Friday, August 19, 2022

Fight to save gifted and talented programs in schools

Aaron S. Robertson

Recently, I came across this article in the Wall Street Journal, "The Unclear Future for Gifted-and-Talented Education."

From the article:

"Controversy has ramped up around the longtime practice of providing accelerated classes for selected students. Racial-justice movements highlighted inequalities, prompting changes in districts across the nation. Lawsuits related to these programs are pending in states including Virginia, Missouri and New York.

Critics say gifted-and-talented classes lead to racial segregation and take resources away from other students who need them. Even some proponents say changes may be needed in methods for selecting students and in the names of these programs, which many brand as elitist."
I don't often editorialize here at this blog, but I must say this article troubled me. It's my sincere hope that we as a nation and as individual communities and school districts will choose to fall on the side of finding meaningful ways to sustain and expand these programs to include more students, rather than simply choosing to eliminate them altogether in the name of racial and income equality. Because it unfairly punishes each and every individual student either already deemed gifted and talented, or possessing as-of-yet unrecognized potential, following the latter approach will only continue to weaken us as a country and society on the collective level. It is unjust, therefore - indeed, it is immoral - on multiple levels, to pursue the latter path and intentionally hold back the education and development of young minds with these levels of talent and potential.

Now, there's no doubt that the state of American education, as a whole, is in a state of serious turmoil, and these gifted and talented programs are just one slice of the big pie that makes up K-12 education. I understand that. I primarily work in special education, and I'm as equally passionate about ensuring students with IEPs and 504s are receiving all the services and resources they need for success, too. The same with all the kids in the "middle" that are right on grade level and moving through the regular education environment. It's a big pie, no doubt, and there are always internal and external fights and competitions for funding and other valuable resources taking place between each slice.

But I'm particularly concerned and bothered by the arguments made by some educators, administrators, and others quoted or cited in this article. There seems to be a prevailing sense among many that gifted and talented programs should be eliminated outright because, again, they contend, there currently are not enough minorities and poorer kids represented in them. I think it's a weak argument for elimination, one that punishes these students specifically, and broader society and our country generally, by seeking to hold back their proven gifts and potential.

I have an interest in international relations (IR), and I'm a China observer. When we combine the elimination of these programs with the broader problem of 300,000 teacher and support staff vacancies across the U.S. right now, China, along with other countries around the world, really has to be laughing at - and learning from - us. Global competition and threats are real.

Let's focus on finding more ways to bring more students into the fold, rather than lowering standards of excellence across the board over perceived privilege. It's a very poor, and even dangerous, solution to the problem. Again, I state with clear conviction, that it is immoral to intentionally hold back the education and development of young minds with these levels of talent and potential. We need to educate them, nurture their gifts, and simultaneously help them develop virtue and character so that they truly come to understand and appreciate their gifts - and the responsibilities to themselves and to others that come with them.

No matter who you are - whether you're a student, parent, fellow educator, or simply a concerned citizen reading this - I invite and encourage you to get more involved if you're worried about the future of these gifted and talented programs in our country. Do further research and write letters to the editor for your local and state newspapers. Talk with your elected state and federal representatives. Talk with your school board members. Talk with teachers and administrators. If you have your own blog or website, use it to make your voice heard and contribute to the debate. Feel free to leave your thoughts, questions, ideas, concerns, research, and experiences right here at my blog, in the Comments section below.

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