Thursday, December 28, 2006

UK Spending Big Bucks for Gifted Online Classes

According to the article E-credits for more gifted pupils at, "The government is arranging "e-credits" for schools to access extra lessons for an estimated 800,000 gifted pupils. The £65m scheme is part of its drive to ensure all children in England with special talents are given extra help."

Now you all know I think online classes for gifted kids are an excellent idea. Particularly for kids who are gifted in particular areas and working at grade level (or below) in others. I don't understand why schools are so resistant. Sending one first-grader to second grade for math and another to fifth grade for science is a logistical nightmare unless you can mandate that every grade in the school teach the same subject at the same time each day. Otherwise the child is likely to miss something relevant in his or her own classroom during the accelerated lesson time. Pulling kids from the classroom for gifted classes can give the same result. But if a child could go to the library or media center during math time, say,--whenever math is scheduled for that day--to work on, where is the harm in that? The child's academic needs are being met. The teacher doesn't have to deal with a bored student who is at best tuned out, at worst, disruptive. Sounds like a win-win to me.

Despite the title, the BBC's article is primarily about identifying gifted kids. The British government has suggested identifying the top 10% as GT--very generous according to US standards that usually run top 2-5%. One teacher quoted asks "what to tell a girl who said: "Miss, I really wanted to go to the giant insects workshop today, but I'm not clever enough," adding that the criteria for inclusion should be "good attendance, good behaviour, good citizenship - anything but natural ability". Sigh. I'm the parent of one of these borderline kids--sometimes he's considered gifted, at school he's not. I would suggest that if a child has high interest in a workshop on giant insects, she should be allowed to go.

But this quote smacks of a reverse elitism, particularly the bit about "anything but natural ability," and a basic lack of understanding about the purpose of gifted classes. Gifted programs are not rewards for being born with high ability. Gifted programs are (or at least, should be) appropriate education for high-ability students. Anyone with high ability in any subject(s) should be allowed/encouraged/assisted to develop those abilities. That's not elitism, that's what schools are supposed to do.


Zany Mom said...

If the schools didn't have to cater to the lowest common denominator, we wouldn't have the smart kids leaving in droves. I'm all for everyone having equal opportunities, but not everyone is equal.

The Princess Mom said...

I both agree and disagree. The reason we have public schools in the first place is to educate the lowest common denominator. And I believe everyone should have an equal opportunity to rise to the level of their abilities. The problem is that economics and efficiencies of scale have forced the schools to force every child to be the same rather than equal, which results in kids in the lower range of abilities being more equal in the administrations' eyes than anyone else.

The way you get equality--"close the achievement gap"--is to raise the floor and lower the ceiling until everyone is on the same level. This is not the stated goal of policies like NCLB--they only say the "raise the floor" part--but it's not an unintended consequence, either. School budgets are a zero-sum game. If you spend all the money raising the floor, the ceiling will never even get patched, much less raised.