Monday, April 02, 2007
Perhaps The Most Underserved Children
So this weekend was the celebration of my niece Alaina's seventh birthday--complete with her first spend the night party and a family fish fry on Sunday. Saturday night the girls and I made the sweetest cupcakes I've ever had courtesy of a recipe from Magnolia's Bakery, which I recently visited in NYC. I chatted with my step-sister's husband, my mom (elementary school counselor), and step-dad (former school administrator) while I ate my fried fish, hush puppies, and cupcakes (the diet of champions, no doubt), and we discussed the current state of the public school his son attends. And our discussion led me to think about something that has long bothered me--our public schools' glaring failure to serve the needs of gifted children.
As I've practiced in the field of education law the last two years, I've learned more and more about the extensive protection provided to children who qualify for special education services*. And in a more casual way, I've seen the practical effect of No Child Left Behind, which seems to ensure that No Child Gets Very Far Ahead as teachers simply do not have the time or resources to encourage or teach the children who already meet the minimum standards. In short, teachers are serving the lowest common denominator.
And I certainly experienced that in public schools myself--often bored and reading another book within my text book or writing notes to friends or sleeping. In 8th grade my parents found out that I'd been teaching my math class and demanded that I attend math classes as the high school in the afternoon. Needless to say, my educational needs weren't met; in fact, several teachers even apologized, telling me that my parents should find a good private school for me. And as many classes at my niece's school are almost half non-English speaking Hispanics who obviously require most of the teachers' attention to reach the standards required by NCLB, I assume that not much has changed. In fact, if the reports from educators are true, it's worse. In short, we're not nurturing our best and brightest students. And if we want to find cures for cancer and compete with other countries, we should start turning at least a little of our attention to those gifted children in our public schools. While I would not put it this way, one educator (at an alternative school) told me that "we're pouring all of fertilizer in what is likely to be barren soil and ignoring the most fertile." So now I'm mulling over ways I could advocate for this student population....
* While I am so glad to see the positive changes in our schools with regard to children with special needs, some of these laws are ridiculous--and compliance is sometimes astronomically expensive.
p.s. "Shut your mouth" and "Get out of town." Did this Bachelor request southern girls, specifically girls from Texas? It seems like well over half were from southern states.