Everyone is drowning; the lifeboats are full. There are no more life preservers.
The Captain says “Let those who can swim do without.”
One by one they shout for help. No one answers. No one throws them a rope from a life raft. They bob in the water and swim for a while, only a few make it to shore. The rest are gone forever.
Nobody cares, not really. Although something was done, a law was passed that all ships must be inspected and life preservers counted before a ship leaves port. The law can’t be enforced because there aren’t enough inspectors. But who cares? What about the responsibility of the Captain and the crew? They survived.
This is analogous to how we treat our gifted, talented and advanced students in Massachusetts (and other some other states). The common attitude is that they will swim and make it to shore no matter what. There aren’t 50 people in the entire state willing and able to give up part of one day to attend the annual meeting of the only state wide organization for bright kids (Massachusetts Association for Gifted Education, MAGE). There isn’t a penny for a child to be able to take part in a special advanced math or arts program. There are no life preservers for these students. They can swim; no one cares how far or how rough the seas are. Teachers and principals have limited funds and extraordinary demands placed on them just to keep their jobs.
Why doesn’t anyone care? In Massachusetts, everything is about legislation, policy and data. No law explicitly states that the needs of gifted children be met in our public schools (except as “every child” in Title XII, Chapter 69, Section 1). Policies are under local control, those in the capsized lifeboats are supposed to help them. Data measures don’t really apply to the proficient and advanced students. Districts must be focused on leaving no child behind; that’s how they are graded by the state.
Besides, the truly exemplary teachers who challenge everyone and show that many kids can do calculus are not heroes as they should be. Jaime Escalante’s highly successful model was destroyed by petty jealousies and politics and eventually he returned home to Bolivia. What is wrong with giving recognition to those who truly deserve it?
What is wrong with providing services to our gifted children? Some states understand the importance of doing this. Georgia spends over $300 million on funding for their gifted and talented students; Arkansas spends over $20 million (from NAGC Report). In contrast Massachusetts has no funding earmarked to support these students. Many other states identify these students and provide them with additional challenges to meet their potential through gifted individual education plans (GIEPs), and other programs. Except in a few of the 403 districts, Massachusetts doesn’t even identify their gifted and talented students. We are leaving behind the future innovators and leaders, the Bill Gates and Steve Jobs of tomorrow. Without support, these students can become bored, singled out, isolated, bullied, labeled ADHD, and never live up to their potential; some drop out of school; a few even become tragic villains as in Newtown Connecticut.
How can we continue to ignore these kids, to let them swim on their own? They could help to steer the lifeboat to shore, instead we let all but a few lucky ones drown.