Who's Gifted?
March 24th, 2006

Whatever one thinks of Joel Klein and the Department of Education, there are times one has to feel some sympathy for them. Take the never ending furor over elementary school gifted and talented programs. As Inside Schools has pointed out, for years, low-income neighborhoods charged they had fewer of these programs than more affluent parts of the city, and black and Hispanic parents said their kids got short shrift in the admission project.

In response, the Department of Education has opened more of the programs and changed the selection process to create, as the Times wrote, a new admissions policy…with a standard application process to replace the hodgepodge of methods that had been used.

This is a huge improvement over the old system which was…well, no system at all, writes Gothamist. But many parents, particularly on the Upper West Side complained. It seems nearly every child on the Upper West Side is gifted, Gothamist observes, wondering how many of NYC’s ‘gifted’ are just the products of over-zealous parenting….Are they gifted or just well trained?

But such parents have an advocate in the Daily News Michael Goodwin (reprinted here on the Insignificant Thoughts blog) Prejudice against smart kids seems to be acceptable among some educrats, he writes. Thousands of smart kids are stuck in dumbed-down classes because the city has too few gifted slots.

At a recent City Council hearing, Klein said he had added more programs and denied that there is a shortage of gifted and talented classes. Rather, he said, there are not enough slots in some specific, highly sought after programs. Under persistent questioning from Councilmember Lewis Fidler, an exasperated Klein said there could never be enough spaces in gifted and talented programs to satisfy parents because all parents believe their child qualifies. Anyone who thinks their child is not gifted and talented, Klein told the council and audience, raise your hand. Only Councilmember Simcha Felder did. While we applaud his apparent honesty, we wonder if his four kids know about this.

By on March 24, 2006, 1:21 pm
In category: Education,Gotham City | 5 Comments »

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5 Responses to “Who's Gifted?”

  1. Daniel Millstone Says:
    March 25th, 2006 at 7:37 am

    Well, on this issue, I feel no sympathy for Klein or the Department of Education.

    Our children differ in their educational needs. Some need help in reading or math. Some need speech therapy, some — with small motor deficits — need occupational therapy. Some cannot hear well or see well.
    Our public schools in general do an appallingly bad job of delivering educational programs tailored to the needs of actual children. Instead, we get the bizzare lock-step ideas of anti-trust lawyer Klien as to what educational programs should look like.

    In Klein’s world of children as interchangable objects, class-room teachers are expected to be teaching exactly the same thing, by exactly the same method, at exactly the same time of day.

    In the case of gifted programs, we face two complex issues: the educational needs of individual children and the Bloomberg-Klien appalling failure to deliver quality education.

    Just as some children need OT (and often do not receive it) others need gifted programs and don’t get them. Once we buy into the Klein idea that one-size education fits all,
    the need to accomodate the actual needs of individual children evaporates. The spector of Klien’s constant contempt for individual children might be clearer to you, if the unmet need he was laughing off was speech therapy or if the indvidual learning charactistic he was failing to provide for was impaired eye sight.

    My own child, in my judgement, needs daily physical exercise in order to focus better in his classes. Instead, his gym class meets once a week. Approximately 100 children overwhelm the gym and the teachers with noise. It’s not PE it’s a holding pen.

    Bloomberg and Klein ask to be judged on their educational performance. As I see it, child by child, they are failing.

  2. Larry Littlefield Says:
    March 25th, 2006 at 12:04 pm

    I remember when Dinkins signed the contract saying that principals no longer had the right to see what if anything their teachers were teaching.

    According to a neighbor, one 3rd grade teacher down at PS 154 decided not to teach math anymore. Her daugher went a whole year without any math teaching.

    This is what you are defending against an attempt to make “gifted program” something other than a lifeboat for the influential off the Titanic, and the attempt to require that something be taught.

  3. Gotham Gazette - The Wonkster » Blog Archive » Who Is Gifted? Says:
    April 10th, 2006 at 7:44 am

    […] Weighing in on the never ending controversy over how to select students for elementary school gifted and talented programs, the Daily News looks to the center of the dispute: the Upper West Side. As it fashions criteria to determine which four- and five-year-olds are really, really smart, the Department of Education should learn from its mistakes there, the paper says. […]

  4. Erin Says:
    May 2nd, 2006 at 5:49 pm

    If we were accurately concerned about education, we would choose not to focus on T&G programs. Instead we would recognize that first-rate academic performance lies within the grasp of anyone who cares to try hard enough. Thats right folks! The argument should not center on the screening requirements for admission into hybrid T&G programs, because the outcomes-data of these programs is incomplete at best.
    History shows that any child can give evidence of high performance capability under the tutelage of excellent teachers. What makes a teacher excellent? An excellent teacher is one who instills the ethos of practice and perseverance. The application of this philosophy in any academic discipline is known to maximize a childs future successes.
    If all teachers and school administrators treasured what is known to result from hard work, the volume of applications to elite T&G programs would decrease, and so would the controversy over selection guidelines.

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