A Gifted Argument…

When Rick Hess and I argued that there are some tensions between the equity and competitiveness agendas once you got into the level of specifics some people said we were bonkers! But along comes this NYT article about how gifted programs are being hurt by No Child Left Behind…not exactly the same but very much related. Sherman Dorn is all over this.

But here’s the thing that The Times story and the debate overlooks: While black kids are over-represented in special education (and not just because disability tracks poverty) they are under-represented in gifted education. The data are really quite striking. That’s why I was surprised to see Fordham heir apparent Mike Petrilli’s quote on the issue with no apparent attention to the broader context. There is an equity issue here but it’s not at the expense of gifted kids.

And, if you understand the demographics of gifted programs, it’s also one reason why this entire argument seems less like a grand issue of maximizing potential and more like thinly veiled concern about how the resource pie is going to be sliced. In other words, there is a romancing of gifted programs that obscures some important issues.

Full disclosure: Lest you think I’m manifesting, “Social resentment toward gifted kids [stemming] from a basic aversion to the notion that some children are better than others,” as one source in the article argues, I’m actually a self-loathing gifted kid!!! I was in gifted programs myself from grade 3 through AP so I know the policy and the reality. I was in a very diverse school district (that celebrated that fact constantly, aren’t we all great liberals here!) but almost all my classmates were white and pretty much just like me. That’s one anecdote borne out by the data…

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