No, New York City is not getting rid of elementary school Gifted & Talented programs in an attempt to make everyone feel special and lower student achievement.
However, DNAInfo’s June 13th article, “Gifted Programs Ditched for Hands On Learning for All at More NYC Schools,” has convinced multiple hysterical folks – who probably only read the headline – that this is, indeed, happening.
Here is why they are wrong (and proof of why teaching strong reading comprehension and history is important):
Error #1: It’s not all NYC schools; it is a handful of schools in one district in the Bronx (District 8).
Error #2: NYC is not ditching G&T programs in even that one district. There are still two, one for Kindergarten, and one for grades 1-3.
Fact #1: There are currently not enough G&T public school seats for the literally thousands of kids who qualify for them in every NYC borough.
Fact #2: District G&T programs use the exact same curriculum as General Ed. The only difference is they are “enriched,” with more hands-on activities and field trips.
What Bronx District #8’s superintendent Dr. Karen Ames is doing is bringing that enrichment to all of her students, not just those who happened to earn an arbitrary score on an arbitrary test and were lucky enough to win the lottery for a seat in the G&T program, compared to another child with the same score on that same test who had bad luck in the lottery. (As I wrote here, NYC G&T placement is determined by lottery due to a limited number of available seats, so two children with identical scores could receive completely different placements, via a game of educational Russian Roulette. It all comes down to luck, as does placement at unzoned schools, which also enroll via a lottery system, but don’t get slammed for it the way charter schools do.)
You’d think parents would be thrilled. A gifted level education for everyone!
Some of them are not.
Ames is instituting the philosophy of Dr. Joseph Renzulli, who didn’t believe in gifted children, per se. He believed in gifted behaviors.
This infuriates some members of the self-proclaimed gifted education community.
Dr. James R. Delisle, author of “Dumbing Down America: The War On Our Nation’s Brightest Young Minds,” tears into Renzulli, calling him a mere “talent developer,” a blasphemer who believes in bringing out the best in all children, rather than focusing resources on a preset elite. Even worse, Renzulli demands those dubbed gifted actually produce gifted work, rather than merely “be gifted,” a state that some insist should never be linked to grades or test scores. Those with high test scores/grades are “achievers,” not “gifted.” Don’t you ever dare conflate the two!
In NYC, children are tested for giftedness at age 4. My oldest son did badly on his test. He had a speech delay and, as we learned later, an Auditory Processing Disorder. Nonetheless, we enrolled him in a school that, while it would never use the word gifted, featured an extremely rigorous curriculum. Thanks to that K-8 school, my son qualified for NYC’s top Specialized High-School, which accepts less than 1,000 of the 30,000 kids who apply. Next year, he’s headed for the Ivy League.
My younger son scored very well on his test as a 4 year old. He could have attended a G&T school. But because it was more important to me to have both boys in one place — and because I was thrilled with the education my older son was getting — I enrolled my younger son in the same school as his brother.
Yes, sometimes Son #2 complained of boredom. That’s because he was being forced to learn things that he – in his elementary school wisdom – decided he would never need. He was wrong.
Ultimately, a school that doesn’t call itself “gifted” was able to both accommodate my allegedly “gifted” child, and even make his “non-gifted” brother “gifted.”
That’s all Dr. Ames is trying to accomplish in the Bronx. And it would seem that she is on her way. (At least in regards to achievement – the DNAInfo report confirms that standardized test scores have been going up.)
Conclusion: “Non-gifted” children are capable of doing work previously reserved for the “gifted.” There is no reason why they shouldn’t be. Some 10-50% of American kids in a given classroom are working above grade level. It’s obvious the bar is simply set too ridiculously low, and that all children should be educated via this “gifted” approach.
But if schools stop offering separate tracks, then how will parents be able to differentiate their prodigious progeny from the everyday riff-raff?
And, even more horrifying, how will they be able to justify the existence of separate classrooms that contribute to keeping New York City the most segregated school system in America?
In this particular case, is it the children who need “gifted” programs… or their parents?