Title: "Remaking the 'Gifted' Program"
Publisher: News and Observer
Author: Todd Silberman
Publisher: News and Observer
Date: Tuesday, January 16, 1996
Pages: 1B and 6B

Summary: Wake County is ready to rid themselves of their cookie-cutter approach to serving students in the gifted program. The present approach encompasses the use of a high score on certain standardized tests in order to make the grade-winning the designation as "academically gifted." Once children make the grade, whether they are the next Einstein or just bright, they are offered the same basic extras as all other academically gifted children.

This mode is about to be broken by Wake County and eight other districts across the state. The changes are intended to more accurately target talented students of all diversities and tailor teaching to their individual strengths. Changes include the loosening of the rigid criteria that has worked against minority students, hurting their chances of winning a label viewed by some parents as essential to a quality education in public schools.

There is something wrong with having a fixed standard for the whole state. New placements will be based on a portfolio that will include test scores as well as other information including teacher observations, a parent checklist, and student work. "This is an attempt to try and look at a broader scope of intelligence," said James Gallagher, Kenan professor of education at UNC Chapel Hill and an adviser to the nine school systems. Implications: After the release of the National Excellence Report in 1983, the idea of revamping the gifted programs in North Carolina was proposed. Research has challenged the view of intelligence as a fixed narrow concept measurable by any one test. It is understood that intelligence is complex, takes many forms and therefore requires that many criteria be used to measure it. Performance on a single test was no longer a viable way to identify the myriad talents that students possess. We must use what we have learned regarding intelligence in the past 20 years to improve education for all our youngsters.

If this new approach to an age old problem is plausible for the gifted and potentially gifted population, why not use this same approach in other special education programs? Advocates for students on the other end of the spectrum should come to the forefront and rally for the same type of revolving program. Children in the gifted program, under the new plan will be allowed to move in and out of the program as their needs and interests change; therefore children in other programs should be afforded this same luxury. Children who have mild learning disabilities or who, based on teacher observations, could benefit from being in or out of a special program should be given this opportunity as well. In our frenzy to offer the best possible educational choices for bright children, we must remember that there is another sector of our population that must not be forgotten if our goal is to improve education for all children.

Wiladean Thomas