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The uncertain future of gifted education

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Controversy rages over the long-standing practice of offering accelerated classes to selected students. Racial justice movements have highlighted inequality and brought about change in electoral districts across the country. Lawsuits related to these programs are pending in states such as Virginia, Missouri and New York.

Critics say talented and gifted classes lead to racism and take resources away from other students who need them. It says the names of these programs, which people are branding as elitist, may need to be changed.

Proponents argue that it is a strong selling point for public education, especially for middle-class families, and that it plays a valuable role in educating students. Some say that advances in assessing how children learn, thanks to new technology, indicate a need for more individualized instruction rather than less learning.

Scott Peters, a research scientist at the Northwest Evaluation Institute based in Portland, Oregon, said: Tests used in schools around the world. “It’s going to be harder and harder to support the idea of ​​having all her ninth graders learn algebra.”

Most gifted and talent programs are locally administered and varied. There is no direct federal funding for them. Most states have gifted programs, but only 15 states require and fund gifted programs, according to the National Gifted Children Association. Most universities do not provide guidance on how to identify gifted students, how to teach them, or what age to participate in their programs. You can take accelerated lessons in a classroom shared with your child, or in another class or school.

The debate is particularly hot in New York City, the nation’s largest school district. Mayor-elect Eric Adams expanded gifted classes to all neighborhoods in the city this year. That’s just a few months after his predecessor moved to do away with gifted classes. This fall, we plan to add 1,000 seats to the gifted class for third graders and 100 seats to kindergarten children.

At the same time, Adams abolished entrance exams that had been criticized by opponents of these programs for favoring white and Asian children over black and Hispanic students. will be

New York City Prime Minister David Banks says universal screening of third-grade students for gifted status will increase diversity.


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New York City Department of Education

Expanding the program rather than abolishing it is a way to boost enrollment after a decline during the pandemic, said New York City Premier David Banks. Universally screening his juniors for gifted eligibility increases diversity, he adds. “Don’t throw your baby out with hot water.”

Some believe that this model of eliminating entrance exams and offering accelerated classes in all schools could take hold more broadly across the United States in the years to come.

Many parents want gifted program options for their children, and this class could be important in educating gifted students, said Johns Hopkins University, former president of the National Association of Gifted Children. said Professor Jonathan Prucker of But to survive, he says the program will need to be overhauled and perhaps renamed as well.

“I think for some people, the term brings up a lot of raw feelings about elitism,” Dr. Prucker says. “An opportunity to feel unfairly denied as a child”

Critics say the program fosters racial and wealth inequality. His 2021 study, published in the Journal of Advanced Academics, found that students in wealthy schools were more than twice as likely to enroll in gifted education programs as those in high-poor schools. was. A 2018 study conducted by the University of Connecticut found that students living in poverty were less likely to be identified as gifted than other children.

According to 2017-2018 national data collected by the Department of Education, white students accounted for 58% of enrollment in gifted programs, but accounted for 22% of enrollment in the U.S. public school system. occupied.

Gifted programs create segregation and take resources away from students in need, says NeQuan McLean, Brooklyn school board leader.


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Jacob Gordon

NeQuan McLean, head of the Brooklyn school board, says talent programs are causing division and segregation in his school district.

“We need to teach all students, including those who may not be gifted in math but may be gifted in the arts,” said McLean, president of the Community Education Council 16 in Bedford-Stuyvesant. says Mr. “We have to make sure we’re leveraging them all.”

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How students are selected for gifted programs is an issue at the heart of the debate. The New York City test was criticized because families could hire tutors to prepare. Education ministry officials say the new teacher-recommended system will allow for more diverse enrollment.

Meanwhile, a National Bureau of Economic Research study of a single large neighborhood in an unnamed city, published in 2015, found that by testing the talents of all students rather than relying on teacher recommendations, students could be more diverse. A large group of students will be eligible.

Regional conflicts over access to gifted programs are becoming more widespread as the country navigates a period of social change, Dr. Prucker says. He says the harshness of it has led many educational leaders to want to do away with the program altogether.

But the downside of deprioritizing programs for the country’s gifted children could be enormous, he says. All payments will be made later.”

write destination Ben Chapman (Ben.Chapman@wsj.com)

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