Don't eliminate gifted programs in urban schools

Monday, December 13, 2010; 8:45 PM

Jay Mathews noted in his Dec. 9 Class Struggle column, "Why urban schools don't need gifted programs," that too many school districts lack the resources to administer effective gifted education programs. It is unfortunate that rather than fixing the problem, his solution is to dismantle such programs in urban districts.

Mr. Mathews did note the need for active identification of high-potential students throughout their careers. This is especially critical in disadvantaged districts where the lack of a thorough blanket of services means too many students go unidentified and unserved.

The solution is not to eliminate gifted-and-talented programs but for schools to make serving high-potential students from disadvantaged backgrounds a higher priority. While an exceptional educator such as Jaime Escalante was able to identify and nurture talent, many disadvantaged students across the country do not have access to the same outstanding teachers, although with appropriate training and support, many more teachers could support our high-potential students.

If Mr. Mathews needs to see the real-world impact of gifted-and-talented programming in urban settings, he should consider Khadijah Williams, the young woman who made national news last year by going from being homeless on Los Angeles's Skid Row to being a freshman at Harvard. A key to her success? Her classification, at age 9, as gifted, which enabled her to beat the longest of odds.

Nancy Green, Washington

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

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