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Posted at 8:00 AM ET, 12/ 9/2010

Why urban schools don't need gifted programs

By Jay Mathews

D.C. Schools Chancellor Kaya Henderson told me recently that a plan to hire a gifted-and-talented coordinator had been cut from her budget. Times are tough, she said. Sacrifices have to be made.

But I don’t think this is any great loss at all. God dispenses his blessings and talents to poor and minority kids, too, so our cities have many gifted children. Unfortunately public schools, including those in the suburbs, rarely have the resources or teaching expertise to challenge them much. For urban schools, the standard gifted and talented system is often a waste of time.

I was reminded of this in a new book by the best inner-city high school principal I have ever known. Henry Gradillas, who ran two large high schools in Los Angeles, including Garfield in low-income East L.A., figured this out nearly 30 years ago. He had listened to his most talented teacher, Garfield Math Department Chairman Jaime Escalante, make fun of designating some kids gifted on the strength of a second-grade intelligence test. Gradillas began to see why Escalante (later made famous by the film “Stand and Deliver”) was right.

In his book “Standing and Delivering: What the Movie Didn’t Tell,” Gradillas (with co-author Jerry Jesness) describes how Garfield’s high poverty — also a key factor in D.C. schools — distorted the effect of the Los Angeles Unified School District’s gifted and talented (GT) rules in the 1980s.

“We had a number of what I call NFGT [non-functioning gifted and talented] students,” said Gradillas, a former Army ranger. “They had IQs that qualified them for the gifted and talented program but not the grade-point averages. A lot of them were taking Mickey Mouse classes and were in no way living up to their potentials. A lot of these kids lacked both motivation and study skills.”

He said, “We also had a lot of bright, hardworking kids who never were labeled gifted and talented because they lacked English skills in elementary school when monolingual English-speaking kids were being tested for GT. Others may have not had the IQ to qualify for GT, but they had the ganas [an Escalante word for drive], and they did well in higher-level classes.”

When I was finishing a book about Escalante in 1987, Gradillas identified, at my request, every GT student in the famous Garfield classes that produced 26 percent of all Mexican Americans in the country that year who passed Advanced Placement Calculus exams. The GT students made up only 20 percent of the total test takers at Garfield. They had a lower passing rate on the AP exams than Garfield students not designated GT.

This amused Escalante. As Gradillas describes in his book, when a GT student from another class sought help after school with a trigonometry problem, Escalante said, “I’ll let one of my students who’s not gifted explain it to you.”

Gradillas was a genius at finding loopholes in school regulations. Most districts let only GT students into GT classes funded by state grants based on the number of GT kids. But Gradillas discovered the rules actually said 49 percent of the class could be non-GT, so he added many undesignated students who were doing well. To appease GT teachers who feared dilution by these outsiders, he promised to remove any non-GT student who fell below a B in the course.

The GT label fixation appears similarly useless these days in the District, where the most successful schools try to raise the achievement of all students, no matter how high or low they start the year. If Henderson uses money saved by not hiring a GT coordinator to cut to train more teachers in how to enrich all classes, Henry Gradillas (still doing some teaching in Wisconsin at age 76) will approve.

Read Jay's blog every day, and follow all of The Post's Education coverage on Twitter, Facebook and our Education Web page.

By Jay Mathews  | December 9, 2010; 8:00 AM ET
Categories:  Local Living  | Tags:  Jaime Escalante, Standing and Delivering,, raising the level of all kids, under Gradillas non-GT kids were doing better than GT, why urban schools don't need gifted and talented programs. Henry Gradillas  
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Comments

Jay, you write that in DC, "the most successful schools try to raise the achievement of all students, no matter how high or low they start the year."

I'm wondering which schools you're talking about. Both Banneker and Walls only take students that test high enough to get in, presumably that correlates to high IQ scores. These schools do not accept hardworking kids who could perhaps do the work, but don't do well on the standardized test part of the application. And please don't mention Wilson unless you go visit and see what kind of work is being assigned in the 9th grade. I happen to know several parents with kids there and they are aghast at what they see (or don't see): shockingly low standards, no writing or grammar instruction, and virtually no homework (pick a vocab word and fill-in-the-blank kind of work -- that's about a 2nd grade level). In fact, some Wilson 9th graders recently complained to the Director of Academic Development that they weren't getting any real assignments. Can you imagine?

So, I ask again. Which schools in DC raise the achievement level of all students no matter how high or low they start the year?

Are you talking about charters?

Posted by: trace1 | December 9, 2010 8:32 AM | Report abuse

One more point, perhaps an argument for "gifted" programs, although I generally don't favor them. A friend with a kid in honors English at Wilson (9th grade) said his teacher is really not very good at all, and the better teacher was assigned to the lower-performing kids. She couldn't understand why that would be the case. I told her that if I were the principal, and my job depended on raising test scores, that's exactly where I would put the high-performing teacher.

When you have a system that is all about bringing up the bottom, a shortage of highly qualified teachers, and no gifted program, you are not going to focus to much on giving the kids at the top what they need -- and deserve.

Posted by: trace1 | December 9, 2010 8:36 AM | Report abuse

Sorry, typing too fast, meant to remove "to" in the last sentence.

Posted by: trace1 | December 9, 2010 8:38 AM | Report abuse

Yeah, in urban areas today, GT and Hard working non-GT students ARE put in the same boat.

The problem is that boat is the "you already passed the NCLB tests, so we don't care what you do now" boat.

Posted by: someguy100 | December 9, 2010 9:21 AM | Report abuse

Doing away with gifted programs is fine IF these students have teachers who themselves are intellectually curious AND the students have a peer group. Sadly, in elementary schools struggling with below level readers, this is often not the case. The teachers are up their necks in assessment paperwork and the “bright” students are divvied up among homerooms, often given the task of helping the below level students. There’s nothing wrong with helping others, but intellectual growth needs stimulation that’s often not provided in a regular classroom. Tracking is taboo, so where does that leave the gifted child or even the child who is not-so-gifted, but motivated to work at that level?

Posted by: llcarchive | December 9, 2010 9:40 AM | Report abuse

I will read his book, but do want to point out that simply because there were kids under-served or not placed correctly that is no reason to conclude that urban schools don't need a GT program.
I recognize that even in suburban districts some GT programs are poorly run and other issues can exist, but to simply say that "for urban schools, the standard G and T system is often a waste of time" is a truly ridiculous conclusion.

