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Old 12-17-2008, 09:35 AM   #1
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Your Child Is Not Gifted... anymore.

Montgomery Erasing Gifted Label
Implications Concern Some School Parents

By Daniel de Vise
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, December 16, 2008; B01



The label of gifted, as prized to some parents as a "My Child Is an Honor Student" bumper sticker, is about to be dropped by the Montgomery County school system.

Officials plan to abandon a decades-old policy that sorts second-grade students, like Dr. Seuss's Sneetches, into those who are gifted (the Star-Belly sort) and those who are not. Several other school systems in the region identify children in the same manner. But Montgomery education leaders have decided that the practice is arbitrary and unfair.

Two-fifths of Montgomery students are considered gifted on the basis of aptitude tests, schoolwork, expert opinion and parents' wishes. Officials say the approach slights the rest of the students who are not so labeled. White and Asian American students are twice as likely as blacks and Hispanics to be identified as gifted.

School system leaders say losing the label won't change gifted instruction, because it is open to all students. But this is Montgomery, where schools are known more for SAT composites than football records and where most, if not all, children are thought by parents to be above average. To some parents, any whiff of retreat from a tangible commitment to gifted education is cause for concern.

If Montgomery school officials don't "give these kids a name, they can ignore the real fact they exist," Lori White Wasserman, a parent, wrote on an e-mail list for advocates of gifted instruction in the county.

School systems in Alexandria and Arlington, Loudoun, Prince William and Prince George's counties also label students as gifted, in much the same way children might be designated as having special needs or limited English proficiency.

Other school systems, including those in the District and Fairfax, Frederick, Howard, Calvert and St. Mary's counties, have gifted programs but not, strictly speaking, gifted students.

It's partly a matter of semantics. Montgomery and Fairfax take a similar approach to gifted education, and both have well-regarded programs, one of which happens to label children as gifted. Parents in each county raise the same grievances, chiefly about the inconsistency of gifted instruction from school to school.

"What matters is what the kids are going to get, not what they're labeled," said Louise Epstein, a Fairfax parent.

In Fairfax, about 15 percent of children are offered admission to centers for the highly gifted based on a second-grade screening, but the children are not labeled gifted. Montgomery also screens children at the second grade, and 40 percent are identified as gifted, but the label guarantees no specific service. Montgomery operates its own gifted centers, but admission to those is based on a separate screening process.

The gifted label is a hot potato in public education. A school that tells some students they have gifts risks dashing the academic dreams of everyone else. Any formula for identifying gifted children, no matter how sophisticated, can be condemned for those it leaves out.

Montgomery officials say their formula for giftedness is flawed. Nearly three-quarters of students at Bannockburn Elementary School in Bethesda are labeled gifted, but only 13 percent at Watkins Mill Elementary in less-affluent Montgomery Village are, a curious disparity given that cognitive gifts are supposed to be evenly distributed.

School officials worked for decades to fix the inequities. Later this school year, the school board will take up a recommendation to abandon the label.

The aim is "to get away from this idea of putting kids in boxes and saying, 'You're gifted, and you're not,' " said Marty Creel, who directs the school system's Department of Enriched and Innovative Programs.

Local school systems generally screen all children for giftedness in third grade. In Prince George's, 10,000 of 130,000 students are labeled gifted; in Prince William, 8,700 of 75,000 students. Elsewhere, students with demonstrated gifts are generally steered into accelerated instruction but not formally labeled.

The debate about gifted education is loudest in elementary and middle schools, where the kind and amount of accelerated instruction varies widely. It matters less in high schools, which consistently track accelerated students into honors and college-level study.

On the e-mail list of the county's Gifted and Talented Association, Montgomery parents have debated the implications of losing the label. Some parents see the designation as leverage to get services they believe their children deserve. Others say the label has been misused or ignored by school officials and are glad to see it go.

Montgomery schools began identifying gifted students in the 1970s to target them for enrichment. Since then, aided by a proliferation of tests, educators have become more nimble in deciding who needs accelerated instruction. Teachers codify children's math and reading levels with frequency and precision unknown in previous decades.

Teachers and principals say the gifted label has become obsolete.

