Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Will a gifted program keep families in (or attract them to) a district?

Plenty of districts have pared back gifted programs in recent years. So I'm always interested to read about districts that are doing the opposite. A recent Washington Post article outlined plans to introduce more gifted programs into the DC public schools for several reasons.

First, many high achieving children in the district are simply not being served. It's no secret that the district has struggled with low performance, and when many children are struggling to get to a basic level, teachers don't have time to deal with the kids who could use more challenge.

But more intriguingly, the article floats the idea of gifted programs being a way to keep families in the district. Many families leave the district around middle school as they start to ponder their children's preparation for college. Others are drawn to high-performing charter schools (of which DC has a few).

One of the original ideas behind charter schools is that the competition would spur district schools to improve. While I certainly think that schools should offer gifted services regardless, if it takes the existence of charter schools to nudge the district to do the right thing, then it seems that the charter schools are doing their job.

I did note, though, that the district is treading carefully. Rather than identifying children for self-contained programs, the article talks about a whole school enrichment model. I know that the politics of these things are always tricky, but still, this at least seems to be a move in the right direction. What I'm curious about is if it will work. Will families stay in a troubled district because of a gifted program? Would it lure families back in?

It might. If people have made it to the school years still living in a city, then they may be city people. In the calculus of this conversation, the short commutes, restaurants, shopping, etc. get weighed against lousy schools. Parents generally decide that the schools will decide the answer. But if there are options, then the suburbs need not be inevitable.

Did you ever choose to live in a district because of a gifted program?


Jen said...

When we moved from CO to IL four years ago, we had to pick a school district and school before we could pick a house. There's no open enrollment here, no choice, no charter schools (except in the city, nothing like the thriving parent-driven charters on the Front Range). You have to pick the district and school, then hope to find a house that fits.
We did that. We thought we had found the district and the school that would best accommodate our 2e son and bought a smaller than we would have liked home in that boundary. It turned out to be the worst possible situation for him, as the gifted program was simply for high-achievers, and as he does not test well, he was excluded from the program. The program was at a different elementary school, so he had no similarly-wired peers even in the school building. It was a nightmare, and after three months we pulled him to homeschool and haven't looked back.
Four months ago we moved again. We couldn't handle the overpriced, too small for us house, and so we moved 20 minutes away to a place we adore. And in a terrible twist of irony, this district appears to be better for 2e kids. Oh, what could have been. But homeschooling has been wonderful for our son and while it is difficult, he's a much different (and happier) kid than he was four years ago.
So the long story? No, I don't think I'd move into a district for a gifted program. They can look so, so good on paper, and be an absolute nightmare in reality.

Anonymous said...

We are in a small community,with one full time gifted program in elementary and one middle school.The price of homes is astronomical compared to other areas of the county.And only the gifted kids from this city are eligible for the program,where I have seen another place where the entire county were eligible to attend.Unless something better comes along,we will remain here till we're done with the program.

nicoleandmaggie said...

No, we have not had that opportunity. However, the nearest city has something similar, and parents of gifted kids complain about how these programs are not actually for gifted kids but exist to increase racial school segregation to prevent white flight from the cities. So they're very watered down (because parents of non-gifted kids in the programs complain if they're not) and not actually targeted at gifted kids.

Anonymous said...

We didn't move to a district because of a gifted program, but have decided not to send our child to private school or move to a better district because out child was accepted into a self contained gifted classroom. I think good gifted programs encourage retention of the highest performing students.

gasstationwithoutpumps said...

We ended up at a couple of private schools after 4 years of public school, because the local public schools did not have functional gifted programs. We tried the public high school for a year, and ended up home schooling the last three years of high school.

The only year that was really unsuccessful was the one year of public high school—everything else pretty much worked and was likely the best available option at the time.

Nother Barb said...

I did not, and given our experience likely would not. Our district has been dismantling gifted ed in the 10 years we have been here, but fortunately it was still in place while our youngest was in elementary school. I think I would attend school board meetings for a year before choosing to move to a district to see how robust the commitment to gifted ed is. Talking to administrators will only lead you astray. Even now,with gifted ed almost completely eliminated, they are very good at making it sound as though a child will be served, but you have to think critically about what they are saying. We are, unfortunately for gifted kids, a high-achieving suburban school district, so families will come and will stay because the schools in general are very good and the community is pleasant, so there is no incentive for the school to attract families.

lgm said...

No, a gifted program would not keep the students in the district. The parents of the bright and the moderately gifted want their children in the program and they slow it down so much that the HG and PG shut down. It becomes awkward to share one's insight when its a gifted program and the nongeniuses kept the discussion to the obvious, rarely using the higher level thinking skills. Then there are the parents...they want expectations lowered so their child can get the 100...which leaves the truly gifted doing the cakewalk.

Nope, give me placement by instructional need, real honors classes, and psych support and my gifted child will be happy in a high achiever's classroom.