First, rather than relying on Gradillas who discusses his career from 30 years ago, or your friend Escalante's views, you should move up at least a decade or so in your citations/references.

One book I highly recommend, that may just change your view on GT and urban kids, is "And Still We Rise" written by Miles Corwin..deals with kids in South Central. Written in the late 90's so a little closer to our present situation than Escalante or even Gradillas, whose book may be new, but he is discussing his time in the 80's.

Now, with NCLB still on the books the war on public schools, particularly urban public schools continues unabated. You and others seem to feel all urban kids need is test after test after test, which will prove whether or not their teachers have taught them.

And now you say no need for GT for these kids (but let's push them into AP..how are those teachers going to be funded for training?)..because after all, just being in an AP class does wonders. Hmmm..wouldn't just being in a GT class have some benefits too under your philosophy?

Just try suggesting that in a suburban school, that due to faults with the GT system, they weren't going to have GT.

I am sick and tired of reporters and others assuming that they know what is best for urban kids.

Until we treat those kids with the same respect that we treat suburban kids..i.e. keep their buildings running functionally (Dunbar), keep librarians and libraries in their schools (not all DC schools have these). Have the teachers trained for AP versus just saying, "hey due to the challenge index we are calling you an AP teacher now, no problem if all the kids get 1's or 2's due to lack of background knowledge on your part (teachers) or theirs (students)"

It really is very disturbing Jay, that you are fine with this.

It upsets me that you are more upset that Bedford is out at Dunbar than you are that urban kids have one less thing offered to them (GT)) that suburban schools do...but yeah, lets compare their test results to those suburban schools under the rules of NCLB. Geez! Don't you get it??

You are more upset by Bedford being gone than a lack of libraries, and librarians in some DC schools (and in parts of DC itself). Krashen and all others who are really involved with schools, not just sitting on KIPP boards, know that's what matters most...books and access to them. Please, get real Jay, or at least get past your glory days of when you wrote about Escalante.

Posted by: researcher2 | December 9, 2010 9:41 AM | Report abuse

Jay, you have missed it on this one; while the current GT programs may need rethinking, there are many instances of children needing extra help from a teacher who not only has specialized training in the ranges of issues presented by children with extraordinary abilities, but can take the pressure off the regular classroom teacher who does not have the time or expertise to prepare not only extra lessons, but give emotional support needed.

And I am talking about truly exceptional abilities, not just the very bright, hard-working students that Jaime Escalante worked with.

I am also talking about exceptional abilities in areas besides math and reading.

To wit (this is from personal experience and 20+ years of working with at-risk students):

- students who are barely average in language arts but can do things mechanically that even the average teacher doesn't know how to do: I had a junior high student take apart and fix a broken electric potter's wheel one day while the rest of the class, including me, stood around dumbfounded. When I asked him how he could do this, he told me that he had built one over the summer. As a middle school, we didn't have a physics or shop teacher to work with this student.

- students who may be emotionally behind their peers (seemingly very young for their years)but who are writing, conceptualizing and doing math 4 or 5 or more years above these same peers. Ex: writing a 12 page report on Plato at the end of 1st grade.

- students who have skills that are so far
beyond their years that even their very educated parents can only give minimal guidance with their homework. One of my former piano students scored 100% on the Miller's Analogies test at age 12 or so.

- students who are tremendously gifted in visual areas that would indicate architectural studies, college level art classes, etc. but whose art programs are impoverished to the point where only the basics can be provided.

I have seen many of these students over the years, and have been both frustrated and tremendously saddened at the waste of talent and lack of proper resources to help these students realize their true potential.

The reality is that these children are not generally gifted across the board, so you don't want to skip them 4 or 5 grades......
and they are generally not "Rain Man" either. But they do need help emotionally to still fit in with their peers and to develop the very real talents they possess.

Gifted and Talented programs are needed.

Posted by: PLMichaelsArtist-at-Large | December 9, 2010 9:51 AM | Report abuse

I am very disappointed with your line of reasoning. While most educators want to provide appropriate learning opportunities for all students, it is often not happening. Read the work of Dr. Tom Loveless or "The Proficiency Illusion" to discover whether rigor is really being offered; these studies indicate it is not really happening. Differentiation of curriculum for a wide range of students is a very challenging task, and the thrust of NCLB has blunted the need to provide depth and complexity for all students who can easily master grade level skills. Teachers feel pressure to help those students who are not mastering the basics.

I live in Texas, where most school districts group secondary gifted students into AP and Pre-AP classes with other non-gifted students; the state education agency allows that to pass as providing gifted services. While these courses may often provide a more challenging curriculum than the basic level courses, AP courses are NOT designed for gifted students, nor does the College Board claim they are. In my teaching experience, many of these classes move at a faster pace, but not necessarily at the more deep and complex level that some G/T students desire. To "criticize" gifted students for not excelling in AP courses more than other students is a red herring.

There are a range of programs that can provide apprpriate services for those gifted secondary students who desire challenge. It may be a mentor program, where students are placed with professionals in a field of interest; or it may be to provide rapid acceleration, allowing them to take college courses while still in early high school; it may be an indeprendent or guided study program. Read the book "A Nation Deceived" to learn about more appropriate services and options for gifted students.

With massive budget cuts looming in many states, services for gifted students are often targeted in the first line of cuts, as they are not required in many states; in Texas, servcies are required, but no one really monitors whether it is done, so there is no accountability. No one denies the need to improve the education of struggling students, but why must it come at the expense of many of our brightest students?

Posted by: tweinberg | December 9, 2010 10:17 AM | Report abuse

trace1 wrote:

"When you have a system that is all about bringing up the bottom, a shortage of highly qualified teachers, and no gifted program, you are not going to focus much on giving the kids at the top what they need -- and deserve."

And that, along with someguy100's thoughts, could not do a better job of summing up the state of things today. A brilliant or even merely bright and motivated student in a typical overcrowded urban class with a critical mass of ESL/special ed students is doomed to a year of busywork and "independent learning."

It was okay for our child for a couple of years, and I suppose he learned some valuable lessons while serving his teachers as a virtual para, but he was starting to chafe, big time, and we are really fortunate that we were able to access a GT program. I want to stress that he is almost certainly not "gifted", just a kid who is capable of working deeply and working a grade or two ahead in most subjects and who laps up whatever the teacher can serve.

