The Anti-Gifted Sentiment Behind “Closing the Gap”

The term “closing the gap” has been used in education a lot lately, as in, “We need to work to close the achievement gap between all students.”  Everyone nods their heads and sets to work on figuring out how we can close this gap.  No one questions the original premise.

I am here to tell you that the entire premise of “closing the gap” is dead wrong.  

Last summer, my school got punished by the state of Michigan for having too large of a gap in test scores between our highest-achieving students and our lowest-achieving students.  It didn’t matter that our lowest students were actually doing quite well, with the majority of them actually passing our state assessment (even with its newly-raised cut scores).  No, what mattered was that our highest-achieving students basically crushed the state assessment, with many of them getting all or virtually all of the questions right.  That created a performance gap between our highest and lowest-performing students, and the state attacked us for it.

Just to make sure this is completely clear: We were punished by the state of Michigan because our top-scoring students did too well.

That’s absolutely asinine.  To make matters worse, we weren’t alone: 10% of schools around the state received this same treatment.  Thankfully, in my school, we had administrators who were wise enough to understand that this was insanity, and that we weren’t going to sabotage our higher students in an absurd attempt to “close the gap.”

But I fear for the hundreds of other schools out there that received the same treatment.  Based on what the State of Michigan did to them, it would be in their best interests to sabotage their best students — to make sure they don’t get ahead of the other students in their learning, or even to ask them to get questions wrong on purpose on their state tests — in the name of “closing the gap.”

That’s the true evil here.  We are rewarding schools who produce data showing that all of their students are about the same.  What will that mean for the future of G/T education?  When we throw everything we’ve got into making sure that No Child is Left Behind, aren’t we also really saying that no child can race ahead?  After all, if one student races ahead of the pack, aren’t the rest now behind?

What does it mean for our future when we no longer cultivate (or even tolerate) genius?  What does it mean for the future of education when schools are punished for students being “too smart?”

From now on, whenever you hear the term “closing the gap,” your BS radar should go off.  Don’t accept that as a worthwhile premise or goal.  Advocate instead for ALL students to be taught in a way that allows them to learn as much as they possibly can, the “gap” between them be damned.

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96 thoughts on “The Anti-Gifted Sentiment Behind “Closing the Gap”

  1. Interesting perspective. Since you are a teacher, who is actually teaching in a classroom, your opinion of education reform is very enlightening. I’m curious what you think about the common core, and it’s effect on students.

  2. I understand and appreciate the notion of ‘academic triage’; however, your overall argument is weak and out of touch with reality — real issues. You should delete this post, do your ‘homework’ and start anew… This is a very insensitive and troubling entry…. shame on you for ignoring and trivializing decades of research!

    • Donna, I find your comment troubling. Why is this insensitive? What do you know of gifted children? Are you aware that gifted children are at-risk children? How is this post trivializing anything?

      From my perspective, I see NCLB as ham-fisted at best, and trivializes all learners. Can you explain your rationale, please?

      • Candace, let me see. You’ve ‘stumped’ me….Since you don’t recognize my name, you can’t know much about gifted education. What do I know about gifted children? Well, I am probably among the top 20 scholars in the entire field of gifted; and am certainly in the top 5 if you add race. I have written 8 or 9 books on gifted students; over 150 publications, and made 1000s of presentations. Now what is your real question?

      • Candace — and I’ve provided my rationale in several posts, along with Dr. Bianco (another scholar in gifted) and Mr. Amos (concerned about Black males unnecessarily poor achievement). Are you not concerned when it comes to race? Are only concerned about ‘gifted’ students rather than ‘gifted Hispanic” and “gifted Black”, etc., students? How well are they doing in your district? What is your district? Now tell me about your qualifications in gifted education, achievement gap, cultural diversity/multicultural education? what work are you doing on equity?

      • @Candace: thanks for chiming in! I agree 100% that gifted children are (often) at-risk children. Even for gifted children not at risk of failing or dropping out, they are CERTAINLY at risk of not being challenged to fully meet their potential.

        @Donna: ideas should be allowed to stand on their own merit without appeals to a person’s credentials.

      • mpullen, I was asked what I know about gifted ….and I answered. before being asked, I shared no credentials. Get the facts straight. Now with this said, I DO want to know who I am communicating with. Context matters to me!

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  4. @Bethany — at the elementary level, the common core standards are fine; the math ones in particular are an improvement over what we’ve got now. The high-stakes implementation of those standards is what frightens me.

    @Donna — if “closing the gap” meant making sure all students met a certain benchmark of achievement, it’d be fine, but at least here in Michigan, “closing the gap” is being used to mean “all students should be the same.” I’d love to hear more about what you mean by the real issues, research, academic triage, etc.

