Friday, July 06, 2012
The trouble with "broadening reach"
Humans are social creatures. Like anyone, gifted kids enjoy being around their real peers -- people who understand them and can have conversations on the same level. In big enough districts, a good way to offer this is to create magnet gifted programs that pull kids from lots of schools to receive instruction targeted at a higher level. Gifted kids get challenged and, as a side benefit, they often learn there's more to their personalities than just being "the smart one." I have never understood why so many people are so opposed to such programs, but they are -- and a recent article from Gazette.net on Frederick County, Maryland showed one way school districts have found to disband such programs while trying to claim they're still serving gifted kids' needs. The argument? Claim you're broadening the reach of your gifted teachers. Rather than send kids to a magnet program, keep them in their home school. Then send around your gifted teachers to do enrichment programs for an hour or two at a time at each school. That way, more students can participate. But why, exactly, do more students need to participate? If there are gifted kids who aren't being served by the magnet program, make more seats in the magnet program. If the kids and their parents don't want to go to the magnet school, a grade skip or subject matter acceleration can work for individual cases. I suspect that the desire to broaden reach is really that school districts don't like creating special programs for "the 1%" (to borrow a phrase from a different subject). By sending gifted kids back to their home schools, their test scores get included in those schools' results. Gifted education becomes a small and more easily cut part of the day. And as teachers struggle to meet everyone else's needs, the needs of gifted kids will be forgotten. School officials may argue differently. According to the article, "School board President Angie Fish said on June 28 she understands how parents ... can be concerned. But she also was confident school staff will ensure advanced learners receive the services they need, regardless of the other challenges of their schools." Sure. Except that it usually doesn't happen.