March 5, 2008, - 4:59 pm
By Debbie Schlussel
When I was a kid and in private school, my teachers selected me for a “gifted and talented program” along with a few others in my class. But, soon after, the parents of kids who were not selected whined about it, and finally, my entire class was in the “gifted and talented program” to appease the whining parents.
That’s essentially what’s happened in the Denver Public Schools, with a twist. They are appeasing not just whining parents, but the “diversity” crowd and the illegal alien crowd, who can’t speak English.
Welcome to the new affirmative action, in response not just to the PC crowd, but also to ACLU lawsuits. It’s absurd:
More minority and poor students in Denver are being classified as highly gifted under a new system that gives extra credit to children who are economically disadvantaged or nonnative English speakers.
Denver Public Schools is trying to fix a disparity in the program that serves its smartest and most talented students – which up until now has drawn mostly white students in a district that is mostly Latino.
“It’s a much more holistic look at the kid,” said Diana Howard, principal at Polaris at Ebert, the district’s sole elementary school for the highly gifted and talented. “I wanted this system to look at much more than test scores. This is going to have a huge impact.” . . .
To determine who gets into the program, the district previously relied on oral tests that measure a student’s reasoning and IQ.
But some educators and social scientists believe those tests are biased against students learning English and poorer students who may not have had the same life experiences as their richer peers.
“They may be bright children but may not know what plaid is,” Howard said. “Or their concept may not have involved a vacation. Or they may have never been on an escalator.” [DS: Um, I didn’t belong to a country club, but I knew what one was as a kid. It’s about knowledge, not exposure to “Lifestyles of the Rich & Famous.”]
To make things more equitable, the district now relies on a sum of measures to determine eligibility into the highly gifted program ‚Äî cognitive tests, annual assessments, reading tests and teacher nominations. Next year, the district will consider artwork and writings.
Also, students get extra points toward entry into the program if English is their second language or if they receive federal meal benefits – a measure of poverty.
For example, a student who scores as low as the 75th percentile on cognitive tests could be considered, Howard said. Previously, that child would not have been admitted.
“We want to find the gifts that these children have, not exclude them,” she said.
Experts in the gifted field say DPS’s change follows a national trend.
“Standardized tests are tipped against children from underserved populations and children from diverse backgrounds,” said Nancy Green, executive director of the National Association for Gifted Children. “We have got to find other ways besides verbal tests to determine whether kids are gifted.”
The American Civil Liberties Union in California last year threatened to sue the Tustin Unified School District over low numbers of Latinos and African-Americans in the district’s gifted programs.
Districts from Miami to New York are giving more credit to smart children from culturally diverse or economically disadvantaged backgrounds, said Joshua Wyner, executive vice president of the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation.
“If what we are trying to do is measure not accomplishment but giftedness and talent, then putting your thumb on the scale or adding points for kids from low-income backgrounds re-equalizes things,” he said. “The question is how heavy should that thumb be?” [DS: New BS word for the PC dictionary: “re-equalize”]
Wyner said weighting the system carries political risks.
“If there are a limited number of slots in those programs, then the wealthier student who is excluded will always feel wrongly excluded if their test scores were higher than a lower-income student or Hispanic student who was included,” he said.
The Dumbing Down of America continues.
Tags: America, American Civil Liberties Union, California, Debbie Schlussel, Denver, Diana Howard, elementary school, executive director, Executive Vice President, Jack Kent Cooke Foundation, Joshua Wyner, Miami, Nancy Green, National Association for Gifted Children, New York, principal, teacher, Tustin Unified School District