I wish it didn't have to be this way, but something has to give: If you can't track, if you jam kids into classrooms, and if you align all the incentives so that there's literally no reason to teach a kid who is guaranteed to be NCLB proficient, you need gifted programs.

Posted by: District10 | December 9, 2010 10:22 AM | Report abuse

Wow, Jay, you must be lonely and missing all the GT advocates in the area.

First of all, are you really advocating belittling students as a teaching strategy - "I’ll let one of my students who’s not gifted explain it to you"? Really? Would it be okay if a teacher said to a struggling student, "I'll let one of my students who isn't stupid explain it to you"? And after he discourages GT students from asking questions, you cite their lower passing rates on the AP tests as evidence? Of what? The damage a teacher can do by belittling students? I don't think you thought that quote through.

And as for DC dropping their GT coordinator position for budgetary reasons, this is a standard excuse used by administrators who don't have sufficient training in the educational needs of gifted students (of all socio-economic strata) when they want to get rid of a program they don't understand, believing that the money can be better used by dumping it into a big pot, never to be seen again. Compared to the overall DC schools budget, a GT Coordinator's salary is nothing and the benefits of learning to recognize and help gifted students in all DC schools are huge.

And as for identification, a properly trained gifted coordinator would be well versed in using multiple criteria to identify all gifted students in an urban setting, whether minority, poor, under-performing or GTLD (gifted with learning disabilities). There is no shortage of research being conducted into the benefits of gifted education in urban settings and lots of evidence of the achievement gap between high and low socio-economic high performing students. For example, read "Mind the Other Gap: The Growing Excellence Gap in K-12 Education":

https://www.iub.edu/~ceep/Gap/excellence/ExcellenceGapBrief.pdf

I realize you're not a supporter of gifted programs but to fault today's gifted programs because 30 years ago they missed students they hadn't yet learned to recognize is not realistic.

Posted by: lauracarriere | December 9, 2010 10:26 AM | Report abuse

"This amused Escalante. As Gradillas describes in his book, when a GT student from another class sought help after school with a trigonometry problem, Escalante said, "I'll let one of my students who's not gifted explain it to you."

Wow. What a dick! Talk about class warfare!

Seriously Jay, what is inherently wrong with you? You and your racist buddy Escalante are "amused" because a child who was determined to be G & T seeks extra help in Trig? Maybe he/she isn't Gifted in Math, possible? You're ok with that student being mocked for having been placed in a category that non-G & T students resent? This is as bad as the Florida teacher who had all of the students in her class tell a 5 yr. old autistic boy why they "hate" him.

At both ends of the spectrum, SE and GT, many adults seem incapable of understanding that there are social issues that come along with the "classifications" to which they are assigned.

You think everyone should be a round peg that fits nicely into your AP/IB round hole. Sorry, but that's not reality. Making a G & T kid feel guilty because it was determined that they have an above average IQ is disgusting. Not providing advanced instruction for those kids and forcing them (in many cases) to be "teacher's helpers" to the non-gifted is a waste of their valuable class time.

R2,

Jay doesn't want G & T kids to receive any "benefits". In his Progressive brain, the rich and the smart should be punished and the "benefits" should go to the poor and the stupid. It's not only redistribution of wealth, but redistribution of intelligence, a system designed to dumb down the brightest and best to mediocre.

Posted by: lisamc31 | December 9, 2010 10:30 AM | Report abuse

I think the problem is that Jay is using 30-year-old evidence to support his argument.

It doesn't hold up in today's NCLB world, where kids who are guaranteed to test "proficient" (which isn't saying much in DC, since the DC-CAS is pretty easy) will not get the resources.

Posted by: trace1 | December 9, 2010 10:50 AM | Report abuse

Thanks for the good comments. I invite you to look at the book yrselves and decide if you think it is out of date. The problems Gradillas faced are very similar to the ones being faced at Dunbar. More on that Monday.
The problem with GT programs is that it is impossible to decide fairly who should get the extra support and who should not. Where do you draw the line? At the top 2 percent as they do in Montgomery County? How is that fair or useful when a kid in the top 3 percent is not significantly different in any way in terms of her needs for enrichment from a kid in the top 2 percent. It is much better to work hard to raise the level of all teachers so that they can raise every child's level. I am surprised researcher2 thinks I am okay with giving kids inadequate teachers. That is the opposite of the thrust of everything I have written.
We have seen time and again, in places like Fairfax County, if you open up AP, IB and other classes once thought to be just for GT kids to all kids who want to work hard, you can have much better results for the kids in the middle, and dont hurt the kids at the top at all. Talk to some Fairfax AP and IB teachers about that. I am getting Zero complaints about their wide open AP classes being dumbed down. That is why so many kids who could qualify for Jefferson decide to stay at the neighborhood school. That is the best kind of schooling, gifted ed for all who want it. It really works. Take a look sometime at Fairfax or Arlington or Montgomery County, And some DC schools.
For trace1, I was mostly talking about charters, KIPP and TMA and some other places like it, but there are parts of regular schools, like Frazier O'Leary's classes at Cardozo, that follow the same principles. (sorry if this is poorly typed. I am on my lap top in bad light. Anybody know how to enlarge the type size in coments? It is hard for me to read what I wrote.)

Posted by: jaymathews | December 9, 2010 11:34 AM | Report abuse

Jay,
Your response posted above dealt mostly with suburban schools.

I thought the main point of your article was that we don't need G/T programs at URBAN schools, and cited schools in DC that moved everybody ahead. The truth is, as you seem to admit, there are NO public regular-admit DCPS high schools that are moving everyone ahead (with the exception of one class at Cardozo?) Isn't that an argument for G/T in DC?

Posted by: trace1 | December 9, 2010 11:38 AM | Report abuse

As long as we continue separate students into grade levels by age, there will always be students who are average, students who struggle, and students with extraordinary abilities. In our test-obsessed public school culture, struggling students receive a disproportionate amount of attention from teachers and administrators to bring them up to a minimum passing level, but our high-ability students deserve just as much of an opportunity to fulfill their potential (Walzer & White, 2002).

Why do we insist on letting our high-ability children fend for themselves? The sad reality is most people seem to think gifted students will be "fine" since they are usually capable of passing minimum-competency standardized tests (which is what school is all about, right?). NCLB, while successful in narrowing testing gaps for struggling students, has brought new attention to an "excellence gap", where we see our struggling students improving but our gifted students languishing (Plucker, Burroughs, & Song, 2010).

