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How to improve gifted education

The Nov. 7 front-page article “Closing ‘the gifted gap,’ ” reported that Alexandria school officials are “debating how to diversify gifted classes without sacrificing rigor,” but I’m curious as to how they can accomplish this. The article cited allegedly unfair testing methods, which in fact apply to all students, regardless of ethnicity, and it noted that few minorities are enrolled in gifted programs even after school districts bend over backward to recruit them by redefining the term “gifted,” “tweaking intelligence tests and changing the referral process,” and even “mandating the demographic composition of the gifted program reflect the overall racial and ethnic makeup of the school system.”

Gifted programs are an outgrowth of meritocracies, which are based on one simple principle: You either perform or you don’t. School districts should continue to uphold this idea, instead of pandering to diversity simply for diversity’s sake.

Josh Krisinger, Burke

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To fully understand the vastness of the “gifted gap” problem, one need only glance through data kept by the Office of Civil Rights at the Education Department. According to this office, black students account for 9 percent of gifted students despite making up more than 17 percent of the states’ total school population, and Latino students represent 12.8 percent of the gifted education population, compared to 20 percent of the school population.

One part of the solution is recognizing this problem and working to identify and serve all high-potential students, including by using assessments that employ multiple criteria to capture those students otherwise likely to fall through the cracks. But to achieve an even greater impact requires lawmakers — particularly at the federal and state levels — to hold states and districts accountable for the progress of high-performing students, to better equip teachers with the skills to identify signs of talent and to prioritize aggressive talent identification initiatives.

Nancy Green, Washington

The writer is executive director of the National Association for Gifted Children.

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