TCU Daily Skiff Tuesday, March 09, 2004
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Top kids are ‘left behind’

Despite a certain law’s name that speaks to the contrary, children are being left behind.

Across the country, pressure to achieve standardized test scores required by the No Child Left Behind Act — with practically no federal aid to do so — are forcing schools to cut important programs.

In Mountain Grove, Mo., all programs for gifted students were cut so schools could appease state and federal mandates.

The budgets that go toward furthering the educations of our brightest futures have indeed become emaciated. Michigan’s gifted budget used to be $4 million per year; it has now shrunk to a mere $250,000. State budget restrictions have no doubt contributed to this decline. But with the emphasis No Child Left Behind places on testing, it’s no surprise that schools have had to pool resources from other areas just to accommodate test-centered preparation and studies.

And No Child Left Behind, while good in its intentions, says nothing about gifted children or programs. There is no reward for gifted students’ high scores on those standardized math and reading tests.

But the Mountain Grove students really lost when principal Bridget Williams said they don’t deserve specially tailored classes in the first place.

“They lost the title,” Williams said in The New York Times. As someone who spent her elementary and middle school years in gifted programs, I can confidently say that they are nothing if not vital to the students in them.

And my title? You mean, “geek?”

Gifted students in “normal” classes get bored. It’s not a matter of arrogance or prestige; they’re just not on the same plane as their classmates. In specialized classes, the kids that were doodling in their notebooks because they already knew how to write paragraphs or do long division would get lessons more suited to their abilities.

Gifted programs offer dozens of studies to intrigue students. There are academic games that educate children about linguistics, math and past presidents, as well as independent study projects that help students focus their time and energy on a specific research topic. This specialization is not a far cry from special education classes, though no one is cutting that funding.

Instead, these students are being punished for being smart.

“These are the kids who are either going to turn out to be nuclear scientists or the Unabomber,” gifted education teacher Carolyn Groves said in The New York Times. “It all depends on which way they’re led.”

They should be led, and educators should want to lead them. The capabilities of these children are exactly what No Child Left Behind intends to emulate. But, instead of being encouraged, their intelligence is being stifled.

Federal mandates such as this, when asking so much of the teachers responsible, need to give schools more money to make them happen. Otherwise, the children that are left behind will be precisely the ones we want in front.

Courtney Balestier is a columnist for The Daily Athenaeum at W. Virginia University.
This column was distributed by U-Wire.

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