Classroom teachers are fully aware of governmental and administrative indifference toward gifted students but, due to often-mandated pacing guides and pressure to raise poor scores, are seldom able to devote the time necessary to helping these children thrive and grow. Teachers simply cannot devote the necessary time to in-depth learning or independent study projects, both of which are areas of acute need for gifted students. A 2007 study found many of these children “report frustration and resentment at the slow pace of learning, the disproportionate amount of class time spent in practice for standardized tests, and the focus on repetition of basic concepts” (Moon, Brighton, Jarvis, & Hall, 2007).

Mr. Mathews, gifted programs ARE needed, and the students I teach every day are living proof of it. We need to improve identification and eligibility criteria and procedures, including multiple gateways and types of data to make sure we aren’t only identifying the same “type” of student (usually upper-middle class white students, who tend to behave in ways pleasing to mostly-white teachers) and neglecting minorities and English Language Learners. Problems with gifted programs, though, do not mean they shouldn’t exist. For some students, GT programs are the only things keeping them sane at school.

As an aside, “bright and hard-working” does not equal gifted and talented. There is a big difference between being intellectually gifted and being good at school.

Moon, T, Brighton, C, Jarvis, J, & Hall, C. (2007). State standardized testing programs: their effects on teachers and students. Charlottesville, VA: The National Research Center on the Gifted and Talented.

Plucker, J, Burroughs, N, & Song, R. (2010). Mind the (other) gap: the growing excellence gap in k-12 education. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University.

Walzer, P, & White, S. (2002, June 06). Are gifted students being shortchanged?. The Virginian-Pilot, p. A1.

Posted by: aec7c | December 9, 2010 11:43 AM | Report abuse

Jay, your browser should have a "zoom" feature that allows you to magnify the content you want to see. If you are using Internet Explorer, and something tells me you are, hit Ctrl and the + key.

In your comment, you wrote, " It is much better to work hard to raise the level of all teachers so that they can raise every child's level." I think we're all in agreement on that, but what the commenters are telling you is that "on the ground," nothing even close to this ideal is being met. The nonproficient or potentially nonproficient child possesses all the gravitational force in a modern urban classroom.

Posted by: District10 | December 9, 2010 11:48 AM | Report abuse

Here's another "on-the-ground" anecdote. In the Ward 3 DCPS school that my kids attended, the principal convinced the Home/School Association to pay a private tutoring company tens of thousands of dollars to tutor about 10 kids who were consistently testing "below basic" in reading on the DC-CAS. The parents on the board (eager to be on the principal's good side, especially when it came time to request teachers) gave it to her. Sure enough, the scores came up, and the school was later named a "blue ribbon" school.

The principal did not ask for any enrichment funds for kids who were testing proficient or above.

Posted by: trace1 | December 9, 2010 11:56 AM | Report abuse

Jay, you are missing mine and others' points.
To state that Fairfax's GT in high school is AP/IB and that works fine because it is open enrollment and equate that to what should be done in DC strikes me as odd, because your whole point was no GT in DC. So, no AP/IB in DC?

While Fairfax may do that in their high schools they do have GT centers in both ES and MS, though the MS's are starting to go towards the open honors route.

My point is urban districts need GT programs for the highly gifted in their districts..just like Fairfax and MoCo have. Yes, there may be issues with those who just miss qualifying...but those who do qualify need those services.

Rather than continuing to promote the mantra of testing equals teaching well, and rather than implying that I don't see the need to raise all teachers' abilities, focus on the fairness of it all.
Is it fair that suburban districts have GT resources in ES/MS and AP/IB in high school and DC has no GT resources? How then can you truly compare NCLB data?
How can you say resources are equal now all shape up to these AYP standards, when in fact resources are far from equal?
Many of DC's schools don't have libraries or if they have a library it is simply a book room with no librarian. You won't find that in MoCo or FCPS.
Dunbar was continuing to fall apart, and had significant safety issues..how long would that have lasted in MoCo or FCPS?
The AP stats that you have provided for DC schools shows that the majority of AP teachers have not been trained, but merely placed as AP teachers (in fact there was a recent blog from a teacher in just that situation with AP History). Do you honestly feel that is appropriate? Do you honestly feel that equates to providing GT services to those kids?

Again, I will read his book on his life when he taught 30 years ago, and I will think about your comments that just keep quoting Esclante to prove all your points, but will you read the book I suggested? And Still we Rise by Corwin?
Will you acknowledge that it isn't fair to urban schools to not have GT as their suburban counterparts do? Flawed GT is better than no GT, just ask any of those GT suburban parents.

Posted by: researcher2 | December 9, 2010 12:08 PM | Report abuse


High-performing DCPS children with wealthy/motivated parents currently access gifted resources through Johns Hopkins CTY and Stanford's EPGY programs, among others, which can be very expensive. My child mastered most of the material currently covered in his classroom last year, so we are happy that we were able to find school-type work that is interesting and challenging for him so that he is engaged in something more than easy busy-work.

Should these learning opportunities be made available for other high-performing DCPS students?

Posted by: drmommy | December 9, 2010 12:39 PM | Report abuse

Jay, you are ignoring other areas in which students are gifted, and age levels...AP classes do not take care of giftedness in many areas and certainly not in elementary and middle schools.

You either did not read nor absorb the examples I gave of areas where the general teacher cannot address the extremes of giftedness, either because of age or due to material way beyond his or her subject area, i.e. a second grade teacher with 28- 30 other students is probably not going to be able to address the needs of a 7-year old who needs help with interpreting high school literature.

How do you determine the needs? Gifted and Talented is actually one area of Special Education, though many people forget that; you do testing and interventions the way one would for other needs. Many special education students, by the way, are "twice exceptional" - that is, they have significant learning difficulties, but may have a major gift in a particular area (s). Their gifted aspect may be what allows them to succeed as an adult in mainstream society.

Posted by: PLMichaelsArtist-at-Large | December 9, 2010 12:42 PM | Report abuse

I keep seeing the same misconception: high-performing, motivated, bright, and hard-working do not a gifted student make. According to the National Association for Gifted Children, this is the federal definition of gifted young people: "Students, children, or youth who give evidence of high achievement capability in areas such as intellectual, creative, artistic, or leadership capacity, or in specific academic fields, and who need services and activities not ordinarily provided by the school in order to fully develop those capabilities".

