Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Finn on Discrimination in Gifted Programs

Following standard Times (and Upper West Side) ideology, reporter Al Baker chose to focus on the city’s mechanisms for screening and selecting kids for entry into its gifted programs (and high-powered high schools, etc.). The burden of his article is that New York’s education department discriminates against “children of color” via selection mechanisms that result in white (and Asian) youngsters receiving the best odds of accessing such programs and schools.

One may well yawn because this is so predictable a perspective. It’s also the wrong perspective. We might first acknowledge that many urban school systems would be thrilled—and praised—if a third of the kids in their gifted classrooms were black and Hispanic. But the more important point is that the supply of such classrooms is skimpy almost everywhere and America’s entire K–12 education enterprise does a lousy job of identifying and cultivating high-ability kids whose parents (for whatever reason) are not prepping and steering them into the available seats in such classrooms.

We’d be outraged—as would be the Times —if we learned that there weren’t enough special-ed classrooms, teachers, or programs to accommodate the population of children with disabilities. (Indeed, a big problem in the special-ed realm is over-identification of such kids.) But when it comes to high-ability students, instead of lamenting the under-identification challenge and the dearth of suitable classrooms, teachers, programs, and outreach efforts, the Times—and a lot of others—settle for playing the race card.

Shame on them.

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