    • not good to paint broad strokes…even with your post about common core being good at elementary level — for whom? gifted? Black? White? gifted Black? Gifted White? poor kids? gifted poor kids? Be specific. As for closing the gap — most research indicates that access to gifted and AP for Black students helps to close the achievement gap that you discount. And what are the demographics of kids you are working with? GIVE more context before you give such blanket assertions!

      • I’m not sure we’re debating the same thing here. I’m thrilled if expanded access to gifted/AP classes improves the academic performance of any racial/gender-based/socioeconomic subgroup. I’m just saying that what we should be thrilled about is improving those students’ academic performance, period. That should be the goal, as opposed to having a goal of trying to hold back our most gifted students so that they don’t perform any better on state tests than everyone else.

      • I have been a proponent and writer/educator in gifted education for 20+ years. and wish to hold no gifted child back for the sake other others. Most of my work is in gifted Black students, with attention to achievement gap. Just asking that you NOT simplify this complex issue.

    • Real issues: achievement gap is real; racism keeps Black, Hispanic, and poor kids out of gifted education; teachers rarely have training in gifted education; even fewer have training in multicultural education; tests are biased, teachers are biased, and on and on and on. achievement gap = opportunity gap+expectation gap+teacher quality gap+so much more.

    • Bethany — I would like to read the documents that say ‘all students should be the same.’ Please share.

  5. Respectfully put, the assertions you make in the guise of …punishing students for being too smart, is “asinine”. As is being pointed out, those who are ‘too smart’ are overwhelmingly white; they are making it just fine. Your energy (and too many teachers like you) is expended on defending those who need no defending, rather than expending energy too those most left out. It has been by design in our past, our history; it’s attempt to be more suffisticated has failed, for we know the truth and so do you. We are more valuable incarcerated than empowered with knowledge. Check the cost spent on incarcerating black men, brown men, poor men vs educating them. You can’t justufy this with a pure heart…can you?

    • @stan — thanks for your comment! I respectfully disagree that our gifted students will be “fine” even if we don’t do anything to support them. In fact, I think our top 1% of students deserve IEPs much like our lowest-performing 1% get! Gifted students have unacceptably high dropout rates, often have behavioral issues, and often become disenchanted with school as it fails to meet their unique needs.

      This post is in no way trying to justify, address, or defend rates of incarceration of various races or anything like that.

      • top 1%? this is really elitist. do you mean prodigies…. most gifted students are NOT in the top 1%… and you ought to know that. Do not misinform readers with this narrow %. Back to my point and that of Amos, who are you really speaking about and for? How many of this 1% are non-White (due to racist measures and mindsets that fail to see and serve gifted Black and Hispanic students)?

    • I appreciate Amos’ comments. Those colorblind assertions are quite insensitive — think about the implications for all students before posting is a word to the ‘wise’… thanks for your input.

    • My daughter is in a public school, self-contained gifted and accelerate program for 6 years and she is the minority – white – and most kids in our district are hispanic, then black. So gifted kids are not all white. In fact the top achieving student just graduated from 8th grade and she is hispanic, most of the higest GPA kids are hispanic. She wil be going on to an honors class, it will be hard for her to get a scholarship in our community because she is white. THe real facts in this school district are that the hispanic kids who get straight A’s in the honors classes will have a chance to get more full ride scholarships here. So if all white kids are gifted, this proves that your overwhelmingly white theory wrong.

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  7. mpullen: First, race matters – and your posts seems to have ignored that. I would love to see the demographic data between the two groups you referenced (highest and lowest achieving).
    Also, your comments regarding gifted students are inaccurate and insensitive – as Professor Ford pointed out.
    I would also like to add that your comment, “1% of students deserve IEPs much like our lowest-performing 1% get!” would lead one to believe that students who qualify for special education services (i.e. have IEPs) can’t also be gifted. Are you assuming that students who receive special education services are all at the lowest 1%?

    Lastly – I visited both your business websites and wonder if having a blog site is a way to promote your businesses? If this is your intention then please get your facts straight first – and be cautious about the language you use. I am curious about your own education and training and wonder about your background in gifted education. If you have graduate training in this area I think you’d have a better understanding of some of the arguments being put forward -and WHO you are arguing with.

    • @Margarita: Thanks for your comment! The demographics between the top-scoring and bottom-scoring students in my school are basically identical.

      Your comment about the lowest-performing 1% is a good clarification: sometimes students are in special education for reasons other than low performance (POHI, ODD, etc.). I still think that our very lowest achievers and our very highest achievers are both subgroups we should be very concerned about, as the one-size-fits-all mentality won’t work for either of those populations.

