Is Giftedness Akin to a Disability?   Does Giftedness Require Placement in Separate Classes? Or, a Ruse to Segregate Classes and Mollify White/Asian Parent/Voters?

Does the term Students with Disabilities include Gifted Students?

The National Association for Gifted Children writes,

Students who require modification(s) to their educational experience(s) to learn and realize their potential. Student with gifts and talents:

Come from all racial, ethnic, and cultural populations, as well as all economic strata.

Require sufficient access to appropriate learning opportunities to realize their potential.

Can have learning and processing disorders that require specialized intervention and accommodation.

Need support and guidance to develop socially and emotionally as well as in their areas of talent.

Students thought to have learning or emotional disabilities are referred for testing and as a result of the test an Individual Education Plan (IEP) determines placement in a “”least restrictive environment;” in the vast percentage of cases a period a day by a special education teacher or placed in an integrated classroom, a classroom with special and regular education children and two teachers, a regular education teacher and a special education teachers.

Why do “gifted” children require placement in a separate classroom? Shouldn’t they also be placed in a least restrictive environment?

BTW, how do we define “gifted” and identify gifted children?

The Association for Gifted Children lists a number of verbal and non verbal giftedness identification tests, Read here

The New York City Gifted and Talented program used two of the tests,

 The G&T test is comprised of two equally weighted sections taken from two other gifted assessments: a verbal section from the Otis-Lennon School Ability Test – 8th Edition (OLSAT), and a nonverbal section from the Naglieri Nonverbal Ability Test- 2nd edition (NNAT).(See here). The test is given to four year olds, it takes about an hour and is comprised of about 70 questions, and the test administrator may not repeat questions to the test taker.

Know any four year olds who can sit for an hour with a total stranger and answer seventy questions?

The definition of gifted is controversial, the traditional use of IQ type tests have increasingly been questioned.

Robert Sternberg’s Triarchic Theory of Intelligence rejects the intelligence tests typically used to measure “academic intelligence”.  (Read here)

Sternberg argues that practical intelligence—a person’s ability to react and adapt to the world around them—as well as creativity are equally important when measuring an individual’s overall intelligence. He also argues that intelligence isn’t fixed, but rather comprises a set of abilities that can be developed.  

Joseph Renzulli has been the most persistent critic of the traditional approach, test the student with an IQ type test and place the student in “gifted” class. Renzulli describes his views on an excellent youtube here and read Renzulli’s article that was originally trashed and is now required reading here.

Aside from a definition of gifted that is far more inclusive than the traditional tests Renzulli created a School wide Enrichment Model – providing an appropriate learning environment for gifted children within school classrooms setting, not in separate classrooms. Read description of the School wide Enrichment Model here.

Gifted classes have existed in New York City for decades, many, many decades, called IGC, Intellectually Gifted Classes, the selection was 3rd grade scores on reading/math tests, yes, testing has a long history. Under decentralization (1970-2002) the decision was at the district level by the elected school board. Some districts abandoned IGC classes, others clustered the children in a single school and others designed their own models.

Under mayoral control (2003 – ) Mayor Bloomberg centralized the Gifted and Talented program using testing described above, the students selected were overwhelmingly White and Asian in a school system that is overwhelmingly Black and Latinx; one might argue Bloomberg was appealing to White more affluent and Asian voters, or worse.

His successor, Mayor de Blasio was critical of the sharp racial disparities in the elite high schools (Stuyvesant, Bronx HS of Science and Brooklyn Tech) and introduced legislation in Albany to change admission procedures, without success, one could argue his attempts were tepid. The School Diversity Advisory Group, a fifty member blue ribbon team eventually (February, 2019) issued a lengthy report (Making the Grade: The Path to Real Integration and Equity for NYC Public School Students – Read here) that punted the question of Gifted & Talented classes

Between now and the end of the school year (June, 2019) , SDAG will continue to meet to explore further recommendations based on community input and engagement, and continued analysis and research. We commit to releasing a subsequent report with additional recommendations on school screens, gifted & talented programs, and school resources by the end of this school year.

The Department finally released plans,

As announced by the Mayor, the Department of Education will eliminate the Gifted & Talented (G&T) test and phase out the current G&T model. In its place, we will launch “Brilliant NYC,” a blueprint for accelerated learning for all elementary students in New York City.

The blueprint sounds like an iteration of the Renzulli Schoolwide Enrichment Model

Of course on November 2nd we’ll have a new mayor followed by a new chancellor, (The current chancellor, Meisha Porter is serving in an interim role).

Soon to be Mayor Eric Adams, in his recent debate, supported Gifted & Talented education, whether he supports the Bloomberg program, “Brilliant NYC” or something else, only time will tell.

Adams describes himself as a “pragmatic moderate,” a lengthy NY Times essay entitled “What Kind of Mayor Will Eric Adams Be? No One Seems to Know” explores, we’ll begin to find out in a few months…..

BTW, Occupy Wall Street was ten years ago ….

One response to “Is Giftedness Akin to a Disability?   Does Giftedness Require Placement in Separate Classes? Or, a Ruse to Segregate Classes and Mollify White/Asian Parent/Voters?

  1. If the goal is to finally put an end to segregated public schools in NYC, we should not begin with hot button issues like G&T or specialized high schools which only serve to mobilize the opposition.

    The alternative is to unzone the city district by district, provide every student with the opportunity to apply to schools outside neighborhoods segregated by housing patterns determined by socioeconomic status, admit by supervised lottery, ensure that transportation needs are met, and demonstrate that more kids will be more successful in integrated schools. Only then should we focus on the most intractable issues delineated in your column this week.


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