Because school doesn't start until 9:15, they do conferences in the early mornings. So we hauled our sorry western-edge-of-the-time-zone asses out of bed at 7am in the full dark, had a mishap involving hot coffee and Dillo's ear, nearly lost mr. flea when he didn't realize we were in the car waiting for him and started wandering off down the street on foot, and got to school at 7:45. (I pointed out that last year, when I was working, we left the house at 7:20 every morning. Nobody believed me.)
Casper led her own teacher conference, following a script she'd prepared as a class exercise. She identified her strength as organization, and a weakness as spelling. She also noted she enjoys and is good at group work. She identified assignments she felt were her best work in all 4 subject areas, and assignments where she felt her performance showed a need for growth. She decided to focus on her math, noting her grade of 100% on a recent homework assignment made her feel good. She said she wanted to work on her basic math facts (i.e. the time tables) so she could succeed on future assignments like that.
Wow! I agreed with almost everything she said. She is doing very well at staying on top of her assignments and being responsible for getting work done, with almost no need for checking by me. I know that this issue is a big one for many 4th graders, and I feel like she's really stepped up in this area. She knows she's weak in spelling and basic math facts, and wants to work on them (!). We'll see how well she follows through, given that she hated the flash card times tables project of the summer and resisted it often.
I also met with all 4 of her teachers, and the school psychologist, last week, about assessment for possible interventions (the required precursor to any formal testing for a learning disability). Her reading teacher did an assessment and reported she was reading at a 3rd grade level. Her math teacher said she was able to do the work and understood concepts, but she was very slow. The teacher was already cutting down the number of problems she was giving Casper for in-class work, to allow her to have a reasonable chance of completing them in the allotted time; the example was she have Casper 3 problems, when some students were doing 20. (Whoa.) The Social Studies teacher, who has the most experience working with gifted kids, and who is Casper's favorite, noted that her test scores on file were very mixed - overall she passes, but she either excels at a section (scores "enrichment") or bombs it (scores "reteach.") They noted that she is compensating for her struggles remarkably well, that she works very hard, that she knows where she has trouble and asks for help, and that she is cheerful about it all, and does not seem to be ashamed. This made me really happy. The next step is some assessment by the school psychologist to try to pin down what exactly are the areas she has trouble with. (I've been doing reading and I am pretty sure she is dyslexic - probably mildly so, and really good at compensating for it. Among the things that make me think this are her troubles with learning to read, especially around inability to sound out words, coupled with problems memorizing times tables, which is a very common symptom of dyslexia apparently.)
Dillo's conference followed a more traditional format. The teacher said he was doing very well, and there were no areas that seemed to challenge him or that he needed to work on. The class is 12 K students and 6 1st graders, but she is mostly teaching at the first grade level. Dillo needs no help, and generally finishes in-class work with extra time, which he is allowed to use reading. She sat a new student next to him because Dillo is good at helping others figure out how to do their work. She mentioned she might start looking to pull some 2nd grade work out for Dillo and a couple of other kids who are at his level. I ran into the paraprofessional for his class yesterday (whom I like and suspect is actually a better teacher than his teacher), and she is working with the top readers, and wants to get them into reading some chapter books at the Magic Treehouse level. (I was in the school library showing her what we have.) He's also doing just fine socially; he's got good classroom behavior down but is friendly with the students and has a friend at every table. She recounted social interactions with the 2 boys Dillo has identified as his two best friends.
As a note about "gifted", Casper, who is pulling low Bs, is reading below grade level, and has other struggles, is the one who tested into gifted. Dillo, who is working well above grade level and has not yet had anything academic challenge him, took the same gifted test Casper did (CogAT) and while he scored high, did not qualify as gifted on the first go-round (they test 'em all in K, and re-test the ones that score high but don't qualify later on.) So there's that. I would like to see Dillo challenged, as I think Casper's struggles have overall been a boon to her, in terms of character development. We're talking about music lessons or sports as a way to introduce the idea of working hard for a result to Dillo, since right now school is not going to be able to provide that.