Gifted Program Is for All

In her book "Reversing Underachievement Among Gifted Black Students," Donna Y. Ford stresses the importance of early identification of gifted black students. It is ironic that a group that wants equal access to a challenging curriculum is calling for the schools to stop identifying gifted students ["Group Seeks to End Gifted Designation," Montgomery Extra, Aug. 25].

Global screening for giftedness promotes equal access to accelerated and enriched instruction for students from all walks of life. It is a way to find potential that may not be apparent in students' class work because of underachievement, learning disabilities, language barriers or other disadvantages. Test scores can be an objective measure of the potential of high-ability students whose abilities may be underestimated by teachers.

The tests the Montgomery County public school system uses in the second-grade global screening are designed to be fair to students who have not been taught at home or who speak English as a second language. For example, the Raven test uses a series of designs that involve no words and do not require background knowledge. Montgomery County schools should be applauded for giving all students the chance to take these tests. In many school systems, screening is not offered to all students.

The process of global screening is about much more than tests, however. A committee in each school meets to discuss each second-grade student. The committee members look for other evidence of potential, including things some teachers may not think of as giftedness, such as a tendency to question authority.

In the past year, the office of Accelerated and Enriched Instruction (AEI) has worked hard to move beyond simply labeling students as gifted or not gifted. Instead, the global screening committee is charged with looking at each student and planning how best to meet the student's needs. Last year, parents received their children's test scores with an explanation of their meaning.

AEI has also developed programs aimed at nurturing potential in students before the second-grade screening process with the Program of Assessment, Diagnosis and Instruction and the Title I gifted initiative. These programs look for potential in very young children and then encourage the schools to provide the children with accelerated and enriched instruction. As a result, MCPS has increased the number of children from high-poverty schools who attend programs for the highly gifted in fourth grade.

MCPS must not get rid of the global screening process. It is a tool for opening access to accelerated and enriched instruction. Without it, many gifted students may be overlooked, resulting in a waste of talents and gifts.

Julie Pierson Lees

Silver Spring

Lees is president of the Gifted and Talented Association of Montgomery County.

More to My Background

After reading the article "Younger Democrats are Primed to Run" [Montgomery Extra, Aug. 25], I would like to set the record straight a bit. I have not yet decided to run for delegate from Maryland's 39th Legislative District. I'm considering my options very carefully and thoroughly.

Also, I couldn't help but notice that other participants in the Young Democrats chapter who were mentioned in the article had their professions published, whereas I was presented as having plastered my car with campaign stickers for Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.). Of course, I'm very proud to have had a hand in the election victory of this stellar congressman, but your readers should know that I am a senior software engineer employed by the Mitre Corporation. I have also led the fight in my neighborhood to prevent the wasteful and environmentally unfriendly plan to widen Longdraft Road.

My participation in past campaigns was enjoyable and instructive. If I run, I'll use my campaign skills to advocate maintaining the ban on slot-machine gambling, protecting Montgomery County from harmfully excessive real-estate development and pushing for voter-verified paper election receipts.

Saqib Ali

North Potomac