"It can set up a kind of have and have-not atmosphere at your school, and we don't have that here," said Aara Davis, principal of Georgian Forest Elementary School in Silver Spring.

Georgian Forest is one of two Montgomery schools that have quietly ditched gifted identification as an experiment. No one at that school or at Burning Tree Elementary in Bethesda is labeled gifted. Principals and teachers say they don't miss it.

In a classroom at Georgian Forest one morning this month, a group of fourth-graders attempted sixth-grade math: If one-quarter cup of sugar makes one glass of iced tea, how many glasses would 3 1/2 make?

"Are you supposed to multiply?" a girl asked three classmates. "I think you divide, actually," a boy replied. "Okay, what's the strategy, guys?" another girl interjected. Moments later, they had the answer: 14.
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Old 12-17-2008, 09:42 AM   #2
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So this is all so the stupid kids won't feel bad anymore?
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Old 12-17-2008, 09:45 AM   #3
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Didn't they watch 'The Incredibles'.
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Old 12-17-2008, 09:46 AM   #4
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I'm on the fence about this, on one hand I agree certain students will be "gifted" and really do need more of a challenge, but on the other hand, from what I've seen the parameters that decide who is "gifted" in the early years of elementary school seems pretty arbitrary and biased, it's usually the students that make good grades and that the teachers like.
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Old 12-17-2008, 10:03 AM   #5
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from what I've seen the parameters that decide who is "gifted" in the early years of elementary school seems pretty arbitrary and biased, it's usually the students that make good grades and that the teachers like.


There is testing to get into the gifted program, you know. At least in my state. I had to do a four hour IQ test when I was eight years old to determine if I'd be in gifted or not.
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Old 12-17-2008, 10:22 AM   #6
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There is testing to get into the gifted program, you know. At least in my state. I had to do a four hour IQ test when I was eight years old to determine if I'd be in gifted or not.
Yes, I know there is testing(in some schools), but first of all it's not consistent throughout and second there have been a lot of studies that show these test to be somewhat misleading.

You'll find one school district that will base it on grades and teacher recomendations. Others that have IQ tests, and others that have aptitude tests...
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Old 12-17-2008, 10:28 AM   #7
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i loved, loved the program i was in during elementary school. it wasn't so much advanced work but more an "enrichment" program -- and it very much avoided the "gifted" label and had a weird acronym instead.

the drawbacks were that i think it does foster a sense of elitism no matter what it's called, and the criteria for entrance into these things isn't terribly reliable. we were told that it was a combination of test scores, demonstrated creativity, and task commitment. seems like 2 of those 3 things are fairly arbitrary, but what i found out later was that the test scores create the cutoff line, and the rest is window dressing.

but there's no question that i loved my program and i benefited tremendously from it.
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Old 12-17-2008, 11:08 AM   #8
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i loved, loved the program i was in during elementary school. it wasn't so much advanced work but more an "enrichment" program -- and it very much avoided the "gifted" label and had a weird acronym instead.

Ours was called 'Promise', and there was no testing, and to be honest I don't remember much of the program at all except for the fact that it got us out of the classroom a couple hours of the week, so it was cool. Then in middle school it was called "Gifted and Talented", there was testing then and it provided a little more, but high school is when it really paid off to be in the program. It was then that certain students within the program were tested and invited to be in an Independent Study Mentorship, which allowed us some pretty big opportunities.
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Old 12-17-2008, 11:12 AM   #9
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So in others words, kids like my son who are on honor roll, won't be recognized for the hard work and time he puts into is school work to get on honor roll? That's a bunch of crap, there are kids I know that are in honors classes and on a sports team and still get on honor roll with a 98 average, to me that is something that should be recognized and applauded.
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Old 12-17-2008, 11:20 AM   #10
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I think the Honor Roll is something completely different...
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Old 12-17-2008, 11:20 AM   #11
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it's yet another step in the further pussification of america's youth.

there are actually little leagues out there where you're not allowed to win. really. everybody wins. that's a great lesson to teach kids... hey, you're all winners... they'll really learn how to deal when things are bad that way.

