Sunday, December 16, 2007

Why Smart Children Shouldn't Go to Public School I

One of my hugest, hugest pet peeves is the way that gifted and talented children are utterly ignored and robbed in the public education system. In what I expect will be an ongoing series of posts on this subject, I want to detail the extent to which our nation's policymakers have turned their backs on those young Americans with the greatest potential.

My first post will be a short list of straight numbers from a local school. These are authentic and confirmed, but I am not ready to reveal the source. In a given (and typical grade), here is the breakdown for the focus of the staff:

Staff description# personnel
"Regular ed" (all students) teachers12
"Regular ed" aides/assistants0
"Special ed" (learning disability) teachers3
"Special ed" aides/assistants)4
Gifted teachers/aides/assistants0


So these special ed students, who make up about 15% of the student population at this grade, have devoted to them over one third of the staff, including all aides and assistants.

Looking at the duty breakdown of the personnel, we get these numbers:
Ratio of regular ed students to devoted staff: 18 to 1
Ratio of special ed students to devoted staff: 5 to 1
Proportion of gifted students to devoted staff: ?? to 0

Gifted students get zero. This is a typical layout, and in later editions I will describe the laws -- and their selective interpretation -- that lead to such a situation. But the situation is this in a sentence: gifted students get zero.

2 comments:

Ryan Adams said...

Gifted and talented makes me want to barf. The only children that generally end up in those kinds of programs are the ones with parents who fight to put them in there.

Every child deserves equal opportunities in school. Of course, there should be lots of AP and Honors classes, but that's a completely different matter. Students also deserve more art and music classes, after school opportunities and a free public college education. Quite simply, we need to address every student in the system at an individual level. Focusing on "Gifted and Talented" programs is craptastic and will inevitably end up in a two-tiered education where we abandon trying our hardest for over half the student population.

As it stands, my k-12 public education was far superior to any private education available in the area and included AP classes in foreign languages, psychology, government, english, calc, American history as well as others I can't think of off the top of my head. Granted, I went to a fine public school, but it's not usually even in the top 15 in terms of success on the MCAS. In other words, there are a lot of great public schools in Massachusetts - with plenty of opportunity for students that excel in particular subjects.

Gifted and Talented is the kind of elitist crap that makes me lose faith in this country, at some points. Luckily, it isn't an idea that's taken hold here - in the state with the greatest public education system in the country. I like to remind my "Gifted and Talented" cousins from Texas that all the time.

Quriltai said...

Ryan,

Thanks for the comment, but we seriously disagree. First off, I'm not sure it's possible to barf and crap at the same point, and even were it, that's not much of a critique.

Frankly, a lot of your critique could be applied to special ed. About half the students in special ed are there because of demanding parents, and even when testing says they should no longer be in there, parents disagree. Every public school today has substantially separate special ed, inclusion special ed (wherein the students spend much of their time in regular classrooms in order to save the schools money), and "regular" ed: 3 tiers.

That doesn't even get into the differences between private and public schools. I appreciate your homerism about your town and your state, but that's all it is -- there is a substantial difference between private and public education, and the gap is widening.

Frankly, the lack of resources for the gifted subset of students is actively driving them toward private schools if the family can at all afford it. Were there more support for these students in public education, that wouldn't be happening.