Thursday, September 19, 2013
Self-contained, with a broad definition of gifted
In Houston County (Georgia), the gifted program used to be a pull-out program. Students got one day a week of gifted instruction. This year, they've moved to self-contained classes, all day and for all grades. You can read about the change at Macon.com in this article. (As a side note, it's a really good article, talking about many issues stories of these nature miss, like that gifted kids have to work a lot harder in classes when they're no longer "stars"). One reason few districts do self-contained classes is cost. If gifted education is targeted at 1-3% of students, then self-contained classes are often small, even if you combine a few grades. This means you have to actively put money into the program beyond the normal per pupil cost. For a variety of reasons, some political, schools find it difficult to do this. The choice Houston County seems to have made is to broaden the definition of gifted. According to the article, some 4000 of the district's 27,000 students have been put into gifted classes. This is about 15% of the population. At this level, you could have 6 classes in a grade, with one being a gifted class, and not need any extra staffing levels. So is this a smart choice? On one level, a gifted designation this broad will be tricky. There is a huge variance within that 15%. On the other, any attempts at ability grouping (or "readiness grouping" as we like to say here) will increase the chances that a class will be taught closer to a highly gifted child's level. The differentiation within that class can offer the highly gifted child more than the differentiation within a far more mixed class. And since pull-outs are sometimes more disruptive than worthwhile, I think Houston County is moving in the right direction. If your child is in a self-contained class, are you satisfied with the level of rigor?