Note the use of the word "capabilities": this means these students may not actually demonstrate high achievement, but are clearly capable of it.

Also, see the emphasis on "need": these students cannot receive an appropriate education WITHOUT gifted services, just like other special needs students require accommodations. This is not about being bright or working hard; this is about having high ability and exhibiting a NEED for services.

Posted by: aec7c | December 9, 2010 1:39 PM | Report abuse

Jay, it's so, so sad that you believe urban children aren't worth a GT program.

When my oldest child was at a Title I school right here in DCPS, the principal pulled in tutors so that he and 2 other children could work on math. These urban kids finished 7th grade math in the fourth grade. I can only imagine what these three could have done if immersed in GT coursework.

Of course it wasn't a real GT program. It was just a terrific principal who refused to ignore these children, despite the dictum to teach "the low hanging fruit" and focus on getting children to score proficient on the DC-CAS.

Of course now this principal is gone. (Thanks Michelle!)

Just because kids are poor, doesn't mean they aren't smart and these brightest children are bored out of their minds by the non-stop test prep that serves "data-driven instruction" but fails to actually teach smart kids anything.

But thanks for reporting this news. It's this sort of stupidity that has driven my family out of DCPS. I think we were a good family to keep around, if for no other reason than my kids could score "proficient" on the DC-CAS even on days they fell off the monkey bars and hit their heads hard.

I've got 6 more months of DCPS stupidity. I. can't. wait.

Posted by: Title1SoccerMom | December 9, 2010 1:43 PM | Report abuse

Jay doesn't want G & T kids to receive any "benefits". In his Progressive brain, the rich and the smart should be punished and the "benefits" should go to the poor and the stupid. It's not only redistribution of wealth, but redistribution of intelligence, a system designed to dumb down the brightest and best to mediocre.

Jay has stated several times in the past that he doesn't think highly gifted students should even be in the public school system. Which is a completely elitist attitude to take since not all families with gifted kids can afford to send our kids to private school or forgo a second income in order to homeschool.

Gifted kids from low-income families are the ones most in need of quality GATE since they are unlikely to receive academic enrichment outside of school.

Posted by: CrimsonWife | December 9, 2010 2:58 PM | Report abuse

" I am getting Zero complaints about their wide open AP classes being dumbed down. "

In fact, Jay, this isn't true. You get complaints all the time. You just ignore them.

Also, there's been at least one national survey that you've linked here disapprovingly, because it showed that a majority of teachers opposed open admission, or something like that. You of course ignored actual data in favor of your anecdotes, and said all those teachers must be nuts, because the teachers YOU talk to say otherwise. Because the teachers YOU talk to are more representative than, say, an actual study.

~~Over half (56%) of teachers believe that too many students overestimate their abilities and are in over their heads. Sixty percent think that many parents push their children into AP classes when they really don’t belong there.

~~Teachers are considerably more likely to report a decline in the quality of their AP students in
terms of their aptitude and capacity to do the work than to say that student quality has improved (39% to 16%); 43% say it has stayed about the same.
~~More than six in ten (63%) believe that conducting more screening of students to ensure that they are ready to do AP-level work before they get in those classrooms would improve the program.

http://www.edexcellence.net/advanced_placement_report/ExecutiveSummary.pdf

Jay, you can't credibly say that teachers support your program. They oppose it. You just ignore the ones who do.

And count me in among the people who think your hero's a monster and a jerk, who enjoys smacking around kids if he personally didn't anoint them one of his chosen ones.

Posted by: Cal_Lanier | December 9, 2010 3:37 PM | Report abuse

If you're going to have a GT program, quit asking teachers to have one more degree of differentiation, which is much easier said than done and often impossible. Get the GT kids together so they REALLY benefit from a GT program, however small it is.

Posted by: peonteacher | December 9, 2010 3:50 PM | Report abuse

Does D.C. have online programs such as FCPS online campus, Virtual Virginia http://www.virtualvirginia.org/

Posted by: BarneyURspecial | December 9, 2010 6:06 PM | Report abuse

If anyone knows of a GT program in an urban system like DC that has had any measurable significant impact (other than making a few parents feel better) tell me about it. I have not encountered it. Many posters here believe that a GT program will help highly gifted kids? Why do they believe that, and if there are teachers well tuned to raising the level of such kids, why would those teachers want to work in an urban system where they would immediately see they were being cut off from the vast majority of kids who needed their talents more? A teacher who can raise the level of highly gifted kids is also similarly capable of doing wonders with kids not in the top 1 percent but merely the top 20 percent.
peonteacher has exactly the right idea. GT is, sadly, one of those services that public schools are never going to be able to do well, except perhaps in some very wealthy communities. It is too hard to find the staff and too difficult to keep the money in the budget. The parents of highly gifted kids would be much better off, and have more control over the services their children get, if they banded together to start charters or cooperative home schools.

Posted by: Jay Mathews | December 9, 2010 6:23 PM | Report abuse

Jay,
I think you're asking the wrong questions. Here's the inquiry:

Are gifted and talented students currently being served in non-charter DCPS schools?

If not, why?

Maybe a suburban-style G/T program is not that answer, but let's not kid ourselves: high-performing kids are not being served in DCPS unless they test into Walls/Banneker (neither captures the hard workers who don't test well) or find themselves at the right charter.

Posted by: trace1 | December 9, 2010 6:40 PM | Report abuse

Jay, what a cop out. Have you read The Pact? What about the summer programs for the gifted those boys (now men/doctors) participated in? What about the mentoring they received because they were gifted? This was during the crack epidemic in Newark NY no less.

You also blithely state that a teacher who can work with the top 1% can do wonders with the top 20%...so what? And doubtful to boot. Teachers are drawn to the group that they can really reach. Not everyone can work well with the top 1%, and those that can may find the top 20% "too slow" for their abilities/style. The 1-3% who are truly gifted, and I mean truly gifted, need services no matter if they live in the suburbs or an urban setting. You are saying you can simply ignore that group if they live in an urban area/DC.

Parents shouldn't have to band together to form a charter school to obtain services.

The BS about differentiating is proven in this case. You can't differentiate as one teacher when you have kids scoring in the bottom 1% in your class and the kids scoring in the top 1%. It is impossible. Both "1%er" groups need to be served, if we truly believe in NCLB.

