State rules for gifted-and-talented adopted

February 28, 2012

The Maryland State Board of Education adopted regulations for gifted-and-talented education Tuesday, denying a petition from several advocacy groups to delay the vote.

The regulations were approved by an 8 to 1 vote, with one member abstaining and two absent. Board member Luisa Montero-Diaz voted against the policy, and S. James Gates Jr. abstained.

The rules provide minimum standards for gifted-and-talented programs, instructing school systems on how to identify gifted students, design programs and report progress.

The regulations are the state’s first attempt to set up minimum standards. Under the rules, a school system could identify a student as young as 3 as gifted.

Meanwhile, Virginia requires school systems to provide services for gifted students beginning in kindergarten. The District recently introduced a pilot gifted-and-talented program in two middle schools.

The proposal for the regulations drew criticism from a Montgomery County-based group that opposes labeling children. The Montgomery County Education Forum initiated a petition that was signed by more than 200 students, parents and advocacy organizations, including the Montgomery County chapters of the American Civil Liberties Union and the NAACP. They had asked the board to postpone the vote and form a task force to address the effect the rules might have on black and Hispanic students and English-language learners.

The groups contend that identifying students at such a young age could have a negative impact on those students, potentially widening the achievement gap.

“I’m extremely disappointed,” said state Del. Ana Sol Gutierrez (D-Montgomery County). “I think it was irresponsible for them to do so.”

It remains unclear how many students might be affected by the new rules. Even though some individual school systems keep a record of the number of students who are identified as gifted, the state Department of Education does not.

The new regulations require local systems to report information on their programs to the state.

William Reinhard, a spokesman for the state board, said the board plans to monitor the process closely, making certain that local districts identify more students from under-represented groups.

Ovetta Wiggins writes about K-12 education.
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