Wednesday, January 10, 2007

70% Gifted at Bannockburn Elementary!

From the Jan. 3 Washington Post article Schools Seek and Find 'Gifted' Students:

"Most of Alexis Peterson's students are third-graders in name only. A recent morning found Dorothy Neher, 8, reading "Charlotte's Web," a book most teachers save for fifth grade, in breathless preparation to see the new movie at the megaplex. A group at the back of the class discussed the back-cover blurb of a fifth-grade tome they were about to read. Jack Herscovitz, also 8, sat at his desk, attempting to draw a picture illustrating the idiom "catch more flies with honey than vinegar."

Bannockburn Elementary School in Bethesda is suburban Washington's Lake Wobegon, Garrison Keillor's fictional hamlet where every child is above average.

Not every student at Bannockburn is above average. But 70 percent of the third-grade class has been identified as gifted, based on tests and other academic indicators."

Call me reactionary, but this does not indicate to me that Bannockburn has an unusually high number of gifted kids. I think the issue here is more one of "what is grade level"? In our local school, Charlotte's Web is a third grade book, not a fifth grade book. So according to Wisconsin, these gifted kids are working right at grade level, not two grades ahead. But I digress...

"Program officials contend that the gifted label buys virtually nothing, on its own, in terms of additional goods or services to the student. It serves mostly as a flag to teachers, parents and students that children should be considered for advanced study at various points in their academic careers. Being gifted does not qualify a student for admission to a highly gifted magnet program or to an AP class, but students so labeled might be more apt to apply."

So what's the point, exactly? Helping kids feel good about themselves by being positively labeled? Yippee! Not all kids are gifted but more than 2/3rds of them are--we must have really good schools! Bravo to us!

And in the meantime, the expectations creep lower and lower, so more and more kids can be "gifted" and more and more kids with few, if any, academic skills can still come out "at grade level" on NCLB. And that's the more insidious result. The story quotes parents indignant at the underrepresentation of gifted minority students. They should be indignant, not that their child does or does not get a label, but that the expectations of academic rigor as early as fifth grade are equivalent to that of third graders elsewhere in the country. These kids are starting out two years behind. And when they accomplish something an 8 year old should be able to do, the school calls them gifted and then does "virtually nothing" about continuing to challenge them. I see no cause for celebration here.


Zany Mom said...

As you can tell, I'm speechless.

The Princess Mom said...

Frankly, so was I. I was so excited that they'd actually done class streaming and put kids of like ability into the same classroom, but no, it's all window-dressing.

Zany Mom said...

Alas, my poor 8 year old apparently is not gifted. Rather than read Charlotte's Web, he's reading Captain Underpants. Sigh...


The Princess Mom said...

Oh, puh-leeze. We have all the Captain Underpants books at our house. In fact, his third grade teacher specifically said to me that she wanted to get him to read something other than Captain Underpants. No can do. But he graduated from Captain Underpants to Maus, so I don't have a problem with that.

Zany Mom said...

Ya missed the little LOL on my post. Of course, I was being facetious.

Why can't I come up with a silly idea like Captain Underpants??



Crimson Wife said...

While I agree that "Charlotte's Web" is a 3rd grade book, I would not be surprised if Bethesda, MD does in fact have an unusually high rate of intellectually gifted kids since it's the home of the National Institutes of Health. One of my college sorority sisters is the daughter of an NIH researcher and she is PG.

It probably isn't 2/3, but it might very well be 1/5, which is about 10x the rate of the general population.

The Princess Mom said...

Certainly areas around colleges and research facilities are going to have larger numbers of gifted offspring in the local schools. We had the same issue in the Ann Arbor school system versus Ypsilanti. But calling 70% of the children gifted when only 20% of them are is ridiculous. If "all children are gifted," then none of them are.

What happens to the 50% of students who are "gifted in Bethesda, MD only" when they try to compete with gifted kids from around the country for college admissions? And why bother identifying anyone if you're not going to change your curriculum to accomodate their learning needs?