Board member to make curriculum more accessible
Newly elected District Four Board of Education (BOE) member Valerie Ervin endorsed plans put forth by the MCPS Division of Enriched and Innovative Instruction (EII) to provide more minority and disadvantaged students with a Gifted and Talented (GT)-level education. Ervin said she has been collaborating with the EII since before her 2004 campaign.
The EII, which oversees implementation of MCPS's GT policy, hopes that Ervin's advocacy on the issue of bringing GT-level coursework to all students will benefit its efforts to reach out to underrepresented students, said EII director Virginia Tucker.
Ervin, a former Blair PTSA Co-President, has faced criticism for her stance on GT programs. An Oct. 31 editorial in The Washington Post accused her of supporting the "dilution” of the current MCPS GT program in elementary, middle and high schools.
According to Tucker, neither the EII nor Ervin supports changing the admissions process or curriculum of the standing MCPS GT Program. Instead, Tucker said that her division and Ervin are at the forefront of efforts to make GT curriculum available to all students.
Ervin agreed with Tucker. "The EII has said that the way to improve test scores and provide more rigor for minority students is to open up GT curriculum, and I agree with that,” she said.
However Sheldon Fishman, Ervin's 2004 campaign opponent, expressed concerns about administering GT-level courses to all students. "I don't think GT is for everybody. If you require everybody to take a program, it's not going to meet the needs of everybody,” he said.
To ensure that students taking GT-level classes are prepared for the rigors they are presented with, Tucker said that a pre-assessment would be administered.
The EII implemented the Program of Assessment, Diagnosis and Instruction: Early Recognition of Potential Program (PADI) in 1995 to guarantee underserved students access to challenging coursework. The program would administer a battery of tests to disadvantaged kindergartners and first graders in an effort to recognize potential early and would provide them with an accelerated education.
While the PADI program has been in existence for a while, Tucker said that the presence of a school board member dedicated to bringing GT opportunities to minorities would be a boost.
Tucker hopes to work with Ervin to provide minority elementary- and middle-school students with challenging coursework that would enable them to apply to high-school honors programs such as Blair's Communication Arts Program and Magnet program.
In conjunction with the EII, the Magnet has made its own efforts to reach out to underrepresented communities, according to Magnet Coordinator Eileen Steinkraus. Because many disadvantaged students do not have the economic means to prepare for the Magnet entrance exam, the Magnet and EII distribute booklets containing sample test questions for those students.
Tucker believes that in addition to distributing information, minority and underprivileged students need to have access to challenging courses. "The County GT policy states that acceleration and enrichment are available to all students who have the motivation, capacity or potential to succeed. We believe that every child has the potential to succeed,” Tucker said. "I think Valerie Ervin understands that.”
Kiran Bhat. Kiran Bhat is a senior who loves the Washington Redskins, 24, Coldplay, Kanye West, Damien Rice, Outkast and Common (Sense). He aspires to be the next Sanjay Gupta. He will miraculously grow a Guptaesque telegenic face and sculpted body by the age of 30. In … More »