Monday, October 19, 2009

Segregating gifted kids

 A NY Times article on schools for only gifted kids
He was 5 months old when he said his first words, and at a year and a half, he knew the alphabet, colors and numbers from 1 to 10.
None of which earned Christopher Yang, now 5, a seat this fall in New York City’s coveted gifted and talented programs at Hunter College Elementary School on the Upper East Side, the Anderson School and Public School 9 on the Upper West Side, or New Explorations Into Science, Technology and Math School (NEST + m) on the Lower East Side.
So his parents enrolled him in a new private school for precocious children, theSpeyer Legacy School, at 211 West 61st Street, where annual tuition is $28,500.
Many liberals object to this kind of segregation and tracking, and I have sympathy for their point of view. When all the smartest kids are together, merely smart kids lose their company and modeling. It's good in several ways to have a mix of abilities in a group, because being around people smarter than  you helps you grow by stretching yourself. (Did I just make a Lamarckian claim?)

That said, the same thing applies to smart kids. While it's better for  the less smart kids to have the smartest kids mixed in with the general population, it's better for the smartest kids to be in a bunch of other really smart kids. If I were still the parent of a gifted child (as I am now instead the parent of a gifted adult), I would still be pushing for separate gifted classes. If I were an education policy analyst (which I am not really) or more concerned with the system than with my own kids, I don't know what conclusion I would reach. Maybe we need to segregate the top 1% and spread the rest around, or segregate a random 20% of the top 5%, so we get both the modeling advantage and the stretching the smart kids advantage.

And I don't want to hear that being around dumb kids gets you used to working with dumb adults.

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