The issue boils down to what many have said. Only the middle and the bottom are getting served these days, and they are only getting educated to the point that they can pass multiple choice tests created by publishing companies for a profit. Not by companies that truly want to educate all children, but rather by companies that make the tests, and then, wow, make the test prep materials for those tests.

Education means so much more than what NCLB stands for. Serving the truly gifted is what education really is about. Serving the average student in the way that student should be served (perhaps bringing back voc tech and other electives) is what education is all about. Serving the special needs students who are LD, ED, Autistic, MR etc., is what education is all about. Serving the bright kids who aren't gt is what education is all about. If we really valued all of ours students this stupid idea of not serving GT in urban schools wouldn't have crossed anyone's mind.

Testing companies are not what education is all about. The students are. Students who are varied in their abilities regardless of what community they were born into.

Talk about the racism of soft expectations..geez, Jay this is truly it. No GT for urban kids? Racist beyond belief. These families can't afford Sidwell, but they do deserve to have their truly gifted kids EDUCATED with the teachers and curriculum that truly meets their needs.

Let's chat after you read Corwin's book, okay? (and yes, I will read Standing and Delivering).

Posted by: researcher2 | December 9, 2010 6:41 PM | Report abuse

Wow Jay. I guess I appreciate your honesty. But as the parent of a child who attended a Title I school who tested in the 99th percentile plus on a standard IQ test given to children, I just threw up a little in my mouth.

Posted by: Title1SoccerMom | December 9, 2010 6:45 PM | Report abuse

Newark NJ, not NY sorry for the typo. But, that was a case of good GT services in a very urban area, in a time plagued by a crack epidemic.

Posted by: researcher2 | December 9, 2010 6:45 PM | Report abuse

"why would those teachers want to work in an urban system where they would immediately see they were being cut off from the vast majority of kids who needed their talents more?"

I'm sorry, but do you actually read these stupid questions you type before hitting "Submit"? What kind of idiotic question is that?

Do you think Special Ed teachers bemoan the fact that the other 90% of the non-classified students aren't receiving the "benefits" of their special teaching skills? Don't you think G & T teachers have skills specifically fine tuned to deal with G & T students? Do the same middle of the road kids need the SE services "more" as well?

Posted by: lisamc31 | December 9, 2010 8:32 PM | Report abuse

Lisa, I have appreciated your responses on this topic. Jay though has moved on to his debate with Valerie..sigh.

Posted by: researcher2 | December 10, 2010 5:44 AM | Report abuse

Thanks, R2. It's what Jay does when he discovers that he has been publicly crucified for his ridiculous educational positions. I would certainly like to see him do a follow-up column addressing our criticisms. I'd also like a new fur coat for Christmas. ;-)

Posted by: lisamc31 | December 10, 2010 9:25 AM | Report abuse

Jay, I think you are missing the point. You comment "...if you open up AP, IB and other classes once thought to be just for GT kids to all kids who want to work hard, you can have much better results for the kids in the middle, and don't hurt the kids at the top at all." The problem with this comment is that AP and IB classes were NEVER the sole domain of "just" GT students. AP and IB classes are NOT designed for gifted students and never have been. In particular, AP classes differ from regular classes primarily in their pacing, not their necessarily in their approach to learning. It is often more of the same at a faster pace. I would also hope our goal for gifted students is more than "not hurting them" academically.

In addition, I find your post at 6:23 p.m. rather disconcerting and condescending. Substitute "special education" for "gifted education" and see how that reads. Gifted students deserve an opportunity for appropriate public education as much as anyone else. I strongly agree with isamc31's comments about the work of specialty area teachers.

Posted by: tweinberg | December 10, 2010 10:35 AM | Report abuse

"The parents of highly gifted kids would be much better off, and have more control over the services their children get, if they banded together to start charters"

A charter school for highly gifted kids would NEVER get approved in my neck of the woods. One of the most common excuses given by the county board of ed for denying charter petitions is that the proposed school "isn't appropriate for special education and English Language Learner students". All charter schools are required to admit students via a lottery- no admissions testing is permitted.

Posted by: CrimsonWife | December 10, 2010 12:40 PM | Report abuse

"A teacher who can raise the level of highly gifted kids is also similarly capable of doing wonders with kids not in the top 1 percent but merely the top 20 percent."

This is a completely wrong-headed statement. Would you ever say that a high school history teacher should be just as successful with fourth grade social studies? Or a college biology professor with middle school life science? Of course not; GT teachers are specifically trained to serve a certain population, one which deserves a free and appropriate public education just as much as any other child.

Also, not every parent has the time and the means to organize a separate school or other outlet for kids with specific abilities and needs. Would you ever suggest that the parents of children with autism should simply find a way to fend for themselves with no state or federal assistance? Or parents of students with Down syndrome? Or physical disabilities? Or ADD/ADHD? Come on.

Posted by: aec7c | December 10, 2010 12:58 PM | Report abuse

I think this perspective is interesting. A local high school in my area called Niles North did something similar for its students. They provided Individualized Achievement Plans (IAPS) for each student in an effort to plan out goals and provide for collaborative efforts to craft a specific learning plan for the needs of each of its students. Needless to say, these students far out succeeded their surrounding neighborhood peers in all academic areas.
Although this was not a urban environment, the population of ESL and ELL learners could be compared to any urban population.
The more teachers we arm with more information and collaboration with parents the better our children will do regardless of race, class, or socio-economic status.
Erika Burton, Ph.D.
Stepping Stones Together, Founder
Empowering parent involvement in early litearcy!
http://www.steppingstonestogether.com

Posted by: SteppingStonesTogether | December 10, 2010 2:07 PM | Report abuse

Great. Just what we need. Another person citing 30 year old information from a single source to excuse not offering services for gifted students. Why is it so PC to denegrate a segment of students and deny them services they need? Substitue English Language Learners or Students with Disabilities and see if it sounds okay to say they don't need programming because, hey, some of them don't perform where we think they should. Yeah, so let's eliminate the program that does the best it can with a few pennies out of every $100. That is discrimination.

Posted by: becky6 | December 10, 2010 2:40 PM | Report abuse

Becky6, you absolutely nailed it. I have nothing else to say, you said it. May I have your permission to quote you?

Please email me at nojunk_ at hot mail dot com.

Posted by: Shoe2 | December 10, 2010 3:42 PM | Report abuse

Jay,

Please check out Joe Renzulli and Sally Reis's Schoolwide Enrichment Model.

