The New Orleans Advocate article, “Can schools create gifted students? One La. district gives extra support to high-potential minority students,” discusses the concept of schools being able to ‘create’ gifted children through their school programs:
“Last year, the Academic Academy program [of the St. Charles School District in Luling, Louisiana] invited 91 students in second through eighth grades — students who hadn’t made the requisite scores to be considered gifted — into the accelerated classrooms at the four schools. At the end of the year, the students were tested again for evidence of “giftedness.” Of the 91 students, six minority students and one white student attained the coveted status.”
In essence, these students represent the school district’s effort to increase the number of black and Hispanic students in gifted classrooms. The St. Charles school district believes that exposing minority children, with high potential ability, to more challenging subject matter, such as the discussions of their affluent peers have at home, would help increase the students’ capability to pass the Louisiana’s state exams for gifted programs.
To do this, students should be exposed to “self-directed projects and class debates,” says Sally Meredith, a teacher at Albert Cammon Middle School.
The problem is that many gifted programs require a test-only approach for admission. These exams may disqualify children out of the running, even though they may be fully capable of excelling in such a program.
Retired president, Chester Finn Jr. of the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation, thinks that the test-only approach allows for a more direct way to pin-point gifted students: “The tests give you something to point to when a parent calls asking why Johnny isn’t in one of these classes.”
However, Finn also believes that for schools that have a hard time filling their gifted seats, alternative ways of testing may allow them to do so.
“This program is working, even if a student is never identified,” said Lisa DeJean, the gifted and talented technical assistant for the district. “My hope is that they finish middle school more prepared for those honors classes in high school.”