time, parents should be watching for graded tests to sign and return to the teacher so we know everyone is aware of the student’s progress. First year students took major tests in integers and sets the week of October 15 and will have a major logic test in November. Two new courses on mappings and number theory will replace the integers and sets courses and logic will continue for most of the school year. Upper level students should be bringing home tests and quizzes on a regular basis for parent signatures. Please sign these to let us know you’re getting the information you need.
Mrs. Propst Important Dates Nerinx, DeSmet and Academy of the Sacred Heart (ASH) Families only
Please remember: NO CLASSES: Thurs., Nov. 1st, ASH only. Thanksgiving Break, November 20-22nd. Classes resume the week of November 27-29, 2012. SEMESTER ENDS: December 13, 2012. NO CLASSES: Holiday Break, December 14, 2011-January 2 or 7, 2013. CLASSES RESUME: January 3, ASH-St. Charles only. January 8-9, DeSmet/Nerinx
Bad Weather Policy: Classes are always canceled whenever the school where the classes are held is closed due to weather conditions (no matter what happens later in the day). Please check with the radio or TV in the morning during bad weather. If bad weather begins after school is in session, and we decide to cancel classes, we will post it on our public web site (www.MEGSSS.org), send out an e-mail and put an outgoing message on our phone
(314-842-5968). Please check one of these options when we have bad weather. We will always try diligently to take into consideration safety factors, your travel time, and other difficulties before we make decisions about canceling classes. McKinley CLA students should follow normal school policies, unless they attend the afterschool program, in which case they should check the website or call the MEGSSS phone number listed above.
MEGSSS Financial Aid We encourage you to review our financial assistance policy on the website for information and complete the online financial aid form at www.MEGSSS.org.
New Options Emerge to Enrich Gifted Studentsâ€™ Education Deseret News. Reprinted with permission. Liam Goodowens takes gymnastics and is learning hip-hop dance. The 6-year-old from Florida also likes playing with friends and going to classic rock music concerts with his dad. Liam even enjoys school. In fact, he wishes that it were more challenging. "They feed me peanuts all day. I like peanuts and I get full, but what I really want is one big juicy hamburger," he said. No, he isn't talking about school lunch. Rather, Liam uses the metaphor to describe the experience of being a profoundly gifted child in a mainstream kindergarten classroom. Liam has an IQ in the top two percent of the population. But his school, part of the Orange County Public School District, provides few services for gifted children. So Liam spends his days in a mainstream classroom, waiting for his peers to catch up. "We are terrified of the average student being 'left behind,'â€‰" said his mother, Samantha Goodowens, "and yet, our brightest children are expected to stay behind." Liam's experience is not unique. According to the National Association of Gifted Children, there are three million elementary and secondary students in the United States who have been identified as gifted. "It's a bad time to be a gifted child in America," said Sally Reis, professor of education at the University of Connecticut. Despite research suggesting that gifted children perform better academically when instructed together with similar ability peers, support for these programs is at an all-time low. While the federal government spends nearly $12 billion a year on special education programs, only about $10 million has traditionally been set aside for gifted education. In 2011, however, Congress eliminated all federal funding for gifted children. States vary widely in terms of how much they allot for gifted education, ranging from nothing in Arizona to over $100 million in Texas during the 2010-2011 school year. Only six states require full funding of gifted programs by law, which means that in the face of budget shortfalls, monies for gifted education can often be diverted to cover deficits in other areas. But funding isn't the only issue. Prominent voices in education policy, including Jeannie Oakes of UCLA and Linda Darling-Hammond of Stanford, reject on principle the practice of separating gifted students from their peers for instruction. They argue the practice quickly evolves into a caste system in which students are grouped by race and socioeconomic background rather than ability. Research confirms that minority children are consistently underrepresented in gifted programs, according to Anne Wheelock, author of the book "Crossing the Tracks; How Untracking Can Save America's Schools." Even as mixed ability classrooms become the norm in many states, options for enriching gifted children's educational experience are emerging. Software programs combined with better access to computer devices make it possible for children to receive individualized instruction.
