Some Alexandria teachers and principals are uncertain about the goals and criteria of the program for gifted elementary students, according to a report presented last night by the school system's Gifted and Talented Advisory Committee.
The report, based on questionnaires distributed during the 1984-85 school year to 11 principals and 127 teachers, also concluded that guidelines for identifying minority students for the Alexandria Talented Program were "nonexistent." Half the principals and 97 of the teachers responded to the surveys.
School Board Chairman Lou Cook, who said school officials already are working to encourage minority participation in the program and to make sure teachers understand it, added that some teachers, parents and administrators remain unclear about the program's definition and aims. "I think we need to have more consistency on it," Cook said. "There's been a strong feeling on the board for a while that we really need to take a look at the program."
One issue that prompted the report is the disproportionately low number of minority students in the portion of the program for the academically talented. In the 1984-85 school year, 71 percent of fourth, fifth and sixth grade students in academically talented classes were white, 19 percent black and 10 percent Asian or Hispanic. This year, 77 percent of students in those classes are white, 16 percent black and 7 percent Asian or Hispanic.
The elementary school population in the city is 33.8 percent white, 49.2 percent black, 8.9 percent Hispanic, 7.8 percent Asian and 0.3 percent American Indian. "There is no doubt we need more minority students" in the academically talented program, Cook said in an interview yesterday.
In answer to a question about criteria used to nominate students for the gifted program, teachers gave more than 40 responses, including judgments based on test scores, creativity, grades, organizational skills, social maturity and willingness to learn.
"There's a lot of misunderstanding about the program," said James P. Akin, executive assistant for research planning and evaluation. "No one knows what giftedness is. This program has been controversial from its beginning; everyone wants to be democratic, they don't want to be elitist, but they want a program that selects people."