Challenging all students: What a radical idea!
For decades, college admissions officers have sought to re-engineer the demographics of their campuses—an understandable impulse with all manner of perverse consequences. Not surprisingly, this dubious idea has filtered down to the K-12 system, too. Districts, like the one in Alexandria, VA, are revamping entrance requirements for their gifted-education programs in an effort to boost minority enrollment. (In Alexandria, 34 percent of the students are black and 31 percent are Hispanic—yet, in the city’s gifted program, those percentages drop to 17 and 11, respectively.) Gadfly welcomes efforts to improve outreach and strengthen kids’ preparation: Qualified and capable students of color won’t enroll in gifted-education programs of which they aren’t aware. But slackening the criteria for program entry is something else entirely. As with AP classes, rigorous entrance requirements for gifted programs are necessary if high-achieving students (whatever their race) are to get much out of them. Simply put, our education system must work to the advantage of all its students—from those scoring in the top decile to those in the bottom. Districts should try this “radical” concept instead: Group students by academic prowess, and meet the needs of all pupils. Let common sense prevail!
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