The superintendent of Baltimore County schools wants to eliminate the label “Gifted and Talented” (GT) for students identified as having exceptional talents in the county’s public schools.
Superintendent Dallas Dance has proposed ending use of the label “Gifted and Talented” even though Maryland state law defines the term specifically and requires students identified as GT to have access to special programming.
Some parents, however, aren’t buying the change.
“When you don’t name a population, identification issues arise,” said Julie Miller-Breetz, reports the Baltimore Sun. A mother of GT children, Miller-Breetz also chairs a citizen’s committee that advises the county school board on matters related to GT students.
Up until last year, Baltimore County selected its students in third and fifth grades for its GT program based on achievement and other criteria including creativity, curiosity, and ability to concentrate. About one-fifth of students met the criteria and were provided with their own classes with a curriculum specifically designed for them.
The county switched over, however, to a model called “Advanced Academics,” in which GT children are taught within the same classroom as other students at other levels of ability but with a differentiated curriculum. The new label “Advanced Academics” includes GT, Advanced Placement, and International Baccalaureate classes.
Dance now wants to codify this approach as an official policy, and parents of GT students are concerned that nowhere in the policy are the words “Gifted and Talented.”
“We made a change in our philosophy and practice,” Wade Kerns, the county’s coordinator of advanced academics, said. “We wanted to be aligned with what is on the ground.”
According to the Sun’s report, Kerns says the GT label is too narrow to cover all the services the county provides for exceptionally bright students.
However, a former director of GT education for Maryland’s Department of Education says the elimination of the GT label may not be in compliance with state law.
“Gifted and talented has 60 years of research documenting the needs of the student, the characteristics, the methods to identify and the methods to serve those students,” said Jeanne Paynter, who currently teaches at McDaniel College. “Lumping all the programs together is fine, but where is the policy that stands up for the rights and needs for this special needs group?”
But Kerns dismisses the notion that a label is important.
“There is no danger that it is going to go away because we haven’t used those three words in our policy,” he said.
Ironically, the county’s proposed change to eliminate the GT label comes at a time when the nation has seen more expanded use of labels than ever before. The Obama administration has given schools across the country “guidance” to redefine “sex” to include “gender identity” and has decreed that employers must call an employee “he” or “she” according to whatever gender that employee desires at the time – or risk being charged with sex discrimination.
— US Dept of Education (@usedgov) July 29, 2016
— Ed & Workforce Dems (@edworkforcedems) July 12, 2016
Additionally, the Obama administration has focused on racial equity, viewing disparities in performance between white and black or Latino students primarily as a function of how these groups are disciplined in schools, rather than focus on the lack of family structure and support often seen in minority populations.
— Dignity in Schools (@DignityinSchool) July 6, 2016
“There seem to be a couple of things going on here,” senior education fellow at the American Principles Project Jane Robbins tells Breitbart News. “One is the leveling drive in public education, which as a matter of ‘equity’ would deny gifted students what they need for fear they would get too far ahead of their classmates.”
“The other is the general leftist manipulation of language to present an altered reality,” she adds. “A gifted child isn’t different from any other child, if you refuse to acknowledge he’s gifted. It’s of a piece with the transgender mandate — we can turn boys into girls or girls into boys simply by manipulation of language.”
According to Maryland state law 8–201:
In this subtitle, “gifted and talented student” means an elementary or secondary student who is identified by professionally qualified individuals as:
(1) Having outstanding talent and performing, or showing the potential for performing, at remarkably high levels of accomplishment when compared with other students of a similar age, experience, or environment;
(2) Exhibiting high performance capability in intellectual, creative, or artistic areas;
(3) Possessing an unusual leadership capacity; or
(4) Excelling in specific academic fields.
“There’s just this concern that it’s the beginning of the crumbling of the services that gifted and talented students need and deserve,” Miller-Breetz said, according to ABC2.com news. “The concern is that when you move away from that term the population is invisible, they’re not seen, they’re not named, they are forgotten then all of the accommodations they’re supposed to be getting stop.”
According to the National Association of Gifted Children (NAGC), some common characteristics of GT children include: unusual alertness, rapid learning, excellent memory, unusually large vocabulary for age, advanced comprehension of abstract ideas, and having been a self-taught reader.
GT individuals also may be highly sensitive intellectually and emotionally. Some have extremely high energy and are sensitive to light, sounds, and textures. They often tend to ask very probing questions and will frequently come up with approaches or solutions to problems that are atypical.
The county board of education is scheduled to vote on the label elimination issue on September 13.