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Friday, October 31, 2008

Racial gap in gifted and talented grows larger

In today's Daily News, an article explores the way in which Tweed completely botched gifted and talented admissions this year, by centralizing the process and basing admissions entirely on the results of high stakes tests – with the effect that less than half as many students qualified this year, and far fewer children of color ended up being admitted.

While Bloomberg promised to create more programs in “historically underserved districts’, in these districts, many fewer of these classes were the result, with some primarily minority districts having no gifted classes at all, and racial and economic disparities widening.

A NY Times article from yesterday has even more details, pointing out that in six districts there is not a single gifted class this year: Districts 7,8,9 in the Bronx, and 16, 19 and 23 in Brooklyn. Moreover, in many schools, gifted and talented classes are only half-filled, with the effect that some G and T Kindergarten classes have 16 children or less, while the other regular kindergarten classes are crammed with as many as 28 students - a situation that Lisa B. Donlan, president of the Community Education Council in District 1 is quoted as saying “unfair to the entire school community.”

It’s a pretty good article except for the following misstatement:

“Problems with the new admissions policy surfaced in June, when an analysis by The New York Times showed that children from the city’s poorest districts were offered a smaller percentage of gifted slots than in the previous year, while children in the city’s wealthiest districts captured a greater share.”

Actually last November, Deborah Meier commented on our blog how any admissions policy based on test scores alone with lead to inequitable outcomes. After all, the National Academy of Sciences has pointed out that high stakes testing for such purposes can be viewed as inherently racially discriminatory. Following Tweed’s announcement of the results, in early April, Patrick Sullivan pointed out how the policy had clearly led to fewer kids accepted into gifted classes in the poorer districts:

“The low number of children qualifying in lower income districts suggests the DOE has not met its goal of expanding the reach of G&T programs…. This is the fourth or fifth year the Bloomberg administration has changed the admission process. Its efforts would clearly be better spent working on building programs and outreach in historically underserved communities.”

Finally, Eduwonkette offered a detailed analysis in mid-April, With New Gifted and Talented Rules, Who Wins and Loses?, showing the huge gap between the wealthy districts and those with more free-lunch students.

Problems with the new admissions policy surfaced in June due to NY Times reporting? Hardly.

How many policies of this administration have led to more racial disparities widening, rather than narrowing?

Here are just a few examples: We have far fewer students of color in our gifted classes now, there have been fewer admitted to our selective, specialized high schools, and our teaching force has become significantly whiter over the course of the last six years.

1 comment:

Ms. Mac said...

Before judging schools, teachers, and curriculum, which of course do influence the degree of excellence, ask your school to poll their students:

1. What time do you usually go to sleep?
The average junior high student goes to sleep between 11:00 and 1:00. The average high school student goes to sleep between 12:00 and 3:00. Most students are sleep deprived, which of course affects the classroom in a number of ways, from incomplete assignments to missed information. All the curriculum and teacher training in the world can not make a difference when the student is not engaged.

2. How often do you have an essay test?
Most students are assessed with formats that only address recognition memory and not recall memory. In other words: regurgitation and not original thought. When students are trained to become teacher or system dependent and do not initiate or take some responsibility for their own learning or productivity, they are left behind.

3. What was the last school grade/year in which you consistently read out loud to someone on a daily basis?
Most students stop reading out loud when they are given chapter book format, which is generally the 2nd grade level. This is when they begin a detrimental habit called skip reading. When they come to a word that they do not know, they simply skip over it. Skip reading is reinforced year after year so that by the time standardized testing comes into play, the test-taker is a strong skip-reader. The student misses crucial information that reflects a score that does not accurately show what has been taught. Research based on MRI scans shows considerably more brain activity when a student is reading out loud to someone as opposed to silent reading.

4. Has your school ever trained you in memory enhancement-how to memorize, how to store and how to retrieve information quickly and accurately?

All learning is dependent on the sophistication of memory systems-yet students and teachers are rarely trained to modify their own systems-to become quicker thinkers. This can be remedied quickly and inexpensively.

5. Have you ever skipped over a standardized test question because of the way it looks- such as too much language or a requirement of too much energy?

The majority of students will skip over at least 1-2 questions while others skip over 3-5 simply on the basis of appearance, not concept.

Note: Standardized test designers have to design failure into a test. This can be manipulated easily with the length, confusion, and appearance of a question. Failure is then blamed on the lack of the instruction of a concept-which is not necessarily the case.

6. What value is there in getting an education?
Most students reflect either apathy or disinterest in our current educational process. Schools outside the United States reflect students with a hunger for learning. American students, sadly enough, reflect a desire to be entertained instead of a desire to make the most of an opportunity.

If we want schools to improve dramatically then we have to remove the shackles of yesteryear's antiquated approach. Because the average teacher has less than 10 net minutes per student per day to address feedback and verification, the student can not move forward with mastery. Students are holding onto as much false information as true.

Consider implementing a program called Opting for Opportunities. It allows for independent, accelerated and accurate learning to run parallel with current programs. So anyone, who respects the opportunity for mastery and more, can succeed even if the system, teacher, or curriculum contains weaknesses.

Example: An English Second Language Student from Guatemala with a learning disadvantage completed 5 and 1/2 years of math in 12 months. He, along with other students, completed standard math curriculum 4 years ahead of schedule. The program entitled- Opting for Opportunities allowed this student to finish all work through 6th grade by the end of his 2nd grade year placing him on a firm success-oriented tract in Math for the rest of his academic years.

This is a realistic possibility for any student, because the human brain has tremendous potential. Based on the latest brain research and in line with the NCLB, this approach guarantees success for any student who desires it.

It is only a matter of removing the shackles and the faultfinding while throwing open the doors to opportunity.

Thank you for all you do in educating our youth.

Ms. Mac
Jeanine McGregor
Educational Researcher, Consultant, Author, Parent, All-Level Teacher
Research and contact information:
972-679-READ (7323)