There are gifts and then there are gifts. If you are a student in the Montgomery County school system the chances are you are the recipient of a talented and gifted (TAG) label that places you in the cr?me de la cr?me of the student population. At least that’s what the system implies.
However on further examination the very methods used to determine who is gifted is flawed. First of all the school system tests each second grader for extraordinary ability, whatever that means. Then they add in classroom performance and teacher and parent (read pressure) impressions to find the gifted.
This rather arbitrary method has resulted in what The Washington Post referred to as a bumper crop of gifted children at one elementary school in Bethesda, MD where 70 percent of third-graders are rated as gifted versus 40 percent of all students in the system and a nationwide average of 12 percent.
Granted that the elementary school cited in the Post story is in an area considered to be one of the more affluent areas in the county and where academic achievement is a mantra, but that doesn’t mean that virtually every child is talented and gifted.
In an era of outcome based education and the No Child Left Behind Act the heavy emphasis on gifted students appears to fly in the face of what the liberal education system has been trying to accomplish for years and that is to dumb down our children.
My own experience with the TAG program with my own children was that none of them ever met the criteria though when they were in second grade it apparently was based solely on test scores. My wife and I were perfectly fine with this as we felt our children were gifted and talented and didn’t need a test to tell us that. When my oldest two children were in high school they applied for a “special” program that was supposed to be available only to the top students. In reality in the name of diversity it was open to almost anyone that applied that had a B average with a limit of 50 per grade to give it some exclusivity. It did provide a slightly tougher regimen, but as my children found out they often had to carry the lower performing students on projects lest they suffer grade wise as well. They are both doing well in college and I don’t think any special teaching while they were younger would have made a difference. In fact I think they had a more enjoyable childhood since they weren’t being constantly pressured towards academic superiority when they were 8 or 9 years old.
While county officials and many parents seem to be pleased with the program, one group called the Montgomery County Education Forum is lobbying for the elimination of the program calling it “a gift to the white middle class, to keep them in the school system,” instead of focusing on diversity and inclusiveness. Guess who they are aligned with?
As a result the county is trying to identify more low-income, black and Hispanic students who may be gifted. Since they have already labeled a whopping 40% of the students as gifted, exactly what criteria will they use to find enough minority students to meet the quota? A 2.0 GPA?
The county has obviously stretched the definition of gifted beyond reason and yet they continue to pump more money into the program even though it isn’t clear that it results in academic improvement.
Chalk up another one for academic un-excellence.