Monday, June 03, 2013
Gifted centers vs. in-school enrichment
A good gifted program does many things, but here are two key parts: First, children are challenged to the extent of their abilities. Second, they're surrounded by intellectual peers who help their learning along. To try to achieve that, Pinellas County in Florida has been busing students at elementary schools with no gifted services to gifted centers one day a week. This allows the district to concentrate such students. The problem, though, according to this article from the Tampa Bay Times, is that busing eats up quite a bit of instructional time. So under a new program, all elementary schools will now offer gifted programming, part or full time. The district is investing close to $1 million in these new services (though saving some cash on transportation costs). I've been pondering these alternate set-ups, and have a few thoughts. First, I'm happy to see any district spending more money on gifted education -- certainly not the usual course of events these days. I also think that one day a week at a gifted center doesn't really constitute an ideal set-up. While that one day will certainly serve a social function of bringing gifted kids together (no small thing, really), doing something special one day a week isn't really about challenging kids if they're in their regular classes the rest of the time. In this sense, full-time (or even part-time if it's more than 3-4 hours/week) instruction in a home school would be better. But on the other hand, why the interest in having home schools? In an ideal world, perhaps Pinellas County's 11 gifted centers could have become full GT schools. Kids could be bused straight there in the morning 5 days a week, rather than their home schools. That would solve the problem of missing instructional time. The fear is always that a school will hire a gifted coordinator, but then somehow only wind up with a small number of students in the gifted class. When resources become tight, people will wonder why a teacher is teaching 10 kids instead of 27. The program will be disbanded, and the gifted coordinator sent around to offer "in class enrichment" or pull-outs to those 10 kids, plus 10 kids at 3 other schools. And we'll be back down under the 3 hours kids were getting at the gifted centers. Minus the chance to learn in an environment with their intellectual peers. What would you see as an ideal set-up if a district was trying to create a good gifted program?