Posted by: Elle72 | December 10, 2010 4:11 PM | Report abuse

When we talk about tracking in schools, and tell ourselves that we don't track our students, please let's remember: There are Special Education (SpEd) programs: learning disabilities, emotional disabilities, intellectual disabilities, AP/IB, GT, honors, autism, and classes for the kids who go to school for a piece of paper (the only reason I went to college). Thank goodness there are still students who want to work on cars, who can build a potter's wheel, who know what to do when the kitchen or bathroom drain blows a gasket, who can install a roof that doesn't leak, keep the roads smooth, soothe an agitated Alzheimer's patient, and so on.
I have been lucky enough to work with students at both ends of the SpEd--full time as a teacher working with high school students with autism and part-time with students destined for TJ. Treat any person as some who can do the assigned work, and he or she will eventually rise to meet expectations. Recognize that we all have special gifts and work with those gifts in our students to enable a child to reach his or her own potential. Children should not have to be labeled in some way in order to receive the resources needed for success. If a student cannot write legibly, but can answer questions correctly or write a strong essay using a word processor, why deny the student the necessary tool? What are we teaching if we tell a child he can't have the resources and tools he needs to be successful? Why are glasses or hearing aids or crutches OK, but calculators or word processors or a good teacher not? If 7th grade students can pass the 11th grade end-of-course English SOL, what does that say about that test? Every child should be challenged --and I expect each one to challenge me. NOTHING will change until parents say ENOUGH and DO something to change the system.

Posted by: thistle | December 10, 2010 4:57 PM | Report abuse

Saying something is not DCPS' focus, and saying it is not necessary are two very different things, but this column treats them as essentially the same thing, so it is entirely unconvincing.

There are very good reasons to be skeptical of GT programs--the fact that their participants tend not to achieve any more academically or socially than non-GT students, the dilution of NON-GT education by pulling the brightest kids out of those classes, and the promotion of homogeneity in an increasingly heterogenous community are chief among them.

Oh BTW, "ganas" is not "an Escalante word". It's a Spanish word. He was a fine teacher but did not invent Spanish.

Posted by: Godfather_of_Goals | December 11, 2010 8:25 AM | Report abuse

I'd like to see some research on the effectiveness of GATE that doesn't lump in once-per-week "pullout" sessions where the kids sit around doing logic puzzles (the kind of GATE I had growing up) with separate classes/schools with compacted/accelerated curriculum. Certainly there is plenty of anecdotal evidence to support the value of the latter. Just look at how many of the top placers at the nation's math & science competitions attend an exam school like Thomas Jefferson, Stuyvesant & Bronx Sciece in NYC, TAMS in Texas, etc.

Posted by: CrimsonWife | December 11, 2010 2:14 PM | Report abuse

"There are very good reasons to be skeptical of GT programs--the fact that their participants tend not to achieve any more academically or socially than non-GT students, the dilution of NON-GT education by pulling the brightest kids out of those classes, and the promotion of homogeneity in an increasingly heterogenous community are chief among them."

Godfather_of_Goals, what evidence can you cite that GT students tend not to achieve more than anyone else? How does the research you've seen define achievement?

Also, it sounds like you think gifted students are responsible for maintaining a certain environment in their heterogenous classrooms. Frankly, this is bunk. It is not their responsibility to influence the achievement or behavior of other students. If it is not appropriate for a GT student's education to be in a heterogenous classroom, that student needs to be elsewhere. This has nothing whatsoever to do with the other students in the class. They'll survive.

Maybe if we covered fewer standards per year in greater depth and gave classroom teachers the education and tools (not just cute tricks) to effectively implement some level of real differentiated instruction, more students could gain by staying in heterogenous classrooms more of the time. Until that day, I'll support the appropriate education of my students regardless of where it occurs.

Posted by: aec7c | December 11, 2010 3:30 PM | Report abuse

Sorry, Jay, but you're way off base with this one. I'm writing as the mother of two highly gifted boys and as a gifted certified teacher working in a middle school gifted program. Most curricula is written for an average student, say around IQ 110/115. Would you expect a child of IQ 80, 30 points below that, to succeed with that curriculum? Of course not. They would need scaffolding and many other helps. The gifted child, IQ 30 points above average, is just as different. They have needs that will never be met in a classroom designed for average students.

Gifted kids THINK differently. Often, they can be a problem in the classroom because it moves much too slowly for them. Other kids don't understand them, so finding peers is very difficult. My youngest became obsessed with negative numbers in 1st grade. Well, and Cuba (I have no idea why.) He is now in 4th grade, reads at a 10th grade level, and is very concerned with Wikileaks (blame NPR. Yes, he loves to listen to NPR in the car). He would like to know about the legal issues facing news organizations that print the documents. Before that he was very upset about the Haiti cholera epidemic. Before that North Korea occupied his thoughts. Strangely enough, other 10-year olds think a boy that is not interested in sports, but who does wonder how Kim Jong-Il came to power, is a little odd. He currently has a teacher that loves worksheets. Packets of worksheets. The same types of worksheets week after week. (This is a school that tests tops in the state.) He has quit working entirely (he sees no point in what he is being "taught") and is in danger of failing 4th grade. We are in process of changing schools.

I tell you all this to let you know that gifted kids, all gifted kids, NEED services. Otherwise they get lost. My son has parents educated in giftedness, with enough money to send him to enrichment classes and summer camps, and we are still having problems. To deny this help to inner city kids would be tragic. Too many gifted kids (especially gifted boys) quit working and end up dropping out because of teachers like the one my son has this year. They need advocates who understand them.

All the middle schools in my county have gifted programs, with all the core teachers gifted certified and working hard to meet the needs of gifted kids. It can be done. It should be done, in cities and suburbs, so we don't lose kids with so much potential.

Posted by: jennypalmer1 | December 11, 2010 5:03 PM | Report abuse

By the way, I attempted to intervene in the classroom. I spoke to the teacher and principal about the needs of gifted kids and gave some easy to implement suggestions (more choice, fewer worksheets) but these ideas were ignored. As the school refused to switch my child to a classroom with teacher who was much more open and creative, I was left with little choice but to change schools.

Posted by: jennypalmer1 | December 11, 2010 5:12 PM | Report abuse

>Jay has stated several times in the past that he doesn't think highly gifted students should even be in the public school system. Which is a completely elitist attitude to take since not all families with gifted kids can afford to send our kids to private school or forgo a second income in order to homeschool.