      This is my professional blog. I do own themathfacts.com and used to co-own onlinemathleague.com, but this blog’s primary purpose is not to promote those sites.

      It seems like both you and Donna have interpreted my post to mean something more than what was meant: my post is about us supporting gifted education and not trying to make all students be the same.

      • pmullen: Be clear — you totally discounted and used a slight of hand to trivialize the achievement gap! and since that is MOST often about race, then you slapped Black and Hispanic kids in the face. Bottom line, your post was colorblind and insensitive and misleading. The achievement gap is real and under-representation of Hispanic and Black kids feeds into this gap. Don’t use the play on words to make your point. Your analogy was neither effective nor proactive. You are miseducating your followers. Frankly, since you know about math, then really use it.

    • Dr. Bianco, your comments speak loud to me. I appreciate what you have posted and your advocacy for gifted students who are tragically discounted and/or ignored in such thoughtless, insensitive posts. Much respect for your work!

  8. @mpullen
    1. Although you say the demographics are basically identical – is there a link to these data? Unless you are talking about a VERY homogeneous population in your district (e.g. ALL white and middle class), I bet there are REAL differences.
    2. The topic of students who receive special education services – and your comment about the lowest 1% is problematic on so many levels – and AGAIN RACE MATTERS. Look at the demographic data for your district and see which students are receiving special education – examine these data by race (do the same for gifted too).

    A quick google search and I found that you have been teaching for 13 years – with an interest in technology and math. What I could not find was reference to your training beyond a BA – and no grad work in teaching or gifted education. If you are going to write about these topics, then please be well informed. You (and your students – and readers) would be better served with a greater knowledge and sensitivity to the topics you write about.

    • @Margarita — yes, it’s a very homogenous population. I truly thank you for taking the time to post these comments here. It’s been interesting for me to hear how you and Donna think of “closing the gap” in exclusively racial terms. Here in MI, it’s the top 30% (as measured on The Test) compared with the bottom 30% (on The Test), and if your gap is too large, your school is flagged. There aren’t any racial (or gender, or socio-economic) connotations to “closing the gap” with the population I serve.

      @Donna — with your 20+ years of work serving the gifted, it sounds like we’re on the same team here. Keep up the good work.

  9. @Donna: we have no G/T program. Our gifted students of all races are underserved equally. Worse, their very existence is punished by the state. Hence my original post.

  10. so, you have no GT program but are blogging about the demise of your highest performing students (AKA gifted). Now I am really confused about your lament in your school district… how are the Black and Hispanic students achieving in East Grand Rapids? Are they performing at the same level as White students of same income status? Should there be no achievement gap found, does that mean the national and statewide ach gap can be discounted as you have done?

  11. Our black and Hispanic students perform fine; the state didn’t flag our school for that reason. We were flagged because our top-scoring 30% of students were too far above our lowest-scoring 30%. We have this gap because our top 30% performed very, very well on the state tests, even though our bottom 30% did not really do that badly.

    As I mentioned in the original post, my concern is that a school that was acting in its own self-interest would need to find a way to get those top 30% of students to do worse on next year’s tests! (Yes, we could also try to raise our bottom 30%’s scores even higher, but we are already one of the top-scoring schools in the state, so expecting every kid to absolutely ace the state tests is a tough task.) My school administration was great about this; my concern is more for other districts, who might decide the best way to not be a “focus school” anymore is to make sure their top students do worse next year.

    Any red flag that can be fixed by having your top-scoring students do WORSE is flawed in my opinion. I’m concerned that the state of MI is setting up a situation where schools will need to underserve G/T students to avoid being flagged, something I find intolerable.

    I hope that all makes sense. I really get the sense we are just coming at this from different angles and experiences.

    • Pullen — do share the documents that contain these data, including the data by race, per your first sentence about they are doing fine: ‘Our black and Hispanic students perform fine; the state didn’t flag our school for that reason. We were flagged because our top-scoring 30% of students were too far above our lowest-scoring 30%. We have this gap because our top 30% performed very, very well on the state tests, even though our bottom 30% did not really do that badly.”

      • Our data is not disaggregated by race because we have (usually far) fewer than 10 students in any racial subgroup at each grade level (other than white), which is the cutoff for the state to disaggregate data in that manner.

      • Pullen — so if the data are not disaggregated, where are you getting the data that the 120 Black and 40 Hispanic students are doing just fine?

      • Those totals are for the whole district; my school’s number of black and hispanic students who are in MEAP testing grades is perhaps 10 students, total.

        I get to see each student’s individual results as we do data analysis and set school improvement goals, but no, I’m not posting Johnny and Susie’s scores here.

