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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

Lost Einsteins: Screen ’em all to close ‘gifted gap’

Screening all children for giftedness could help close the “gifted gap” and reduce inequality, suggests a Fordham report. Only 6.1 percent of students in high-poverty schools have access to advanced learning, compared to 12.4 percent of students in low-poverty schools.

Photo: Wisconsin Center for Academically Talented Youth

Failing to develop the potential of capable students from low-income families means “we lose potential Einsteins,” write Amber Northern and Checker Finn in the forward.

Children identified for gifted education via universal screening benefit as much as those identified by traditional means, this study found.

Research on who becomes an inventor shows that inequality undercuts innovation, writes David Leonhardt in the New York Times.

Washington state may require universal screening, writes Claudia Rowe in the Seattle Times. One district already is evaluating all students, despite the higher costs of testing.

Until last month, only 28 low-income children out of 3,000 in the Northshore School District had been deemed academically gifted. The same pattern held for nonnative English speakers, only 11 of whom had been rated intelligent enough for accelerated learning. But in January, Northshore upended its old system of screening students for giftedness based on test scores and parent referrals. Instead, they decided to measure the potential of everyone — all 16,000 elementary- and middle-school children — in an effort to change the racial and economic complexion of advanced learning. As a result, about 500 low-income or foreign-born students in the district now will be considered for gifted education.

The district may offer tutoring for students who “rate as highly creative, despite low academic skills,” reports Rowe.

In Seattle, “many affluent parents pay for their children to be privately tested,” she writes. “Those one-on-one sessions almost always result in higher scores than the Saturday cattle-call exams, where hundreds of kids cycle through.”

In North Carolina, an investigation by the Charlotte Observer and the (Raleigh) News & Observer found “low-income students were less likely than non-poor students with similar scores to get access to gifted programs and advanced classes,” reports Ann Doss Helms. “Racial gaps in gifted placement were noted there, too.”

While two-thirds of schools offer a gifted program, the intensity and quality vary enormously, writes Brandon Wright.

As children, my wife and I were both in pull-out programs, for example, which are generally considered among the more robust gifted offerings. In my program, some sixty students identified as gifted in each grade, 4–8, were split into two classes and educated in all of our core subjects via specially designed curricula. Only elective classes combined both identified and other students. By contrast, my wife’s elementary school program consisted of just one hour each week, during which time she and other identified children would sit in a separate classroom and superficially cover academic topics in nonacademic ways—such as exploring medieval history by practicing calligraphy.

Teachers shortchange gifted students in mixed-ability classrooms, writes Walt Gardner.

When I was in school, “giftedness” hadn’t been invented. I read books under my desk in class, which enabled me to maintain my book-a-day habit.

At my daughter’s affluent elementary school, the “gifted teacher” only stopped by briefly once a month. After all, the district said that every student was gifted.  When I asked my daughter’s third-grade teacher about that — I was a classroom volunteer — she gave me “critical thinking” exercises, a group of kids and the key to an unused room. In fourth-grade, my daughter and another girl were slipped a “gifted book” and told not to tell classmates they were reading it.

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