December 18th, 2011

Confronting the Advanced Learning Race Gap


This Nov 6, 2011 Washington Post article — Washington-area schools confront the ‘gifted gap’ — is about reforming identification and referral of advanced learners in Washington DC area schools, including Alexandria, and Fairfax Country. Here’s an excerpt:

A fourth grade class for gifted students in Alexandria, VA. The class is part of a program that is trying to diversify its student population.

Students living in poverty, particularly those whose parents are uneducated or speak English as a second language, are less likely to develop verbal skills measured by traditional intelligence tests. But that doesn’t mean they’re not gifted. Assessments that measure spatial and mathematical intelligence as well as curiosity and leadership abilities are more likely to identify a diverse crop of gifted students, experts say.

“We used to think that gifted meant students who could read and write at an early age. That’s changed,” said Carol Horn, director of gifted education in Fairfax. She said that Fairfax has learned that using a variety of assessments can help broaden the pool of gifted students.

Some experts say that the parental- and teacher-referral process leads to uneven representation. Many parents might not refer children for testing because they are not familiar with gifted programs. Without a teacher or parent referral, most students are not fully evaluated.

In Alexandria and elsewhere, officials have started a campaign to recast the referral process, encouraging more parents to recommend their children and training teachers to consider a wider range of criteria.

First-grade teacher Sheila Walsh said she looks for students who are not just academically advanced but able to make connections between their studies and the world around them. In such moments, the Alexandria teacher says to herself, “I can’t believe I’m having this conversation with this little person.”

She typically finds about two of those students a year. For those who are found, the payoff is clear.

“I used to get bored in my class. Everything moved so slow,” said Jawad Adams, 9, a black student in Cameron’s fourth- grade class at Cora Kelly Elementary. “Now things are up to speed.”

The complete article is here.


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