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Posted at 6:42 PM ET, 12/ 2/2009

Who's 'gifted' in Alexandria?

By washingtonpost.com editors

By Raymond J. Diroll
Springfield

Regarding the Nov. 27 Metro article “Alexandria rethinks gifted education”:

Increasing the diversity in gifted programs, although an admirable goal, should not be perceived as being accomplished through using different placement tests. What is much more important is the understanding that once these children are in these programs, the programs themselves must adjust to the students “giftedness.”

Having worked 26 years in Fairfax public schools, retiring as the director of student testing, I found it exceedingly clear that just using a different test, such as the nonverbal assessments mentioned in the article, to place students in the gifted program would be a grievous disservice to the children. If the students are determined to be “gifted” based on such assessments, the program must be adjusted to meet these students’ talents. Ability exams, such as the Cognitive Abilities Test, which assess verbal, nonverbal and quantitative skills, are a better means of measuring students’ chance for success in gifted programs.

The Virginia Department of Education’s plan to study “ways to make gifted programs match the demographics of local districts” would be exceptionally difficult to achieve without a major revision in exactly what is meant by “gifted.” Historically, gifted programs have required exceptional verbal skills. To say that the proportion of Hispanic students (mentioned in the article as underrepresented) in gifted programs should equate to their proportion of the overall population disregards the fact that a higher proportion of these students have limited English skills, making them less capable of excelling in schoolwork until they have mastered English.

What we should all be focused on is trying to ensure that all students receive instruction that is appropriate for their learning capacities rather than the placement of students into differing classes whether they are “labeled” as gifted or remedial.

By washingtonpost.com editors  | December 2, 2009; 6:42 PM ET
 
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Comments

This is insane...in other words the real goal is to drop standards so certain groups will be represented. The core of American values are being attacked on a daily basis. I fear for the future.

Posted by: smile000 | December 3, 2009 8:12 AM | Report abuse

If done correctly, really the context behind this response, "dropping" students who have historically been determined to be gifted would not be the result. That is why appropriate testing for entry is so important. Rather, students who may be gifted, but lack certain skills to succeed in gifted programs, such as language skills or support at home, could be "brought up to speed" in the area(s) in which they need help (i.e. intensive English language instruction) prior to being placed in a gifted environment. Once again, the important aspect to this is the appropriateness of instruction for each child.

Posted by: raydiroll | December 3, 2009 9:29 AM | Report abuse

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