One of the school districts near us just voted to remove gifted education and combine it into classrooms that are meant to teach at every child’s own level. I can see a LOT of problems with that, starting with the teachers are already overworked. The school district argued that the gifted classes in the district are lopsided with a top-heavy amount of Asians in the classes, then Caucasians coming in second. Black and other people of color came in last with a very (and I really mean very) low percentage. I do think that’s an indication something is broke in the system. The district originally was working to increase participation (2004), then built a magnet school (2019), and now is phasing out its a gifted program completely planning to integrate gifted education into the classroom?
Issues I see with this include:
- Teachers are already overworked trying to juggle new forms of teaching, keep up with remote and in class students with an environment that is changing all the time.
- Students that are gifted in a subject may be asked to help with or tutor the students that are behind, taking from their own instruction time and also creating an uneven power dynamic in the room and also anyone remember ‘teacher’s pet’
- Students become bored without new information, just reviewing information they already have learned in the past.
- Students that do need extra help are left behind while trying to meet the needs of the students that are so far ahead of the rest of the class.
Education in general does end up skewed toward the students that receive more resources and support at home. Students that lack even such basics as nutritious meals on evenings and weekends will fall behind their peers. Frequently left to care for younger siblings, parents with different priorities, no role models in the home, and more can all affect how students score when being tested for gifted programs.
Even stereotypes can play into who gets into programs. I remember when my youngest first started school he attended for speech delay. We knew he was bright and good at math and science even before school started. As he reached first grade we started to noticed that he would never get a grade of Excellent on anything. His score was always marked as Satisfactory. Items like counts to 100 for a child that could count over 1000 were being marked as Satisfactory as opposed to Excellent and when we questioned this, the remark was that he didn’t improve at it or something like that…. We had many more instances like this to come throughout our time there. Finally after relocating, grades suddenly turned to straight As – immediately.
We also had noticed that during the time we were at the school that my son had started with an IEP, he was never chosen as student of the month, yet he was chosen at the new school soon after we moved. We’ve seen student of the month a couple times since then for his class as well as him winning the highest score for math and reading in his class during testing.
There is no simple solution to gifted education. I’d like to say that students that are gifted are more likely to find a way to succeed if they do not face challenging material in school. In reality I personally think that students that face a challenging home life and come to school to be bored are more likely to start acting out as they reach higher grades and then start falling behind, treated as the troublemaker in the classroom. As opposed to cutting programs, providing programs for early intervention and recognition. Improving detection methods as well as resources to make sure younger changing have tools to be successful early.
It’s hard for parents to be concerned about signing their young children up for resources like Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library to receive free books when they are homeless and trying to figure out where their next meal will come from. Students that go from home to home or are living in a domestic shelter, or even worse, still in an abusive relationship. There are so many issues to take into account.
Additionally I’ve seen some schools choose to keep sports programs over academic programs. Sports programs garner the publicity. Recently during the pandemic I noticed a post by a parent suggesting that students had to be allowed to play sports because it was risking them their chance to go to college – as if the only way those students would be able to go to college was on a sports scholarship. As a parent of children that all went on academic scholarships, that just boggles my mind. What if your child gets an injury that disqualifies them from sports permanently?
Recently parents wrote in to the paper voicing thoughts about why the program was cut, some thought it was reverse racism which I don’t think applies – what I do see is a money decision with academics coming out at the bottom again…. And if any racism is involved, it’s really the fact that the effort isn’t being put into the younger grades to make more effort to find, identify, and supply resources to minorities.