Numerous professional development programs instruct teachers on how to meet the needs of the gifted students in mainstream classrooms, including how to adapt assignments and help students move through course material at a faster pace. "Parents also need to be part of the talent-development process," said Reis. Community groups, summer camps and at home enrichment can significantly improve the experiences of gifted children and keep them engaged in learning. Mixed-ability classes Gifted education programs come under fire for two main reasons. First, as local, state and federal government agencies try to balance their budgets, it is easier to eliminate gifted classes than other special education programs. The Individuals with Disabilities Education (IDEA) Act and other federal laws ensure that those with disabilities receive adequate services. There is no counterpart in federal law for gifted children. The second reason is that most modern education reform efforts are focused on "closing the achievement gap." That is, they are concerned with ensuring that students who have historically not succeeded in school achieve a minimum level of competency, according to Reis. Gifted programs have come to be seen as a practice that increases the disparity in outcomes for students from different socioeconomic backgrounds. Assigning students to classrooms based on performance and ability gained popularity in the mid-19th century, when public schools began enrolling large numbers of immigrant children with limited preparation or capacity for schooling compared with native children. Tracking, as it became known, quickly took on the appearance of racial segregation, said Oakes, a professor of education at UCLA and one of the most vocal advocates for mixed-ability classrooms. Even when low-income minority students have the ability to succeed in high-level classes, they are often not enrolled in them. For example, based on Oakes' research, an Asian student is 10 times more likely to be enrolled in high-level math courses than a Latino student with the same scores on standardized math exams. This persistent structural inequality has led some to suggest that the achievement gap is not a function of student ability. Differences in the performance of "gifted students" and "remedial students" reflect the curriculum they are exposed to and not their ability, argues Darling-Hammond, professor of education at Stanford University. In addition to mitigating the effects of structural inequality, proponents of mixed-ability grouping suggest it improves academic outcomes for students who have not been identified as gifted. After a year of mixed-ability grouping at Cloonan Elementary School in Stamford, Conn., teachers reported fewer behavioral problems and better grades for struggling students. Good students model good behavior for other students, according to Deborah Kasak, executive director of the National Forum to Accelerate Middle Grades Reform. "Less motivated children learn from the more motivated ones," she said. Continued on page 5
Mixed opinions Of course, not everyone at Cloonan Elementary was pleased with the results of the mixed-ability grouping experiment. High-performing students complained of boredom and said they were not learning as much, according to Kasak. Herein lies the heart of the problem: while mixed-ability classrooms may be good for student outcomes in the aggregate, they are certainly not the best arrangement for the gifted. In their study of similar ability grouping, Ellis Page and Timothy Keith of Johns Hopkins University found that gifted children in mixed-ability classrooms do not perform as well as gifted children in gifted programs. These results are especially pronounced among gifted minority children. "Whereas homogeneity has a moderate positive impact on all high-ability youth, it has a very strong positive effect on high-ability black youth," the study found. Page and Keith also found that ability grouping had no measurable effect on the academic performance of lowability students. "Contrary to popular wisdom," Page said, "surrounding a low-ability student with a homogeneous group of students seems to have no effect." The trend is "killing (gifted) kids," said Carole Tieso, a professor of education at the College of William and Mary in Virginia. When they aren't challenged they "lose their love of learning and their desire to achieve," she said. Most students who drop out of high school say they could have had success with more challenging coursework and engaging classroom experiences, according to a report from Civic Enterprises, a Washington, D.C., an education policy organization. But boredom is only part of the problem. For kids, being different can be hard. Connie Byrnes, a mother from Dana Park, Calif., noticed her highly-gifted son Riley disengaging shortly after joining a mainstream fifth-grade classroom. "He pulled back and underperformed. He was made fun of for his vocabulary. â€Ś He didn't want to be different," she said. Another issue is that many teachers aren't equipped to teach gifted students. While there are methods teachers can learn to address the needs of gifted students in mixedability classrooms, few receive the necessary training. "Most teachers get one hour of gifted instruction at university," Tieso said.
the only profession that expects each person to be an expert at everything," he said. "It defies logic," agreed Tieso. â€œDoctors specialize but we expect teachers to be equally good with special needs children and gifted learners." Inclusion can work if teachers understand how to teach gifted students, said Sally Ries, "and most teachers don't." Options for the gifted While parents of gifted children have plenty of cause for concern, the situation isn't all bad, Tieso said. New computer-based math programs are designed to be sensitive to the needs and abilities of each student. Those who struggle receive extra time to practice, while those who don't are able to move through material quickly. "We've seen 12-year-olds who score at or above the 700 level on the SAT doing two years of calculus in three weeks," said Cross. "They need the opportunity to work as fast and as hard and they can," he said. According to Tieso, individualized approaches to material can make mixed ability classrooms friendlier for all students. Teachers can also learn techniques to better serve the needs of gifted children. Professional development programs, such as a week-long summer program at the University of Connecticut, instruct teachers on curriculum enrichment and acceleration for gifted students. "With a trend toward regular classroom services for all students, it is vital that all teachers be prepared and willing to serve the needs of the gifted appropriately," said Catherine Little, professor of education at the University of Connecticut. Parents also need to think about how they can provide an enriching home life for their gifted children. "It is our role to challenge our kids," said Reis, who is also the mother of a gifted daughter. "We have a responsibility to nurture their talents, to expose them to interesting problems and to ensure they have opportunities to be challenged." Brynes has taken this responsibility to heart. Her son Riley participates in the activities and camps put on by Destination Imagination, a national non-profit organization that provides educational programs for kids. "It's a place where he can be who he is with other kids," said Brynes, "where he can be a geek among geeks and he doesn't have to downplay who he is to fit in."
Tracy Cross, also a professor of education at William and Mary, believes that too much is expected of teachers. "It is
Board Of Directors
George Love, President Kathleen Lowrey, Vice President & Director Doug Hunt, Secretary & Teacher Rep/Director Mila Samsonov, Treasurer & Director Gil Schmitt, Director Open, Director Cynthia Hoffman, Executive Director Chris Flick, Arthur Graves, Raj Ramachandran & Joshua VanHorsen, Directors at Large
Dorothy Upchurch, Executive Secretary: firstname.lastname@example.org Shelley Nelson Propst, Academic Director: email@example.com Accountant: firstname.lastname@example.org Cynthia Hoffman, Executive Director: email@example.com
Fall 2012 Project MEGSSS’ services are provided to all qualified students regardless of race, color, gender, creed, or national origin.
10700 Larkspur Drive Saint Louis, MO 63123 Phone: 314-842-5968 www.MEGSSS.org P A
Donations & Volunteers Become a Project MEGSSS Booster! Contributions or memorials may be general, or in honor of a teacher whom you wish to acknowledge. MEGSSS is a 501(c)3 corporation and 100% of your donation is tax-deductible. I would make a great volunteer. YES! Count me in.
Check the little box right here.
I wish to make a contribution at the following level (check a star): Project MEGSSS Booster (up to $25)!
Archimedes “No Problem” Club ($26-$150)! Einstein “Get Serious” Club ($151+)!
This donation is (circle one): In Honor of: In Memory Of: ___________________________________
Pythagorus “I Can Prove It” Award ($500+) Name_______________________________________ Address_____________________________________ City_______________________ State________ZIP_____________ Phone:__________________
___________________________________ The students of Project MEGSSS thank you.