Editor Rachel Leonard email@example.com
4:38 pm on Thursday, December 20, 2012
Dear Mark, Thank you so very much for your very thoughtful contribution to the conversation. As a parent, I have just benefited so much from learning about how it is to nurture learning based on my child's learning style, not my idea of how he should learn.
Could I ask you to give us context on how you've come to your understanding of gifted education? And, if I dare ask, what you think FCPS is really trying to do with its proposed changes?
Thank you much for writing, Asra
2:32 pm on Thursday, December 20, 2012
Dear Jim, Thank you so much for reading the piece and sharing your thoughts. I think the points you raise are very important policy questions, many of which I have wondered myself. I've gotten a real education, not just regarding school policies, but also about the various schools of thoughts related to how to organize, for lack of a better word, students.
The gifted education expert that I quote told the board that most research reveals that blending "gifted" kids (and I hear what you say about the politics of how a child gets that designation) with "general education," as it's called, doesn't lead to any marked improvement for kids in "general education," but leads to a lowering of achievement for "gifted" kids, partly because of peer pressure to not be as "smart" as you can be.
I can only remember that two girls in high school made fun of me for making straight As, not because I was particularly smart, mind you, but because I was a high-achieving immigrant kid. I promptly "dumbed" myself down to get a B in English class.
Did it score me popularity points? No way. So it was, in its own way, a good life lesson for me, which I think is part of the conversation--do "gifted" kids benefit from being with everyone, rather than separated.
Someone on the school board, member Ted, put it well, these are "philosophical" questions. And I think we should talk about them as a community. I'll post the video to the expert's comments, if I can. Thanks for writing, Asra
2:24 pm on Thursday, December 20, 2012
Thank you, Louise. Watching this AAP debate has been such an education for me, on the politics of education. What I hoped to do was share the insights I've gotten with readers, who don't have the experience of sitting in the spectator gallery of FCPS and school board meetings. If there is anything I've learned as a parent it's this: It's well worth paying attention to how decisions are made. There is a politics behind education policy. I know for some people: Duh. But many of us, we live in ignorant bliss.
3:24 pm on Monday, December 17, 2012
Well, I should say, I know the stories of the Sneetches and how Dr. Seuss used them as a metaphor for the perils of discrimination. What I don't believe is that "differentiated" learning, as is the euphemism to describe learning like AAP, has to mean discrimination. I understand that it could be problematic, carried out poorly, but I dont believe it has to be. We all learn best when we are taught at our level, with the capacity to grow and expand. Best, Asra
3:17 pm on Monday, December 17, 2012
Uncle Smartypants and Seriously, Yes, your literary references flew by, over my head. Asra
3:15 pm on Monday, December 17, 2012
Dear Kathy Keith, Thanks for your thoughts--I agree that there is a deeper conversation we need to have. I do think it's unfortunate that there is a 2nd grade cutoff. Though you can be added later, I agree with you that it's harder. There are a lot of serious issues you've raised that I hope the school board and FCPS let us talk about as a community. Asra
10:02 pm on Wednesday, December 12, 2012
Dear Seriously? I understand your underlying point, and I am sorry you feel such a sense of disparity. I know that this is an uncomfortable area of discussion, and with it can be a lot of hurt. I'm sorry about that. That is not my intention, but I think we should dare to have the honest conversations, and I thank you for expressing your thoughts. Warmly, Asra
7:01 pm on Wednesday, December 12, 2012
As a mom, when my son made the National team, I knew he was in the best place he should be for his level of play and his pace of learning. I cheered him as passionately as every parent did for their sons on the American and Central teams. I know it happens, and this we have to reflect upon as a society and individuals, but, for me, distinctions don't have to carry an assumed judgment, nor an assumed fate. My son, for example, thinks the NFL maybe in his future, but I'm gently suggesting he keep his options open :)
In athletics, as with academics, "abilities" is part nature, part nurture, I think we can all agree. Indeed, I believe, as perhaps you do, as well, that we should all be able to succeed to the best of our "abilities."
It is a painful, painful topic of conversation, I very much understand, and I apologize for pushing a button for you, but I appreciate you sharing your thoughts, and I hope I have been able to explain my own thinking to you with some level of clarity.
6:55 pm on Wednesday, December 12, 2012
Dear Uncle Smartypants, I understand why you many consider it offensive, and I can understand why you might extrapolate the kind of differentiation that you are suggesting. This is a very difficult conversation to have, especially in an area that seems as amorphous as intellect, academics and cognition.
As a society, we easily make the kind of distinctions that you are talking about in athletics. For example, my son plays McLean Mustangs football. At the 75-pound level, when the boys are in about fourth grade, they go to summer practice, and they are divided into three levels, "based on their abilities," to borrow your language: American, Central and then National. They don't get their status tattooed on their foreheads, to borrow from your analogy again, but they do wear it on their sleeves, figuratively speaking.
I think we would agree it would be a disservice to put a "National" kid on an "American" team where he would face hits and a pace of play that wouldn't match his abilities. In the same way, I think you might agree that it wouldn't be fair to put an "American" kid on a "National" team. He may be the star, but he wouldn't be as challenged as he could be.
10:14 pm on Tuesday, December 11, 2012
You end with asking whether the county should end the AAP venture? Before I was educated myself on the nature of "gifted" learning, I too wondered this, but I am increasingly convinced that, just as remedial learners need special services, I do very much understand, from a teaching perspective, why we need educational services that address our learners who grasp ideas really quickly, move leaps and bounds ahead of their grade level in math, reading, writing and other subjects.
That's why I believe, no matter what we call them, they shouldn't be "left behind."
Big picture, countywide, do you think that we all need more of a basic education on what "gifted" learning is about? I know I've need a real education myself!
Thank you for writing! Gratefully, Asra
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