Brooklyn school picks diversity over gifted program

A Brooklyn elementary school is dropping its popular gifted program because not enough black and Latino students test into gifted classes, reports the New York Daily News. More than two-thirds of students are black or Latino, while Asian-Americans make up 18 percent and whites 10 percent. 

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Comments

  1. The only surprise here is that the story made the national news. Programs have been cut back or eliminated elsewhere, for the same reason This country spends vastly more on the uneducable and untrainable than on the most capable and motivated.

  2. This is also a great way to convince white and Asian families to leave the city or take their kids out of public schools.

  3. I fully appreciate the reasons and motivations of the school and school district. And I also would move my children to another school.

    • SC Math Teacher says:

      Unfortunately, that’s not so easy in NYC. You’re usually stuck with your zoned school. A move to the suburbs isn’t feasible for many.

  4. Unfortunately, we spend far more on the bottom 1/3 of educational achievers in our public schools than we do on the top 5% of all students academically in our public schools.

    I’d say that it is no surprise that some parents are looking for private alternatives for their kids.

    Sad commentary on the state of public education in the U.S. of A.

    Sigh

    • SC Math Teacher says:

      Yup. That’s because schools are graded on the percentage of students that reach a basic level of achievement, such as passing certain exams. Improving the lot of students who are already proficient doesn’t improve your standing.

      • PhillipMarlowe says:

        That’s right. No accolades for going from Proficient to Advanced

      • Previous to the enactment of these grading schemes schools weren’t graded by anyone at all except parents moving into the area and their source of information about school’s quality were local real estate agents.

        Is that a better state of affairs then the current assessment systems?

        • SC Math Teacher says:

          Would be nice if they could be graded on something more than just getting students to pass end of course exams and HS exit exams. What of the gifted students’ improvements? Shouldn’t that count for anything? Right now there’s no incentive to focus there, so resources go elsewhere. Grading schools is fine as long as the grades capture the breadth of the student body and not just how many students we push past the finish line.

          • Indeed, it would be nice if they (schools) could be graded on something more than just getting students to pass end of course exams but there was a time, not that long ago, when there wasn’t any grading of schools at all. So, are we better off with imperfect assessments, and the knowledge of those imperfections with the implicit assumption that the assessments will be improved over time, or no assessments?

            I’ve made my feelings clear on the subject, that if you care about something you measure it. I’m waiting for some substantive argument to the contrary.

          • SC Math Teacher says:

            Measurement is fine Allen, but if the metric is off, then we accomplish nothing. In any event, I’m not arguing against testing…just the fact that we are measuring success based on getting marginal students just over the finish line. What of the gifted students?

          • If the metric’s off then the metric should be improved but if you aren’t measuring, or if the measurement isn’t utilized, then the accuracy of the metric’s irrelevant.

            What to do about gifted students, or indeed any statistical outliers, is a deeper problem and speaks to the inherently inflexible nature of public education in general but especially the way public education’s structured in the U.S.

            Look at how both ends of the bell curve have been dealt with.

            It required legislative mandates to ensure that teachers with specific training for dealing with Spec Ed kids were employed in their classrooms and at the other extreme there are magnet schools – the only public schools that are explicitly and unapologetically selective.

            That systemic inflexibility won’t be ironed out by testing that accurately identifies educational attainment. That inflexibility’s part of the institution.

    • Did you mean your math to be so far off? I’d expect to spend more to educate a third of a population than I would to educate a twentieth of the same population.

      Bottom third to top third would have been an interesting comparison. Bottom 5% to top 5% would probably be shocking because the bottom 5% would likely to contain the most expensive special education students with complicated medical conditions that require extra staff.

      • SC Math Teacher says:

        The gist of the comment was that the spending is not proportional. I’d be interested to see some data, but, in my experience, strictly on class time alone the difference is enormous.

  5. Richard Aubrey says:

    I believe the head ‘crat’s words were something to the effect that they can combine diversity and rigor. Unfortunately, we’re not going to do it.

