Thursday, October 1, 2009

Does the MCPS faux GT Program hurt our children?

On 9/14/2009 an ex-officer of the MCCPTA, wrote to a public listserv “From my rough understanding of the process, I still don't see how what MCPS does fails to meet this criteria -- it's a pretty loosey- goosey definition.”

In an undated document, the then Chair, MCCF Education Committee, states, “What we are not told is that the laws fail to provide any meaningful definition of G&T … .”

These are the statements of the protagonists in the GT tug of war, playing out in slow motion in Montgomery County, Maryland. The former, a supporter of the GT system that labels between 17% and 80% of second graders as gifted, the latter an avowed opponent of GT, are both referencing Maryland GT law.

I have oft repeated that Maryland, as do many other states, subscribes to a modification of the original 1972 Marland definition of Gifted and Talented. State law, binding on local school districts, codified as The Annotated Code Of The Public General Laws Of Maryland, Education§ 8-201, defines a “gifted and talented student” as one with outstanding talent and performing, or showing the potential for performing, at remarkably high levels of accomplishment when compared with other students of a similar age, experience, or environment; exhibiting high performance capability in intellectual, creative, or artistic areas; possessing an unusual leadership capacity; or excelling in specific academic fields.

Elizabeth McClellan, in Defining Giftedness states “Although the definition has been criticized as being limiting (Reis and Renzulli 1982) and of promoting elitism (Feldman 1979), more than 80% of the 204 experts polled for their reactions to the Marland definition agreed with the selection of the categories of high intellectual ability, creative or productive thinking, specific academic aptitude, and ability in visual or performing arts. Approximately half of the experts agreed that social adeptness and psychomotor ability should be included (Martinson 1975).

The Montgomery County protagonists fail to take notice that the definition has a reasonably well-defined interpretation in the field of GT education. Indeed, the Marland report “estimated that 5-7% of school children are "capable of high performance" and in need of ‘services or activities not normally provided by the school.’”

The Renzulli identification system, espoused by MCPS, clearly envisages “a total talent pool consisting of approximately 15% of the general population.”

The MCPS GT identification figures ranging from more than 15% to above 80%, with a system wide average of around 40% is nothing more than an indicator that the system is doing something wrong.

Renzulli recommends placing “students who score at or above the 92nd percentile (again, using local norms) in the Talent Pool.” MCPS uses the 75% percentile rank on Raven based on local norms established in 2004/2005. Clearly, MCPS has chosen an arbitrary, low standard that accounts for much of the bloated numbers that the system belches out.

Parents are also not without blame. According to data obtained by this author, some social groups fail to return Parent Surveys that are a criterion in the selection process.

The data shows that MCPS staff recommendations favor certain groups, and MCPS has failed to address this deficiency through appropriate training.

The simple reality is that MCPS has failed to understand GT education; failed to properly monitor and implement its GT identification system; and failed to exercise leadership and reign in a GT identification system that is out of control.

The bottom line is that ALL our children suffer-- not just the students capable of extraordinary academic performance.

1 comment:

  1. If I recall from earlier postings, that 80% number is somewhat of an anomaly. What is the range without that data point?


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