Portland Parents Want Better Access To Talented And Gifted Programming

By Elizabeth Miller (OPB)
June 3, 2019 9:16 p.m.

Megan Robertson has three kids – one at Laurelhurst Elementary, another at ACCESS Academy and a third in private school.

As a parent, she said, she’s seen over-extended teachers dealing with large groups of talented and gifted-identified students, but without curriculum that supports them.


She said for a student who isn’t being served properly in the classroom, learning can become frustrating.

“They’re in an environment every day where they’re being taught things essentially that they already know, and they’re being taught it over and over,” Robertson said.  “For my own kids, what happened is they started to learn things wrong.”

Robertson said she saw her kids delay their own learning, trying to match what they were being taught in school even if it wasn’t a challenge for them.

She is one of 35 parents who filed a formal complaint against PPS back in April. The complaint alleges PPS underserves and under identifies talented and gifted students.

“Our hope with the complaint is really to actually support the central administrators in getting more resources and having a more systematic approach to meeting the needs of these students,” Robertson said.

The parents included in the complaint represent students at 20 PPS schools all over the city and at every level – elementary, middle and high school.

Responding to the group last week, PPS confirmed some of the parent allegations. There are inconsistencies among schools when it comes to programming for specialized students, said PPS Senior Director of College & Career Readiness Aurora Terry in the response.

Next year, PPS will self-report for its fourth consecutive year that its “out of compliance” with state requirements to provide programs for "talented and gifted" students.


It is one of eight districts that has self-reported noncompliance.

In the district’s response to the parent complaint, Terry said there isn’t enough money in the budget to provide adequate staffing for district-wide TAG programming. There are currently two teachers, one director and a part-time data clerk assigned to the PPS TAG department, with plans to have another teacher for the fall.

But there are more than 7,000 talented and gifted-identified students in PPS, with more being added to the ranks every year.

A Tumalo Community school student prepares a light he programmed to go into a student-designed product.

A Tumalo Community school student prepares a light he programmed to go into a student-designed product.

Emily Cureton/OPB

PPS said it will make the student screening more equitable, too, with a new identification process in place for the fall. It’s part of a districtwide plan. Each PPS school is set to create its own building plan for TAG students, also set to be completed for fall.

And in the message to the parent group, Terry pointed to a curriculum model that will be piloted next year.

“PPS is creating and compiling a comprehensive curriculum so that all students, no matter what school they attend, have consistent access to rich and rigorous learning experiences,” read Terry’s response.

The parent group said the district's response doesn't include specific steps to fix the problems in the complaint. "There is no evidence that a districtwide curriculum adoption will address the individual rate and level needs of our students even if it were implemented immediately," the parents said in a statement.

Going forward with the next step of the complaint process, the parents have asked Superintendent Guadalupe Guerrero to review the complaint, hoping he will be able to institute districtwide change.

The allegation that PPS underserves its most academically advanced students isn’t a new one.

Robertson said she doesn’t have specific plans to relocate, but she’s always looking for better opportunities for her kids. But, she said, she knows not all parents can afford to pick up and move.

“They can’t all send their kids somewhere else – they don’t have the option, kids are assigned to go to their neighborhood schools and it’s almost impossible to get a transfer,” Robertson said. “These services need to be happening in the classrooms.”