Tomorrow is the last day of the school year in Fairfax County; Falls Church schools closed a week ago. Extra Credit will return Sept. 1 in Fairfax Extra. Here are the last of several letters on the pros and cons of the county schools' gifted and talented (GT) program:
Dear Extra Credit:
I would like to offer a different perspective on the GT program at Greenbriar West Elementary School in Fairfax than the view expressed in Christine Glover's June 2 letter. While I can appreciate Ms. Glover's concerns on the value of the GT program for her child, I do not share her views regarding the quality of education that is being provided in the GT program at Greenbriar West. My daughter is in the same class as Ms. Glover's daughter, and our experiences have been nothing but positive with respect to the teachers, their training and ability to communicate, and the amount of homework assigned.
My fifth-grade daughter has found the GT program to be interesting and challenging. She most often completes her homework in study sessions at school and rarely has more than one extra hour of work to do at home. Assignments are given to the students daily with the expectation that if they are not completed in class, they are to be done before the next day's class. Parents were told at the beginning of the year to expect about one hour of homework a day. There have been some longer-term projects that required more work, but there was always plenty of lead time given to the students by their teachers so they could plan out the projects accordingly.
During this school year, my daughter also has had plenty of time to do extracurricular activities at school, take dance classes twice a week, practice twice a week for a travel soccer team (a year-round commitment) and play in league and tournament games on the weekends in the fall and spring. She also manages to find the time to play with her friends, ride her bike, play video games and watch entirely too much TV, especially reruns of "Full House."
Earlier this year, my daughter created and researched a complex entry for the annual school science fair, submitting an award-winning project. This was strictly a voluntary project that earned no extra classroom credit. And for about four weeks, this project required my daughter to put in countless hours after school, during weekends and over spring recess to fully complete it before the March 31 fair. This was all above and beyond her normal homework assignments.
I am firmly of the opinion that the GT program has enhanced the educational experience for my daughter and is helping her to properly prepare for the bigger challenges that will arise in her remaining years of education and beyond.
Jeffrey A. Dolezal
Elementary School Parent
Dear Extra Credit:
Jacqueline Morgan ["Only 8, but Already Deemed Average," Fairfax Extra, May 26] does not have a complete understanding of the GT program. She wrote, "It was heartbreaking to see that our 8-year-old child was already being tracked in the 'average' group and knows clearly that she is not part of the 'smart group' (her words, not ours)."
I have a sixth-grade son at Silverbrook Elementary in Fairfax Station who is not in the GT program and a third-grade daughter at Lorton Station Elementary who is in the GT program. My sixth-grader is not considered "stupid" or "average" by himself or others and in fact is very smart, makes all A's and will do fine in high school and college.
In school, my son receives an education taught in a traditional manner (similar to the way every child was taught in prior generations). My daughter, however, learns best when taught in a different manner. She will be challenged more while in the program and would not be challenged if she was taught in the traditional way.
So, it isn't that one child in the program is "smarter" than a child not in the program. It is that a small number of children need to be taught differently.
Ms. Morgan should not refer to her daughter as average because she is not in the GT program. I'm sure her daughter is exceptional.
parent, Silverbrook Elementary
and Lorton Station Elementary schools
Please send your questions, along with your name, e-mail or postal address and telephone number to Extra Credit, The Washington Post, 4020 University Dr., Suite 220, Fairfax, Va. 22030. Or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.