>Gifted kids from low-income families are the ones most in need of quality GATE since they are unlikely to receive academic enrichment outside of school.


EXACTLY!!!

Of course, it requires a tiny bit of empathy with students from low-SES families to see that point.

Posted by: hainish | December 11, 2010 8:22 PM | Report abuse

Mathews wrote "The problem with GT programs is that it is impossible to decide fairly who should get the extra support and who should not. Where do you draw the line? At the top 2 percent as they do in Montgomery County?"

This is only an insuperable obstacle if you assume that GT programs are favors, not something that meets a need. You could equally well write that "The problem with Special Education programs" or "ESL programs" is they miss students. Or "The problem with athletic programs" or "varsity sports teams," "school orchestra" "the school musical" or even "reading programs for struggling students" is "deciding where to draw the line". Many school programs miss students who might be successful in them or might benefit from them and most have to draw the line somewhere. Should we eliminate them all? Why is this only a problem for g/t? programs?

Posted by: margaretdelacy | December 12, 2010 3:14 AM | Report abuse

"When I was finishing a book about Escalante in 1987, Gradillas identified, at my request, every GT student in the famous Garfield classes that produced 26 percent of all Mexican Americans in the country that year who passed Advanced Placement Calculus exams. The GT students made up only 20 percent of the total test takers at Garfield. They had a lower passing rate on the AP exams than Garfield students not designated GT."

What does this say about how the gifted were being identified or educated? Were they being challenged in their gifted program? Everyone should be taught at their level and pace with high expectations.

Posted by: sjtkach | December 12, 2010 9:15 PM | Report abuse

All this is saying is that the "non" performing GT students are not being served as needed. Their potential is being flushed down the drain. Obviously ALL children have immense potential to succeed, but you CANNOT tell me that a child with a 150 IQ is not in need of specialized services. I'm just glad my kids aren't in the LAUSD or Washington DC districts. You need to do further research before you make these assertions. Do you know about the Bell curve and the relationship a 150 IQ has to a 70 IQ? They are equi-distant and equi needy of special services and I know you're not saying that special ed kids supports are a waste of money - ARE YOU?

Posted by: obmomm | December 13, 2010 10:44 AM | Report abuse

Jay,

I'm so disappointed here because you are usually thoughtful and fair. An entity doesn't do something well is no reason to conclude 1) that the entity can't do it well or 2) that the activity is worthless. Suppose we applied that babies learning to feed themselves!

Gifted kids, in August, know an average of 60% of the content for their new grade. Some research suggests that 20% of dropouts are gifted who grew cynical with school(BTW, being "smart" doesn't make one mature in judgment, any more than age alone does). Some gifted teenagers do poorly because earlier grades were so easy that they didn't develop good work habits. Human nature is to labor just hard enough to obtain the goal. Why the surprise at a gifted kid who mastered multiplication facts in 10% of the teacher-planned drills (just one example out of 5 to 10 years of school) now "zoning out" for 54 minutes of 60 class minutes, when 30 minutes of attention is needed? An obvious plus of elementary gifted programs is the work load, more appropriate in rigor and quantity for student ability. It's far better than students experiencing schools as places where "you hear what you already know and you do what you've been doing for years."

Mastery learning (aka "Continuous Progress") is may address the needs of gifted and, indeed, all students, but the logistics are huge. I'm waiting to hear from Metz Elementary (Denver), which began this in 2008, and Kansas City, which began this year. When 10-year-olds are taking Algebra II with 16-year-olds, we'll talk about urban schools dropping gifted programs.

I'm sorry for those "bright, hardworking kids who never were labeled gifted and talented because they lacked English skills in elementary school [during testing]for GT." In a north Georgia district in 1980, I used a nonverbal test for a native French-speaker. Good programs have such testing and continual entry as gifts become apparent or students transfer into a district.

Joseph Renzulli proposed the precursor of the Schoolwide Enrichment Model, Triad Model, (which includes motivation as a criterion for services)in the mid-70's. Had Mr. Gradillas (or his district) adopted it, the objections he raised might have been satisfied.

Others assert that the present system rewards schools/districts only for improving the lowest achievers, leaving gifted students already at the end of a long line for services. It is wrong to ask them to get out of line and move from the public schools just as it was wrong to ask disabled children to do so in the 1960's. That implies clearly that, if your parents don't have social and financial capital to spare to find/develop educational opportunities, you must not REALLY be gifted.

The Jack Kent Cooke Foundation's whole purpose is a refutation of that view. Will you report on its work?

Finally, Socrates said that gifted individuals who develop without the support of their society owe that society nothing special in its hour of need

Posted by: sarahinez | December 13, 2010 12:43 PM | Report abuse

Well, I'm new to Jay's blog and I like what he has been writing but this anti-gifted stuff it too much.

In Canada, Ontario to be exact - gifted students are grouped as a part of Special Education and funded as such.

I have sat on committees both as a staff member and a parent where we dealt with all the 'exceptionalities'. Therefore 'gifted' students have a place with the physically or cognitively handicapped and other special needs students.

The sense I have gotten over the years from educators, politicians and the public is that the bright and gifted kids will make it regardless. This is in fact not the case. The point has been made in many of the comments that the gifted and profoundly gifted think in a different way and most 'school' curriculum and peer interactions don't foster positive development for these children.

I grew up in an upper-middle class neighbourhood where the needs of the gifted weren't understood and my own school experiences were horrible. I did poorly but well enough to go on to get four post-secondary qualifications.

My son who is gifted and attended a special public elementary school, ended up being home-schooled for three years. The gifted programme in the public secondary school was better but frankly didn't challenge him. He has just graduated at the top off his class from one of our more innovative universities.

My son had the support of two parents who are both educators and entrepreneurs who had their own very poor personal experiences in elementary and secondary schools.

In spite of this and in spite of the fact that my job (I ran a resource center for six local school boards) more or less enabled me to obtain the best educational services available, we still weren't happy with his educational experience.

All this is to say that a poor kid, from a poor family in an inner-city American school needs some special support. An investment in the gifted is two fold. If these kids are engaged at an early age there is a great opportunity to develop leaders for the future. The second part of the equation is the fact that bored bright kids that aren't challenged will focus their energy and cleverness on making havoc. I certainly did.


Posted by: sepikriver | December 13, 2010 10:25 PM | Report abuse

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