Thursday, January 1, 2009

Opposition to gifted programs

I recently read about a school district that was in the process of starting a program for their highly gifted students. I was very disappointed that one of the comments against the program had to do with a large number of students probably coming from wealthy families.

I'm very disappointed that people consider a bias about people's income a valid reason to deprive a child, any child, from receiving the education they deserve. Perhaps the majority of the kids in the district are from wealthy families. However, these are still children who deserve a challenging education. Further, and just as important, this program is part of the public school system. That means that any child in the district who is found to be highly gifted could benefit from this program regardless of their parents' income.

The sad news is that many districts will not consider these types of programs unless there is a large enough need. Wealthy districts, whether is it is fair or not, often have the means to create these programs and often have a larger need than poorer districts. The good news is, and what many people fail to consider, is that many of the programs for the gifted, especially in the highly gifted and above range, will often take students from surrounding areas, especially if their needs are not being met by neighboring school districts. In many places, if there is sufficient room, they are willing to serve students from other areas. The more students they have, the easier it is to justify their existence and continuing work.

The bigger problem, in reality, is that poor families don't often have the means to have their gifted children identified as such. It is commonly acknowledged that students from poor families and racial minorities are seriously underrepresented in gifted programs. However, what is a poor parent supposed to do once they find out that they have a gifted child? The second hurdle is finding an appropriate educational setting. I'm in favor of public schools creating gifted programs, even in wealthy areas, because the programs often provide opportunities for those who would not otherwise be able to afford them.

And regardless of a person's income, every child deserves to have an appropriate education.

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