TOP 10 ISSUES AFFECTING
GIFTED AND TALENTED EDUCATION IN MCPS
Gifted and Talented Association of Montgomery County (GTA) advocates for the
needs of gifted and talented students in Montgomery County Public Schools. We are looking for people to join us,
to improve and expand our work.
These are the most pressing issues affecting GT education in MCPS today:
“Label” Controversy: SIPPI and GT
identification. MCPS intends
to replace its Grade 2 global screening for giftedness with a similar process
that identifies and monitors appropriate placement for Grade 3 students in
advanced or on-level Reading and Math.
While we support better identification and monitoring of appropriate
placements, we believe that placement
recommendations are meaningless if there are no accelerated and enriched
curricula to offer advanced students; and the gifted label is objective
evidence that a large number of students need accelerated and enriched
curricula. We believe that global screening should continue until MCPS
routinely offers higher-level curricula and instruction in all courses,
including Elementary Social Studies and Science.
of MCPS’ GT Policy IOA. MCPS has
never fully implemented Policy IOA since its adoption in 1995. Now, rather than finally insist on
proper implementation, the Board of Education proposes to completely revise and
water down Policy IOA. Board
President Pat O’Neill has suggested that this revision process will be revived
after tonight, when the Board considers SIPPI. It is important that MCPS retain a strong Policy providing
for gifted and talented instruction and recognizing GT students as a distinct population,
present in every school, whose needs cannot be met by curricula that MCPS
describes as “appropriate for all students.”
School Advanced Curricula. MCPS
recently revised the Middle School curricula. For many Middle Schools, these new “advanced” curricula are
now the only curricula. Together
with MCCPTA, we wish to preserve on-level and “truly advanced” curricula in
compliance with Policy IOA and so that of all students can have
School Curricula. MCPS is
formulating its K-5 online integrated curricula. These curricula again ignore
the Policy IOA mandate to have separate GT curricula for every grade and
subject. We also are concerned
with the continuing failures of the Science, Social Studies and writing
curricula; we question whether the excellent William & Mary program is
being implemented; and we are concerned with reports that elementary schools
are ending their Math 7 offering.
with peers of similar ability supports more efficiently targeted instruction and
peer support. Ungrouped
heterogeneous classrooms put an undue burden on teachers. Nevertheless, MCPS opposes homogeneous
ability-grouped classes except in mathematics, which they acknowledge cannot be
taught through grade-level differentiated instruction, and in the magnet
programs, where they acknowledge that highly gifted students (which they define
as 98th percentile and above ability level) cannot learn at an
appropriate pace in a heterogeneous classroom. For everyone else, in every subject except math, MCPS
encourages or requires heterogeneous classrooms and pays too little attention
to assuring that each classroom will have the research-supported minimum of
eight high-ability students to form a peer cohort. This makes it
impossible for teachers to provide appropriate instruction for high-achieving
for student performance. Challenging
but attainable student performance targets spur system, school, teacher and
student achievement. MCPS’ Seven
Keys to College Readiness are mid-level benchmarks, appropriate for many but
not all students. Gifted and
talented students and teachers are left without a target.
monitoring and reporting. For the
MCPS bureaucracy, an objective will be pursued if—, but only if— it is
monitored and publicly reported.
MCPS monitors and publicly reports its mid-level Seven Keys
benchmarks. It must also report
disaggregated, school and system data for higher-level benchmarks that measure
the performance of higher-ability students.
- Equity. MCPS works toward equal Seven Keys
performance outcomes for all demographic groups. We believe that
education all demographic groups should be assessed against higher-level
benchmarks as well. In
addition, equity entails supporting each child fully, whatever his/her ability;
and assuring that all schools provide appropriate educational opportunities to all
students, even those already achieving at high levels.
of Accelerated and Enriched Instruction.
This office formerly was charged with facilitating gifted
and talented instruction; now it is tasked with facilitating accelerated and
enriched instruction for “all” students.
It is important that these two roles not be confused.
As its resources have been cut, AEI has been pressured to
concentrate on providing some acceleration and enrichment to traditionally
underperforming demographic groups and, to assist in closing the achievement
gap. Meanwhile, the provision of
meaningful accelerated and enriched instruction to advanced students in local
schools has taken a back seat.
- Board of
Board’s Committee on Special Populations (Shirley Brandman, Chair) has
oversight of gifted and talented students; it has not yet considered them. The Board resolved to consider the
Deputy Superintendent’s Advisory Committee on Gifted and Talented Education
2006 Report, but has not yet done so.
The Board’s Policy Committee is prepared to downgrade Policy IOA solely
on the basis of its distaste for the “label” and without ever having insisted
that MCPS actually implement Policy IOA.
The Board must engage with the needs of gifted and talented students. Finally, we
call on the Board to end the continual budget cuts and policy changes that are
gutting magnets and other specialized programs. MCPS expressly
recognizes the need for these programs in its continuum of appropriate
services, but it has been making it increasingly difficult for these programs
to accomplish their mandate.