Friday, February 16, 2007

All Gifted Education is Local

Returning to School Administrator magazine... Jane Clarenbach, director of public education for NAGC, has an essay in the February issue on the gifted various services different districts deliver. You can read the article here. While the piece is more a survey of what different options exist, the opening lines suggest an interesting question. In the U.S., education is largely a local matter, and so gifted education is a local matter, too. Is this smart or good for gifted kids?

Clarenbach says NAGC often receives calls from parents wondering where they should move in order to make sure their children receive an appropriate, challenging education. It's a tough question. A district that offers a magnet school for gifted children might look like a good choice, but if that school is inflexible about grade skipping (believe it or not, that happens) then it might not be a good choice for a profoundly gifted child.

In general, I believe educational decisions are best made closest to the people they affect. So gifted education should be a state or local issue. However, given that the federal government does muck around in various educational decisions already, I don't like the idea of gifted education getting the short end of the stick. I wish the federal Education Department would identify gifted education as a major national priority, offer better resources and circulate more "best practices" ideas for districts to implement. Federal bureaucrats can use their positions to promote concepts, even in the absence of national mandates. Because, unfortunately, one of the side effects of gifted education being local is that well-to-do parents, who can move, have better access to it than families who have to stay put. While local control of education is a concept worth defending, that result is not.


rbraverman said...

I am reading with interest several blogs on gifted and appreciate the opportunity to chime in.

While advocating in Trenton or DC, I often ask legislators how many of them, or their offspring attend(ed) private schooling. Then I ask how many supplement public education with after school, weekend, or summer opportunities not otherwise available except by tuition. Since many do/did, this clearly shows the "What if you couldn't leave, move, afford to educate privately or at home or supplement?" The great divide of the affluent compared to those who are trapped in local districts not providing adequately for their gifted students is then clear.

Thanks for allowing my two cents here.

Royce Wells said...

I think that there is more room for change in a local environment. The difference is going to be whether the local government decides to change anything to affect gifted education. Therefore, I think that the federal government needs to offer some guidelines and rules that outline the basic idea of what needs to be done by the local governments. This way, federal involvement is minimal and the local government, and the place where the most change is going to occur, will be affected the most.