i was always told growing up that it's not the mistake that matters it's what you do after the mistake... after things go wrong... that really makes you who you are. now we're just trying to make sure nothing goes wrong for our kids. god forbid you hurt their precious little self esteem. for fucks sake public schools don't even let kids play dodgeball anymore so that the weaker kids don't get picked on.

complete bullshit. life is full of failure. being able to be a strong person through that failure is what builds character. trying to hide the failure and say it doesn't exist builds a generation of pansy asses.
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Old 12-17-2008, 11:31 AM   #12
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it's yet another step in the further pussification of america's youth.

there are actually little leagues out there where you're not allowed to win. really. everybody wins. that's a great lesson to teach kids... hey, you're all winners... they'll really learn how to deal when things are bad that way.

i was always told growing up that it's not the mistake that matters it's what you do after the mistake... after things go wrong... that really makes you who you are. now we're just trying to make sure nothing goes wrong for our kids. god forbid you hurt their precious little self esteem. for fucks sake public schools don't even let kids play dodgeball anymore so that the weaker kids don't get picked on.

complete bullshit. life is full of failure. being able to be a strong person through that failure is what builds character. trying to hide the failure and say it doesn't exist builds a generation of pansy asses.
I agree to a certain point. I think the whole everyone gets a trophy thing is being blown up on both sides.

I think there needs to be an acknowledgement of an age timeline.

Some want their child to go out the first year they are able to hold a bat and play real baseball. The problem with that is, first they don't know how to play, they don't know if they even really enjoy it, etc and you want them to worry about winning or losing. Some kids will never get to bat or even play. I do think when starting out that it's not a bad idea to just make it about learning the sport and having fun, no preasure of winning or losing, everyone get's a shot at learning and figuring out if they enjoy the sport. Then the next year introduce scoring.

But I agree, you can't continue that form of the sport, at some point the children need to learn everything about baseball, that sometimes they'll lose, or sometime they won't be able to play.
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Old 12-17-2008, 11:34 AM   #13
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Hey... that's OUR school system! I always knew they were a bunch of jerks!
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Old 12-17-2008, 12:36 PM   #14
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the drawbacks were that i think it does foster a sense of elitism no matter what it's called
Well when I was growing up the other kids in my main class used to sneer at me and the few others who left for a few hours every day. I remember reading a story some kid/teen had written about a suicidal nerdy kid who "wore glasses and was in gifted." That seemed to be the mentality against gifted kids in elementary.
In middle school it wasn't noticeable because there was no "homeroom."

I think you grow out of that crap by high school. A few people labeled my friends and I as those "AP nerds" or whatever, but they're probably busy picking up their knuckles from the floor right now.

I don't understand parents these days. They turned up all right, we turned up all right and the next generation is going to build houses out of bubble wrap. Go figure.
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Old 12-17-2008, 12:52 PM   #15
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Originally Posted by Headache in a Suitcase View Post
it's yet another step in the further pussification of america's youth.

there are actually little leagues out there where you're not allowed to win. really. everybody wins. that's a great lesson to teach kids... hey, you're all winners... they'll really learn how to deal when things are bad that way.

i was always told growing up that it's not the mistake that matters it's what you do after the mistake... after things go wrong... that really makes you who you are. now we're just trying to make sure nothing goes wrong for our kids. god forbid you hurt their precious little self esteem. for fucks sake public schools don't even let kids play dodgeball anymore so that the weaker kids don't get picked on.

complete bullshit. life is full of failure. being able to be a strong person through that failure is what builds character. trying to hide the failure and say it doesn't exist builds a generation of pansy asses.


i understand, to a degree, but i think there's a difference between "trophies for everyone!" and trying to remove certain practices (i.e., letting the most aggressive and athletic boys be captains who pick the teams in gym class) that really do humiliate certain kids and turn them off from, say, sports. i can't speak about the specifics of the dodgeball example, but i do vividly watching as some of the weaker kids, some of the kids who were picked on, some of the kids who were picked last, some of the kids who were identified as weak by the older kids and ruthlessly bullied, who began to turn off in junior high and high school. school became a source of pain and humiliation, and so they removed themselves from the situation in as much as they could.
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