Monday, October 16, 2006

What to do when your budget grows

Some districts in Arizona have recently been faced with the kind of problem educators love to have: The state legislature appropriated more money for gifted education, and all of their budgets are about to rise.

The districts and schools intend to do very different things with the money, however. Some will be more helpful for gifted kids than others. For instance, the Scottsdale Unified School District expects $81,000 for its budget this year, up from $37,000 last year. It plans to use the windfall on "supplemental material," according to this list which ran in the Arizona Republic. Perhaps these workbooks and curriculum packages will be helpful. But I'm inclined to give my thumbs up to the Paradise Valley Unified School District, which plans to spend its $105,000 (up from $44,000) on opening more separate classrooms for gifted students.

When James Kulik of the University of Michigan reviewed 23 major studies on ability grouping a few years ago, he found that gifted students placed in enriched classes gained 4-5 months academically on gifted students left in regular classrooms (over the course of a year). Gifted students placed in accelerated classes (which were trying to move ahead more quickly) gained as much as a whole year compared with comparable students left in regular classrooms.

In other words, we know that gifted kids benefit from self-contained classes. So creating them should be the first order of business for any school that doesn't have them and receives extra money. Hopefully the other Arizona districts will figure this out.

1 comment:

Quiltsrwarm said...

School district personel who want to offer self-contained gifted classrooms are often stymied by backward thinking administrators, the ones who sign the paperwork creating such classrooms and who still live in the late-80s early-90s "mainstreaming/detracking" mindset. This has been my direct experience, and I'm sure many other parents have been frustrated by the same lack of attention toward gifteds (vs. the overflowing attention paid to special ed classroom needs).

Just because money is thrown at a school district doesn't make them use it the most effectively. Money with guidelines is best, but, of course, in the interest of individual freedoms, school districts don't want to be told what to do with the money, they are just thankful they've got it.