Roberto Clemente parents, students object to changes in gifted program

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By Jen Bondeson
The Gazette
Thursday, February 24, 2011

Sixth-graders Ishan Mundra and Matthew Feng and seventh-grader Rachit Agarwal say they sometimes feel silly raising their hands in their non-gifted classes at Roberto Clemente Middle School.

"Some kids look at you funny if you try to challenge yourself and ask questions," Rachit said.

The three are in the school's math, science and computer science Highly Gifted and Talented Center Program.

They were among the more than 150 students and parents who attended a meeting Feb. 17 at the Germantown school to discuss changes to the program.

This is the first year students in this program and the school's other center program, humanities and communication, are taking classes with mainstream students from all levels in subjects not related to their programs.

Previously, the school had grouped center program students with other advanced students, using cluster data that showed student learning abilities.

Principal Khadija Barkley and representatives from the school did not return calls to comment on the specific way students are now grouped in classes.

Community Superintendent LaVerne G. Kimball told parents at the meeting that the school no longer has enough teachers to accommodate the former grouping.

Mixing levels of students helps even out class sizes because advanced classes usually have fewer students, Kimball said.

The changes also help to get rid of the feel of "a school within a school," Kimball said, and the students from different levels are learning from one another.

But the three students said it is easy to tell who in their classes is in the center program and who is not, by the amount they participate in class.

The school must manage this divide, Barkley said the week before the meeting.

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