DCPS to pilot gifted-and-talented program

February 6, 2012

DCPS will pilot its first gifted-and-talented program at Kelly Miller and Hardy middle schools this fall. No application will be necessary; it will be open to all students enrolled at the schools, officials said Monday.

It will be built around the Schoolwide Enrichment Model, created by educators at the University of Connecticut and used at more than 2,500 schools. Among the features will be special mini-courses in particular subject areas, or “enrichment groups” for students interested in particular topics such as filmmaking or history. Projects could also include assigned time with a gifted-and-talented teacher to work on a research project or other special assignment.

One teacher in each school will be trained in the SEM program this summer.

Gifted and talented programs have been the subject of criticism for their lack of diversity. In other Washington area school systems, white students have been disproportionately represented. This is less likely to happen at Kelly Miller (Ward 7), where enrollment is 99 percent African American. Hardy is 82 percent African American and Hispanic.

The initiative is being piloted at two schools with different issues. At Kelly Miller, just 23.4 percent of students read at proficient or advanced levels on the 2011 DC CAS. The school is also under underenrolled. It can accommodate 600 students but has only 379, according to city records. At Hardy (Ward 2), 66.2 percent of students read proficiently or better. But DCPS has never been able to lure families from the surrounding Georgetown and Palisades neighborhoods. One attempt by then-Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee ended in controversy a few years ago when she removed principal Patrick Pope and installed a successor thought to be more in sync with local families. But the transition did not work out, and the school now has its third principal in the past two years. In-boundary enrollment is 9 percent, according to DCPS figures.

Establishment of the gifted-and-talented program was first reported by the Washington Examiner.

Bill Turque, who covers Montgomery County government and politics, has spent more than thirty years as a reporter and editor for The Washington Post, Newsweek, the Dallas Times Herald and The Kansas City Star.
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