Smart Kids Attacked for the Sake of Equity

October 13, 2021 Updated: October 13, 2021

Commentary

Parents whose kids excel in school need to be on guard. Leftist school administrators across the country—not just in New York City—are banning gifted programs in elementary and middle school and Advanced Placement courses in high school.

Typically, without any notice to parents, an eight grader’s accelerated science class or a fifth grader’s fast-track math class is merged into the regular classroom. Top students lose out. They need accelerated programs every bit as much as children with learning challenges need special education. It’s discrimination.

The left is seizing on a newly published study of Ohio students from the Thomas B. Fordham Institute to call for banning gifted programs. The study, “Ohio’s Lost Einsteins,” looks at what became of second and third grade students who were identified as high performers. By eighth grade, only 30 percent of black students, 39 percent of Hispanic students and 34 percent of economically disadvantaged students in the group were still outstanding performers. Most had floundered.

Washington Post education columnist Jay Mathews misreads the findings to argue that gifted programs are unproven and probably a waste of money. But many of the Ohio students labelled as high achievers were never placed in a “gifted” program. Fordham’s experts actually recommend more students be tracked into gifted programs.

The study also underscores the importance of helping gifted children early on overcome barriers to success. They may lack a place to study and, most importantly, an involved parent. Some parents don’t insist their children do their homework, concentrate in class and aim for AP classes. These parents need guidance on buying into the educational achievement culture.

Instead, school administrators are scapegoating gifted kids for the sake of equity. Boston suspended enrollment in its Advanced Work Classes program for fourth, fifth and six graders, citing the fact that the school district is 80 percent black and Hispanic, but AWC enrollment is 70 percent white and Asian.

The rhetoric attacking gifted programs is vicious and divisive. The Hechinger Report, based at Columbia University’s Teachers College, claims “gifted education has racism in its roots,” arguing that the scientist who popularized IQ measurement was a eugenicist.

California proposes eliminating accelerated math before eleventh grade and requiring all students to study math together. “We reject ideas of natural gifts and talents,” the state’s math plan declares. That’s like declaring that all students can play on the varsity football team. Ridiculous.

Educators are peddling a false claim that students of mixed abilities learn better together. A website addressed to school administrators deplores tracking as “segregation” and announces, “It’s good for students to be in classrooms where there’s a robust exchange of perspectives; perspectives that are shaped by racial, ethnic and economic identities.” Maybe in homeroom or social studies, but not physics. Gifted children in slow classes grow bored and even drop out.

Leftist educators are also targeting AP high school classes. But a study by the left-leaning Center for American Progress shows that students who succeed in AP classes have higher grades in college and are more likely to graduate. Eliminating them would be a mistake.

Fewer black students enroll in AP, and those who do are less likely to pass the AP exams. Approximately 69 percent of Asians, 65 percent of whites and 46 percent of Hispanics who take AP tests pass, but only 28 percent of blacks pass. The country should be deeply concerned, but the solution is to better prepare disadvantaged kids.

The equity warriors are also attacking the nation’s 165 competitive public high schools. From Boston to Alexandria, Virginia, and San Francisco, they’re eliminating entrance exams and allocating seats by lottery or zip code.

Georgetown University’s Anthony Carnevale calls it “a direct populist rebellion.” Don’t buy it. The real populism is parents rising up to resist dumbing down their children’s education. These parents, including Asian American immigrants, know their best shot at the American dream is to have their children succeed in a highly competitive public school. No one should take that away.

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.

Betsy McCaughey
Betsy McCaughey
Betsy McCaughey, Ph.D., is a political commentator, constitutional expert, syndicated columnist, and author of several books, including “The Obama Health Law: What It Says and How to Overturn It,” and “The Next Pandemic.” She is also a former lieutenant governor of New York.