I am far from an expert on anything concerning elementary education (apart from the topic of gender as it relates to child development, which I will claim as a topic of study about a decade ago). But I have some personal experiences. And I try hard to exercise the part of my brain which deals with fairness issues whenever I think about….well…anything.
At the same time, the better students need to be challenged. I grew up in the era of “gifted and talented” programs and think it was good for me to get to do things that the other students didn’t. But I didn’t think it was fair, necessarily, that I got to go to places that they may never go to and be exposed to knowledge reserved for the few.
Available at Daily Kos as part of Teacher’s Lounge
In New York City there is an attempt underway to try to locate the gifted and talented students in some way other than relying the parents having knowledge about the program and having the perseverance to find a program to get their children in. The present system has resulted in programs without significant minority participation. That does not seem fair to me.
I’m pretty sure the segment I listened to was on Leonard Lopate, but doesn’t seem to be available in the archive yet, but it was referring to an earlier segment on Brian Lehrer, a discussion with Elizabeth Green and Robin Aronow (note: the segment is over 19 minutes long).
So the school system’s proposal is to test all children, using an instrument which does not rely purely on the judgment of adults as to which children are gifted and which children will not qualify.
My own experience as a child does not inform me of the method that was used to select me. I doubt it was a result of my parents demanding that I be included. I just can’t picture that in my brain. But I know, having at one time taught mathematics in a gifted and talented program in Milwaukee for a month or two back in the early 80s, that there were no minority students in my class, almost no girls, and only one or two of the students in the class showed any glimmer of a gift for mathematics. It left a bad taste in my mouth.
If the purpose of such programs is to provide increased opportunity for our best and brightest children, to nurture them in an educational environment that virtually ignores them otherwise (since, you know, we place more emphasis on children who are struggling to become proficient than on the ones who already are), which I believe is a worthy objective, it is vital that the selection process actually locate the children who belong in the program.
Fair is fair…or should be.