Last week, Education Lab took questions about accelerated classrooms on the r/SeattleWA Reddit page. Here are some of the answers.
If you missed our forum about gifted education on Reddit, you can catch up here.
Last week, Education Lab reporter Claudia Rowe answered about about 25 questions about accelerated classrooms from readers on the r/SeattleWA subreddit. Her knowledge comes from six months of reporting on gifted education and race in the Seattle area and across the country.
In April, she examined the persistent racial homogeneity of Washington’s gifted programs and efforts by the Federal Way Public Schools to extend challenging coursework to a broader group of students. Then, over the summer, she flew to Florida to examine how the Miami-Dade County Public Schools changed the way it identifies giftedness — as a measure of potential, not knowledge.
We’ve gathered a selection of the questions and answers below, with links to the original exchange. Some have been edited for length or clarity.
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(To see the full conversation, which includes quite a bit of back-and-forth between commenters, click here.)
Q: What constitutes a “gifted” child in this state? What are the benefits – and costs — of separating gifted students from their peers? (submitted by bedub11)
A: I think the issue of separating students is important to examine, and it’s highly charged. In Miami, educators seem quite committed to the notion that these kids are “different” — socially and emotionally, as well as intellectually — and need to be with others of like mind. Teachers in Washington, however, have told me they are offended by this idea, and that so-called “tracking” has been debunked. What I can say for sure is that Washington requires no special training for teachers who work with gifted kids, and that in many cases parents feel their children are not getting what they need — especially bright kids of color.
Q: If a child does not do well in a gifted class, what happens to them? What’s the cost of a gifted class or program per student vs the other classes? (submitted by mportz)
A: In general, schools in Seattle are reluctant to remove a child from their “highly capable cohort,” even if they struggle. Miami deals with this problem through extra tutoring, which helps ease stigma, the thinking being that most kids need academic help at times.
As for spending: It varies widely. Our story last weekend showed the per-pupil costs for gifted education in 13 districts — from $321 to $2,260. In Miami, it’s about $1,850 per kid, much of which goes toward teacher-training.
Q: I was curious if you have observed anything in accelerated classrooms that would be useful to implement into more traditional classrooms. Teaching styles, class structure, assignment types etc. (submitted by TheTurtal)
A: Often, teachers of the “gifted” emphasize project work combining multiple disciplines. And they allow for more debate between students, pushing them to support assertions with evidence. This approach would engage most kids, I suspect, though gifted students are already strong in the basics.
Q: Should race, gender, and income be taken into account when selecting “Gifted” children, or only their intelligence, ability to learn, and test results? (submitted by bedub11)
A: Depends on your opinion of testing and whether it accurately captures all students’ abilities. For instance, what if you have an obviously bright kid in your class whose parents don’t speak English? She may perform poorly on vocabulary-based tests but be brilliant at math. Should she be deemed “average?” That measure would have excluded Albert Einstein from accelerated classes, by the way.
Q: Do we have any data on the outcomes of students that are enrolled in gifted programs versus those that are not? (submitted by apathy-sofa)
A: Last spring, I looked for research into this very question, because it appears that many students who go through these programs look like regular folks in adult life. They do not necessarily grow up to discover new vaccines or write symphonies. So are they truly “gifted?” It’s a worthy topic for debate.