  6. Cranberry says:

    It’s a K-5 school. Given the amount of test-prep which goes on in New York for placement into the gifted track, I would not be surprised that some children in the GT track are not gifted. Even if no one were prepping for the test, 4 years old is too early to separate kids into tracks.

    (See: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/18/nyregion/new-york-city-schools-struggle-to-separate-the-gifted-from-the-just-well-prepared.html?_r=0)

    It may be more efficient to offer a demanding curriculum to all students enrolled in the school, rather than offer a demanding curriculum to some students, but not to the majority of enrolled students.

    • However, the school has deliberately chosen to group kids heterogeneously, not by instructional need. If I sent my kid to kindergarten appropriately socialized, knowing their letters, numbers, counting and some early reading and math ability, I sure wouldn’t want them in class with kids who had none of the above attributes. Time is a precious resource and it shouldn’t be wasted. Also, the ed world insists that teachers are very important, so how is 10 minutes of the teacher’s attention each hour as good as 60 minutes of the teacher’s attention each hour?

      • The New York GT programs only provide places for a tiny fraction of the children who test in the gifted range. Thus, one cannot assume that it’s a division between the “appropriately socialized” and the “unparented.”

        You can assume that offering one group enriched, challenging instruction, and another group unenriched, undemanding instruction (with labels which signal the expectations for each group) will produce differences between children over time.

        One of my cousins went whole hog on the early reading, counting, etc. for preschoolers. The other cousin did not. The children’s ages span about 6 years. The children who began reading after kindergarten perform at a much higher academic level today than their first cousins. Early hothousing guarantees nothing.

        The heterogeneous grouping will begin with the next year’s entering kindergartners. I assume parents who want the GT track will seek other options.

        Current education practices rely heavily on group work. I would be surprised if teachers in a K-5 school lectured their students for 60 minutes straight (isn’t it a 45 minute class?) In today’s classroom, work with peers is very important.

        At the age of 7 or 8, tests for IQ are more reliable. When one has specialist tutors preparing preschoolers for tests, a 4 year old who tests “gifted” might have just tested “rich.”

        • I’m not protesting the end of the gifted program for kindergarteners. I’m advocating grouping kids in leveled classes and offering the same curriculum – I like Core Knowledge/Singapore Math or similar – to all. I just want all kids to be met where they are and to move along as fast as they can. Kids who need more practice or more repetition should get it, immediately, and kids who know the material should go on to new material. I’m not a fan of group work, however, and especially not at this age.

          • I cannot support any practice which will or might prevent “differences between children over time”. That smells like Let No Child Get Ahead. Beyond breathing, there will always be varied outcomes because humans vary, despite certain groups’ determination to pretend otherwise.

    • SC Math Teacher says:

      I’ve taught in NYC, cranberry, and I assure you that the folks who want to do away with gifted programs due to perceived lack of diversity have no interest in a “demanding curriculum for all students”.

      • cranberry says:

        You’re probably right. On the other hand, looking at the school’s test scores on Great Schools is fascinating. Great Schools rates it a 3 out of 10 overall. For students “not economically disadvantaged” it receives a 9. That’s only 13% of the student body, presumably mostly in the GT program. It’s interesting the administration is willing to give up the bump to school test scores–unless the scores are disaggregated so that there’s no benefit to hosting the GT program. It would be interesting to see how the budget is divided. Do the GT classes receive more resources?

        There are politics behind this, no doubt. I wonder what influence the change in the mayor’s office will have on the schools?

        • FWIW, this wasn’t one of the DOE’s official G&T programs, with entry determined by a centrally administered test. The scores are not disaggregated, which is why the DOE has used G&T programs as a backdoor means of improving the test scores of struggling schools.

          G&T classes typically don’t receive any extra resources, at least not from the DOE. Parent involvement and “cultural capital” is another story.

          I can understand why there may have been a push to end the program. The main problem is that usually there’s no space to add kids who ought to be moved in from the non-accelerated sections after they’ve proven they can do the work. On the other hand, parents would be well within their rights to worry whether under this new arrangement bright children will be met at their level. Too often in a heterogeneous setting, they aren’t.