Thursday, August 14, 2014

The after-school solution

Long ago when I was writing about education, and the idea of separation of church and state, someone made an interesting point to me. What people got most up in arms about, he said, were the core school hours of 9 to 3. Outside that, people were a lot less doctrinaire. So people might be absolutely against vouchers that would send kids to religious schools at taxpayer expense from 9 to 3. But they were far more willing to subsidize an after-school program run by a church. Districts happily provided busing, snacks, workbooks, etc. Some even paid some chunk of the cost. That was all fine. So were summer programs, before school programs, weekend programs, etc. It was the hours of 9 to 3 that required lines in the sand. (Or 8 to 2, or whenever the local schools held core classes).

I thought of that as I read a story about the Clarkdale-Jerome school in Arizona starting an after-school gifted program. The school didn't have anything for gifted kids. One of the teachers earned an endorsement in gifted education. So they decided to start an after school program to serve kids' needs.

From the perspective of those of us who think gifted kids have educational differences that deserve to be accommodated, this story can invite some smacks on the forehead. Why after school? Why not decide that we're not doing anything for gifted kids now, so let's identify them and see if some acceleration might be in order? Or maybe we decide to do self-contained multi-grade classes for these kids. Or even a twice a week pull-out. But something during the school day, when kids are supposed to be doing the bulk of their learning. Gifted kids should be challenged to the extent of their abilities in an environment with their intellectual peers.

But viewed from the perspective of "core hours" vs. other hours, this makes some sort of sense. Gifted education is a controversial thing. So it needs to be done outside of school hours, just like letting a religious group run an after school program.

I'm not sure how this will play out from a practical perspective. On one hand, many families of young kids have two working parents (or a single working parent) and hence need to do something with the kids after school anyway. A gifted program probably beats a lot of after school options. Unfortunately, it might also pit gifted education against art, music, sports, etc., which plenty of kids would also like to do. It's nice to do something for gifted kids, as opposed to nothing for them. But the decision to use an after-school solution says loads about how gifted education is often viewed.


Anonymous said...

This has it backwards. Since the gifted students can learn quickly, they should be able to get a full supply of deep and accelerated courses during regular school hours.

It is the slow learners who should need extra time after school, evenings, weekends, summers, etc.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, I call BS. This is like the practice of afterschooling, where children are forced to cram all of their actual learning in on evenings and weekends, while still having to cool their heels every weekday in complete mind-numbing boredom.

It's like saying, well if you're so smart that your getting your work done faster, then here's some more work to do on top of that.

I call shenanigans. Gifted students not only deserve an appropriate education that will allow them to learn at their pace, they deserve TIME OFF to be a kid too. They shouldn't have to put in twice as many hours just to get something that they actually don't know.

Walter Roberts said...

The heart of the problem is 1) that during regular school hours at many institutions the mandate of EDUCATION has been confused with that of DAY CARE; 2) the pseudo-egalitarian premises operative in the CLASSROOM (but not on the football field!) have eliminated the isolation and recognition of "gifted and talented" designations; 3) only the fewest and most far between of American K-12 students are even themselves sufficiently intellectually equipped to service truly gifted kids — unlike Law and Medicine and Higher ED, K-12 is hardly designated as a "profession" attracting the "best and brightest", 3b) Ed-Schools themselves are really schools of Social Work where one learns to handle psychological problems of students and parents, i.e., issues of classroom management, rather than subject mastery.

At one of the BEST elementary schools in Montana (Montana City School) the so-called G&T program was so weak and attenuated (It was not integrated into the regular curriculum and therefore REPLACED nothing, but was rather just an extra chore.) as to be near meaningless.

Administrators seem to be coming around to the notion that "tracking" is not the non-egalitarian, elitist horror that it was purported to be previously. They have begun to face the reality that different children have different proclivities and levels of ability.

The tragedy is that "G&T" kids who would, if they could, rise to a higher intellectual level have their educational options undermined by being confined to the same educational quarters as the group I call "the knuckleheads." Likewise, educational standards are set to deliver an "all purpose" education to "everyone." This results in the lowest performers setting the bar. Thus, "the bar is set so low that anyone of talent necessarily trips over it."

"Magnet", "test-admission", and specialized private schools (like Roeper outside Detroit) are beginning to fill this gap. But many talented kids still remain stuck in the morass. (In inner city Detroit, this is undeniable, of course.)

It is a shame that G&T kids should have to add after-school lessons to meet their needs. They should be accommodated within "regular" school hours. And they certainly deserve "time off" like any other kid.

The ultimate problem is the degree to which underperforming schools numb G&T kids to the value of education entirely.

See: Gifted Drop-outs, by Hansen and Toso.

Anonymous said...

I'm not a fan of this approach, though I suppose it's better than nothing (slightly). Kids should be learning and progressing during the school day, not just during additional instruction after school. It doesn't address what kids are supposed to do in the classroom during the day if they already know all the material being taught. It also interferes with family time and other after school activities.

Sara said...

So we've actually started this at my daughter's elementary school. We get minimal GT support during school hours -- GT certified teachers are mandatory, sometimes clustering in the same class, sometimes differentiated work, and a minimal set of supplemental work (= more homework).

A friend started a once a month after school program for all the GT kids in the school who want to come. Parents or local grad students come in to do activities or programs. It's not great for actual deep learning, but it's awesome for social interaction with other gifted kids. (There are only 3 GT kids in my daughters grade, and she's the only girl. She has made friends with some of the kids in grades above and below her, and I am SO THANKFUL for that.)

It's annoying that *parents* are having to do it, and that it is outside of school hours. (I get pissed off when I read the twice a year GT report on my daughter and they claim work my friend and I are doing as her GT work that they should be doing.) The system is broken and needs to be fixed. But for my daughter, this is a good program that she wouldn't otherwise get during the school year.