Friday, March 20, 2009

Bucking the Trend

In his Q&A (below), Prufrock publisher Joel McIntosh mentioned that the dominant trend these days is toward heterogeneous classrooms, and so a big chunk of his market is selling differentiation guides to teachers. Likewise, we've been discussing budget cuts that have led to the cancellation or shrinking of gifted programs around the country.

So it's interesting to read about one district, at least, that's bucking the trend. According to a recent article in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, the Prior Lake-Savage district school board recently voted to create a homogeneous gifted program within a larger elementary school. The program will be open to gifted students from across the district in 3rd, 4th and 5th grades.

Such self-contained programs that draw from outside normal school boundaries are (along with acceleration) the gold standard for gifted education. Not only are they more likely to challenge gifted kids in an environment with their peers, they reduce the workload for teachers of other classes (who won't need to differentiate quite as much). If the school district already allows busing for various other reasons (diversity, school choice and so forth) then you can usually keep transportation costs in line with per pupil expenditures under these programs, and since children have to be educated in one class or another, such classes should not cost more than other classes if the teacher-to-pupil ratio is in line with school district guidelines. And if you keep children in the local public schools who might have otherwise attended private schools or have been homeschooled, then the district actually gains per pupil funding.

This is exactly the thought process that appears to have won over the local school board. According to the Star-Tribune article, "The district says it can start the program without spending extra money. Instead, it will tap its existing gifted program and student services budgets."

So here's the question. Why did these arguments work in Minnesota? And how can gifted advocates make these arguments resonate elsewhere?


Anonymous said...

In MN, we have open enrollment where a kid can go to any public school in the state. I'm sure one reason why the districts are now jumping on the bandwagon to provide self-contained gifted services is because there are a few successful programs drawing kids away from their home districts. The home district loses that money. I hope the trend continues.

Kevin said...

The comment about already having buses is important also---our local school district has little in the way of gifted services, but also has only a couple of small buses for special ed students. Programs that require busing students don't work here, because there is no funding to pay for buses or drivers.

The Princess Mom said...

The Twin Cities metro area, which includes Prior Lake/Savage, also has a large and active GT advocacy group, the largest Young Mensans group in the country and is home-base for the likes of Karen B. Rogers (Re-Forming Gifted Education), Deborah Ruf (Losing Our Minds) and Judy Galbraith (The Gifted Kids Survival Guide) among others.

The area also has at least a handful of established gifted charter and private schools. (I believe Minnetonka, another suburb, is opening a school for PG students next year.) It's no coincidence that Minnesota was one of two states whose scores were broken out of the TIMSS results. There is a lot of competition for gifted students.

Anonymous said...

I thought you might be interested in this website:, a network of leaders in the field of gifted education.