Friday, February 24, 2006

Watering Down Gifted and Talented Programs

I read today on both LaShawn Barber and Dr. Helen's blogs that there is an effort in Montgomery County Md. to attract more minority representation in gifted and talented elementary school programs by "dumbing" down the entrance requirements into these programs.

Some examples mentioned in the article were:

  • Doing away with the "gifted and talented" label.
  • Adding expanded honors programs at middle schools.
  • Using "observational" testing instead of formal testing methods to identify worthy students.

School officals hope to attract a more diverse student population by doing so. This is questionable at best. It just leaves the definition of just what is a "gifted" program up to the politicians and educators who attempt to influence the direction of education in this country without really addressing the real issues surrounding their approach.

I have one suggestion to these people, the way that you can so this is by raising the standards for all students and make sure that they adhere to them. My daughter attends third grade just five minutes from our house in Philadelphia.In this school, all students from K-8 are required to pass not only the basic requirements of reading, writing, and math but also two foreign languages (French and Spanish). It is made clear to the parents that their child will not pass to the next grade until they have passed each class with I believe an 82 average or higher as well as passing scores on their standardized tests. To reinforce this, they are required to do homework every night, read 100 books by the end of the school year, and attend mandatory test preperation help before mandatory state assessment exams. In the summertime to reinforce the skills just learned and to prepare for the next grade, a summer packet of work is given. So in essense, the children have a lot to concentrate on during the school year, which is year-around. For this rigorous program (based on the International Baccaluareate ciriculum not commonly found in many American schools), parent participation is a must. The school informs you week by week what is expected from your child and if you chose to ignore it, it is the repsonsibility of the parent. There is a lottery and an interview process to get into the school, and they do not put up with any discipline problems primarily because the waiting list to get into the school is so high.

The higher expectations have resulted in higher test scores than on average in the city of Philadelphia.

From Pittsburgh Live:
Many advocates, for example, like charter schools because they believe
traditional schools are unresponsive to parents. Parents carry more clout at
charter schools because many were founded by parents.
But June Brown, founder and chief administrative officer of the
Laboratory Schools in Philadelphia, said parents are the main obstacle to
charter schools' success. Brown said parents routinely threaten to ask
the school district to shut down her school if she doesn't relax its
academic standards, homework requirements or dress code.
Brown stands her ground — her school was the best in the Trib study — but many charter school administrators cave in to parents, she said.
"The parents are the biggest challenge in this business.
They side with the children to the extent they chip away at the standards a
piece at a time," Brown said. But discipline at her school remains as firm
as it was in the school's past. The imposing stone building once served as a
Catholic school and convent. Now about 300 students in pale-blue and khaki
uniforms march to class in silence on polished wooden floors.

The school focuses on French and Spanish from kindergarten through the eighth grade. It was also recognized as a Blue Ribbon school from the Department of Education last year. Some of the graduates of the school have on to private and prep schools which is usually a ticket to an Ivy League education. I want to see that my child continues to go to this school because it does challenge her, and she is very excited about learning new things.

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