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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

Smart kids left alone: What schools are doing -- and not doing -- for 'advanced learners'

"Highly capable" students will lose advanced learning opportunities in Seattle Public Schools. To address "historical inequity," all students will be placed in the same classrooms at neighborhood schools. Teachers will differentiate instruction to meet each students' needs, claims the district.


Most "highly capable" students are white or Asian American.


Schools should identify more children from underrepresented groups who'd benefit from the challenge instead of cutting gifted classes, said Simrin Parmar, a mother at Cascadia Elementary.


"If they do this, it will be the bell curve getting ignored and watering down the teaching," parent Eric Feeny said.


Kelly Riffell, also a Cascadia parent, complained about the move on social media: Seattle Public Schools replacing "highly capable" programming "with empty promises, zero plan, and zero funding," she write. "I’m sad to watch so many families leave the public school system, but I can’t blame them."


Photo: Vanessa Loring/Pexels

Advanced education isn't about privileging the already advantaged, argue Fordham's Amber N. Northern and Michael J. Petrilli in a forward to a new report on advanced learning. It's about "identifying and maximizing the strengths and potential of every student—including poor kids and kids of color with potential for high academic achievement."


In other words, teach more to more students.


Broken Pipeline, by Adam Tyner, Fordham's national research director, finds that most districts now screen all students for their academic potential, but most compare them to national norms. Using local norms, such as looking at those in the top 10 percent of their class, helps identify more promising students at high-poverty schools.


It doesn't help to label students as "gifted" if they don't get the opportunity to accelerate their learning.


Nearly half of schools offer part-time pull-out classes for high achievers, where they can tackle more challenging work with their intellectual peers.


But a similar percentage offer “in-class differentiation in general classrooms with no clustering of gifted students.” That doesn't amount to much.


The most effective programs -- special classes for advanced learners and full-time schools for gifted students — are rare (6 percent and 1 percent, respectively).


As a result, "advanced programming in most elementary and middle schools is limited and of questionable value."


Most high schools offer advanced courses, but students who weren't challenged in elementary and middle school may be unprepared.

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7 Comments


bkwormtoo
May 04

How pathetic is it that "equity" means holding back the brightest instead of building up the less bright? WRT "gifted" students in homeschooling, parents are not too dumb to find resources. When our munchkins were high school age, we took advantage of Concurrent Enrollment at our local community college. Other homeschoolers find fellow homeschooling parents with the needed knowledge/skills and arrange for them to teach the desired subjects (we saw this being done in our support group).

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Bill Parker
Bill Parker
May 02

If you look at school spending many states wind up spending in excess of $5000 (or more) for each student in special education (since it is mandated), but in 16 states, no dollar increase is set aside

for gifted and talented education, and for those students who are profoundly gifted (the top 1%

of all students based on testing and IQ) the only option is usually a private school or college enrollment...


Sad but true folks

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Darren Miller
Darren Miller
May 02

So-called differentiation is a joke, and I genuinely doubt it happens in the vast majority of cases beyond giving the smart kid "an extra worksheet" or something.

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Joanne Jacobs
Joanne Jacobs
May 02
Replying to

My daughter was given a "gifted" book to read -- "Tuck Everlasting" -- with instructions not to tell anyone she was doing anything special. She was identified as "gifted" in math as well. That led to nothing at all.

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Bruce Smith
Bruce Smith
May 02

At least in important subjects like mathematics, the pace of teaching should be set such that all children have the chance to do that advanced beyond calculus before they leave for university, until they prove they can't keep up with the leaders, at which time career counsellors need to intervene to come up with a plan B, guiding most youth towards the vocational education & training that they should choose in keeping with their happiness and their comparative advantage (which law shows that you don't maximize economic output by considering the "top strata" first).

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rob
May 02

You are failing your gifted child if you send them to public school. If you want them to realize their potential, they have to get around the barrier public schools represent. Homeschooling isn't the answer, either, unless the parent is capable of delivering the education a gifted student needs (and most parents are not).


When you consider that it is the top strata of the population that really makes the society work, then it's imperative that the top strata gets all the support we can give it. Sure, you can churn out adults capable of average jobs by the carload (and we need them, too), but those special ones at the top do more than the rest put together. H…


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