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Local Districts Could Learn From Miami's 'Gifted' Program

Elaine Thompson
AP Photo

The vast majority of gifted programs in public schools across Washington state are filled with white and Asian students. It's one reason Federal Way Public Schools has been expanding its “gifted pool” to bring in more students of color and children from low-income families. 

But Seattle Times education reporter Claudia Rowe discovered the district was an outlier among others in the state. She also found out the state mandates for gifted programs are more lax when compared to other districts across the country, specifically in Florida. 

Rowe traveled to the Miami-Dade County School District to find out how those programs work there. She sat down with KNKX Morning Edition producer Ariel Van Cleave to explain. 
Interview highlights

Washington lacks specific requirements for teachers of gifted students: "I discovered that that was, in no way, the case in Florida. And I was really interested in this question of teachers. How do we train the educators who are going to be working with this highly accelerated population? Wouldn't you need a teacher with accelerated skills themselves?"

Florida identifies potential "gifted students" differently: "Different types of students based on income level and English language status can be gifted based on differing criteria. They were saying if you are a white, middle-class student you need an IQ score of 130, which is a common rating for looking at giftedness. But if you are a low-income student and/or an English language learner, you don't need that same IQ score. You can get in with 117, and a bunch of other stuff, too. You also have to have pretty good grades and solid interview with a psychologist to see how you're thinking. It's not just an IQ score. It's a much more detailed, portfolio approach."

Focus on changing entrance into gifted programs: "Research is showing IQ is not static. It can stretch and it can shrink in response to your environment. So, the middle-class kid whose parents read to them and who goes to museums and goes on trips and all that, has just more coming in. And it's going to affect their IQ. The low-income kid who moves a lot, has a lot of stresses, financial insecurity, maybe they're hungry a lot, maybe they simply go to a school in a low-income area where so many kids don't read and that's all the teacher is focused on. So those kids never get exposed to more advanced concepts."

Ariel first entered a public radio newsroom in 2004 while in school at Bradley University in Peoria, Illinois. It was love at first sight. After graduating from Bradley, she went on to earn a Master's degree in Public Affairs Reporting from the University of Illinois at Springfield. Ariel has lived in Indiana, Ohio and Alaska reporting on everything from salmon spawning to policy issues concerning education. She's been a host, a manager and now rides shotgun with Kirsten Kendrick as the Morning Edition producer at KNKX.