Baltimore Looks to Change Gifted and Talented Program Title

(Photo: Flickr, Creative Commons)

(Photo: Flickr, Creative Commons)

Baltimore County Public Schools (BCPS) Superintendent Dallas Dance is considering the elimination of the words "gifted and talented" in his proposal for a new policy, the latest of several moves that are meant to change the way the district educates its brightest and best.

But some parents are not warming up to the new title. Julie Miller-Breetz, who has gifted and talented children, and chairs a citizen's advisory committee that reports to the county school board, said:

"When you don't name a population, identification issues arise."

Studies have found that gifted and talented students do have social and emotional needs that are not the same as many of their classmates. State law that requires districts to identify these pupils and ensure that they have classes that are tailored to their needs, reports Liz Bowie for The Baltimore Sun.

Baltimore County children in grades three and five are selected based on their achievement and other traits, such as creativity, personality, ability, curiosity, and their ability to concentrate. Approximately one-fifth of young people in the district qualify for the program.

Last year, the county changed from having gifted students in separate classes with a curriculum created especially for them. Now, in the elementary grades, students of different levels are taught in the same classroom. The pupils break into groups by ability and then teachers move from group to group, instructing students at their level. Teachers say the new system allows them to move students to appropriate groups whenever necessary:

Miller -Breetz pointed out, "The concern is that when you move away from that term the population is invisible, they're not seen, they're not named, they are forgotten then all of the accommodations they're supposed to be getting stop."

Mallory Sofastaii, reporting for WMAR-TV, writes that county school officials claim that Miller-Breetz is incorrect. BCPS Coordinator of Advanced Academics Wade Kerns said renaming the gifted and talented (GT) policy to Advanced Academics is only a change in wording.

The new program will include Advanced Placement classes, International Baccalaureate courses, dual enrollment, and other advanced courses encompassed by the new policy. Kerns added that the district wanted to focus on the services offered rather than labeling young people. Still, parents are worried that services will begin to crumble for gifted and talented kids.

"There really isn't any danger of those things going away because we've changed the title of our policy. State law still requires us to do those things, and those things we always have done them and will continue to do them," said Kerns.

WMAR-TV updated the story by reporting that the county's board of education would vote on the name change of the program so that it would align with current research. The measure also aims at ensuring "equity in access to advanced students."

The board, to increase access to advanced learning, has cited the same sort of changes in other counties in Maryland. The board reminded all county residents that it was committed to equity and excellence via recognition and nurture of all pupils' potential no matter their gender, race, and socioeconomic status.

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