Thursday, June 19, 2008

The Social Economics of Giftedness

There's another article on gifted education in today's New York Times, this one citing an overwhelming difference between the number of students admitted to gifted programs in New York City public schools from wealthy districts and poverty-stricken districts. Nearly 40 percent of those admitted for next year came from the four wealthiest districts, while those in 14 districts with a poverty rate of 75 percent or more, accounting for more than 1/2 of total enrollment, account for only 14.6 percent of those admitted to gifted programs for 08/09. Read more here.

This kind of data is alarming, but not surprising. The article places the blame on the reliance on early childhood testing, which is very much affected by home environment and parental education/experience. The question is, what alternatives are there that would better encourage early intervention for gifted students of poverty-stricken households? Talk amongst yourselves.


FreshHell said...

Well, for one thing, this is an argument for excellent, innovative, affordable daycare and preschools for ALL children. If children - no matter who they are, where they live - are exposed to reading, art, music, gardening, etc. in the right kind of environment, we may indeed find that "giftedness" is not something only wealthy children possess.

harriet M. Welsch said...


Hugh said...

I see kids who end up in G & T programs because Mommy and daddy refuse to believe their child isn't gifted. In my very small hometown, one saw this - if a parent had some sort of position (prodfessor, town council, etc.) their child got benefit of the doubt, and not always to the child's advantage. Status, etc etc.

My favorite argument right now is that gifted kids shold be mainstreamed because they will teach their classmates. I note that this always comes from people who attended G & T programs.

Maritza said...

When I was at a summer college program for bright high-schoolers, I had a friend who was African-American. She told me she had been put in a slow reading group in first grade although she already knew how to read. When she joined the group, all the kids were read-ing ver-ry slow-ly, so that's what she thought she was supposed to do, and did. If her parents hadn't fought for her, she might never have been put into classes that were up to her very considerable intelligence.

I have to agree with freshhell and disagree with Hugh. As a former G & T-er, I think it's unfair to expect elementary school age kids to teach the same peers who may well be mercilessly teasing them for their "brainiac" ways. (That was certainly my own experience.) Both as a student and a teacher, I found peer teaching more successful among high school students than among younger kids.

But I have very mixed feelings about mainstreaming vs tracking kids. As a kid, I had a lot more positive experiences academically and socially in gifted programs than in regular classrooms. Yet I know the way we decide who is gifted leaves out plenty of talented people.

Ultimately, I wish we had the money and political will to do school very differently--much, much smaller ratios of adults to kids, more openness to different age groupings, more time for kids to decide what they're curious about and learn about it. I think that would solve a whole lot of the learning and social problems related to tension about who is gifted and who isn't.