Thursday, January 07, 2010

Gifted education outrages

Class Struggle by Jay Mathews

Washington Post  [This is my column for the Local Living section of Jan. 7, 2010]

My Dec. 10 column about that troublesome Washington area gifted child, future billionaire Warren Buffett, said our schools are never going to help such kids much. I said the gifted designation was often arbitrary and should be disposed of. Instead, we ought to find ways to let all kids explore their talents.


This produced a flood of comments on my blog. Many readers thought I was callous and daft. “Unfortunately, eliminating the label generally means that the schools give up doing anything for advanced learners,” wrote a reader signing in as EduCrazy. Another commenter, CrimsonWife, said “if educators are fine with giving special attention and services to kids who are far out of the mainstream on the low end of the spectrum, why is it so controversial to provide specialized services to kids who are far out of the mainstream on the high end?”


But some wondered if there might be promising alternatives. “When schools fail to challenge our most capable learners, what they learn is that effort is not required,” said mom22. “Unless, of course, some adult gives them the chance to do things differently, and to focus on something fascinating. My kids have found these things often in school, but out of their classroom.” I wonder if she realizes the consequences of such an approach, taken to its logical extremes. 

Take, for instance, Quaker Valley High School in Leetsdale, Penn., a Pittsburgh suburb. Linda Conlon, an academic specialist there, explained to me what they are doing. If you are easily shocked, please stop reading. I have checked Conlon out. She is telling the truth. Her school is like many in the Washington area, mostly middle class kids. But Quaker Valley lets them get away with stuff that flouts well-established educational rules and procedures.


One Quaker Valley student realized the established sequence of math courses barred her from taking calculus before graduation. She felt she needed that course to look good to colleges and prepare for advanced science, since she wanted to be a doctor. She asked to take trigonometry on her own over the summer, just her and the school textbook and maybe a tutor. Yeah, right, I said. But the Quaker Valley math department said yes. She passed the trig exam without taking the course, eventually took calculus, got the college she wanted and is now in med school.


It gets worse...

Read more HERE.

1 comment:

LegalBeaglette said...

Wow. Imagine that.

I thought such "outrages" were the promise of serving the needs of "All, Many, Some, Few"...that "Layer Cake" model...

...the "Some" and "Few" part of the CCPS gifted education paradigm?

That "differentiated education" stuff?

So what happened?