In affluent Maryland and Virginia districts, a majority of students may be classified as “gifted,” reports the Washington Post.
Bannockburn Elementary School in Bethesda is suburban Washington’s Lake Wobegon, Garrison Keillor’s fictional hamlet where every child is above average.
At Bannockburn Elementary School in Bethesda, Md., Alexis Peterson’s third-grade literacy class operates on a fifth-grade level. With so many gifted students, the standard instructional model is turned on its ear.
Seventy percent of third graders at the school are classified as gifted; districtwide, 40 percent of students are considered gifted. Nationwide, 12 percent of students receive some form of gifted education, though the category is supposed to include only 5 to 10 percent of top performers. In some states, no extra funds are provided. Teachers simply ask students to do more.
In Montgomery County, Maryland, gifted education is very popular with most parents, but opponents complain it’s elitist. Black and Hispanic students are less likely to be deemed gifted than white or Asian-American students.
Evie Frankl, co-chair of the Montgomery County Education Forum and a leader in the movement to do away with officially sanctioned giftedness, believes education leaders award the designation liberally as “a gift to the white middle class, to keep them in the school system,” rather than to serve the goals of diversity and inclusiveness.
If “gifted” means the ability to work above grade level, it applies to many students in well-educated communities. “Highly gifted” is now used to refer to students who are way above average, perhaps the top four percent academically. I’ve heard “severely gifted” as well.
The San Jose Merc ran a story last week about an 11-year-old black boy from Oakland who’s a Cal State sophomore. When he was a four-year-old first grader, restless at the slow pace of the class, his teacher thought he had a learning disability. His father, who runs a private school, pulled him out of school at age six so he could do high school work.
“He’s one of the world’s most enthusiastic learners,” says Sally Murphy, Cal State-East Bay’s general education director.
He raises his hand to answer every question and usually has the right answers,” she said. “I think when a couple of 18-, 19-year-olds who are doing as little as possible are being showed up by someone much younger, who is showing the work can be done on time, it bothers them.”
He’d probably have done better to start at community college, then transfer to Berkeley when he’s ready. He needs to be with the smart people, not the 19-year-old slackers.
Update: Meep has more.