The Maryland State Board of Education (MSBE) has proposed new regulations for the gifted and talented education system that will instruct local school systems on how to identify gifted students, report their progress and design new programs. Under this proposal, a child as young as three-years-old could be classified as "gifted." These regulations are the state's first attempt to provide minimum standards for designing and implementing programs for gifted and talented students. But is it right for the school systems to label children and place them on a "gifted" or not gifted track at such an early age?
The Board will vote on the regulations on Tuesday, March 28. According to The Washington Post, the proposed regulations were designed to ensure top quality education for advanced students across the state. But these regulations fail to consider situations where gifted and talented specialists live and work in only one area, thus limiting the opportunities for a student that lives in another part of the state.
The proposal says that each school system will be required to provide different services beyond those normally provided by the regular school program. Additionally, the school system will consider implementing programs for gifted students from pre-kindergarten through high school. Though the initiative was made to improve learning and education for advanced students, the proposal could have a negative influence on the achievement gap for certain students.
In circumstances such as this, the Board should be working harder to close the gap rather than accelerating one group of students up while hindering another. The groups that would be affected would mainly consist of African-American, Hispanic and English-Language learners and would thus only widen the achievement gap. The MSBE's plan should be put on hold until the achievement gap decreases.
The Montgomery County Education Forum opposes labeling students. The forum submitted a petition urging the board to delay the original vote that was signed by 278 lawmakers, students, parents and advocacy organizations, such as Casa of Maryland, ACLU and NAACP. "When we saw pre-K, that's when we went ballistic," MSBE President Del. Ana Sol Gutierrez said in a press release. "We already think second grade is too early. We're trying to do away with that in Montgomery County… When you label kids, you have winners and you have losers, and those losers are black, Hispanic and low-income."
Gutierrez said her group has waged a "No Label, No Limits" campaign in Montgomery County for 12 years. A group that is sticking up for the "losers" as Gutierrez mentioned – those who are pushed behind the gifted and talented. Three-year-olds should not be subjected to the gifted and talented classification, they are simply too young to be tracked. At this age, they have not even started their education.
I would argue that most children have not reached their full potential to be known as an advanced learner until they are well into their schooling. Testing for gifted and talented programs should be given when students are advanced enough to show their capabilities. Young children show curiosity for learning but are not able to have high enough levels of thought to be judged as advanced students. Students who are unable to demonstrate their learning abilities as young children may show growth as they mature, but they would have already been left behind due to this early tracking
There is nothing wrong with allowing more opportunities for some advanced students to have accelerated and challenging coursework. However, the proposal comes with the consequence of labeling of students, putting certain groups of students at a disadvantage and removing equity from the student population. The MSBE's proposal may not be ideal to implement at the moment, but other proposals have potential – such as turning the MSBE's focus to alleviate the ever-widening achievement gap.
Saaraa Farooq. Saaraa Farooq, yes, she has an abundance of A's in her name, just don't ask what her middle name is. She can be found watching Doctor Who, listening to music (ATL, The Beatles, ARTTM, rock, alternative, and all that good stuff...), or taking pictures of ... More »