      • mpullen — Now, now, now. How about posting those for Malik and Juliana? you can’t just put out the statement of ‘doing find’ without evidence. BECAUSE YOU SAY SO DOES NOT MAKE IT SO!!!! I am signing off — you have NO foundation for most of your posts. this has been a waste of my time.

      • I appreciate your time spent debating all of this. Sorry that I can’t publish individual students’ scores, and that you don’t trust my word re: them. Regardless, here’s to both of us continuing to strive for Scenario C! (For people who come later to read this thread, that’s from later in the comments.)

      • I am sure it would unethical if not illegal to post individual names. We asked for group data to substantiate your assertions. Best to you and ALL of your students (gifted, special needs, low performing, average performing, high performing, poor, rich, White, Black, Hispanic, etc.). ALL 3000+ students! 100% proficient…or performing higher than ‘proficient’.

  12. Your district apparently does not (publicly) disaggregate MEAP data by race – however, as I’m sure you are aware, Michigan has many problems with racial disparities and inequities = achievement / opportunity gap
    “The percentage point gap between African-American (17%) and white (47%) students in Michigan public schools who were proficient in the MEAP’s math test last year was 30″. http://www.freep.com/article/20130518/OPINION01/305180063/In-Michigan-stagnant-achievement-gap

    • and I see that Grand Rapids (your neighbor) was 40% Black and 31% Hispanic… segregation is real in your geographic area

    • @margarita: OK, my original post was not meant to be about race, but since you continue to bring it up, please allow me to use that MEAP data you cited to ask you a question. Imagine that you can choose one of the two scenarios below. In either scenario, the test itself and the cut score that must be attained to be labeled proficient is unchanged:

      (Scenario A) Next year, through a heroic set of interventions, the gap is completely closed. 47% of both white and black students are found to be proficient on the MEAP’s math test.

      (Scenario B) Next year, through a heroic improvement to MI schools in general, performance for both white and black students soar. The gap, however, remains unchanged. Now 90% of white students are proficient on the MEAP math test, whereas just 60% of black students are proficient on that test.

      Which scenario would you choose if you had to pick one of them?

      (I think a person’s answer to that question provides an answer to which is more important to them: closing the racial gap, or improving education for all as much as possible. I would argue that scenario B is far better than scenario A, as both groups are performing more highly in that scenario. Would you agree?)

      • Of the two, I choose scenario A — so muster up that heroic effort. Scenario C — all children proficient from a racial groups. Is that not every school’s motto – all students proficient, not 47% of children!

  13. @Donna — thank you for answering the question so directly. The fact that you would choose scenario A over scenario B disturbs me, to be honest, as you are willingly choosing for both races to perform worse. That’s wild to me.

    I agree with your scenario C, however, and hope that we can find common ground in trying to make that happen.

  14. I choose Scenario D: The state & district engage in serious professional development for all teachers and focuses on culturally responsive practices, understanding white privilege and color-blind ideology – The district also learns how to desegregate schools and communities, hires black and brown teachers- and raises test scores for all children. That’s my choice.

    • Dr. Bianco — thumbs up!!

    • Dr. Ford and Dr. Bianco, I would be very interested in your feedback on a post I wrote about minority, low-income, and twice-exceptional gifted learners at http://rochestersage.org/2012/02/10/the-soft-bigotry-of-low-expectations/

      As the founder of my district’s gifted student advocacy group, I’ve been working with the leader of our African American Parent Network to close the “achievement gap at the top”. Our state does not mandate identification of gifted students, so our district does not have any formal identification and provides no gifted services other than differentiation. However, she and I both recognize that there exist inequality issues that prevent some students from receiving the differentiation they need. As our district examines providing Tier 2 & 3 supports for high ability students, could you recommend some strategies or assessments to help make sure that no gifted learner is overlooked due to race, income level, or learning disability?

      • Dear Mr. Raymond,
        Thanks for your advocacy for gifted learners and your post. I read your post – and for the most part, I think it is accurate. My big concern however is the way in which parents who live in poverty have been portrayed – You write, “Parents may not have finished high school or learned to value education and not have the impetus or knowledge to cover basics that most of our kindergartners come in knowing.”
        This comment is off base and unfairly portrays parents who live in poor communities as uneducated, without basic skills, and don’t care about their child’s education. This is completely inaccurate. Most parents, regardless of economic status, care very much about their child’s education. Further, just because someone is poor does NOT mean they are uneducated. There are many very educated black and brown families who live in poverty because they are unemployed or underemployed.
        Regarding multi-tiered interventions for gifted learners – In recent years this has been examined for GT and for twice exceptional. Much less has been written about culturally responsive RTI for culturally and linguistically diverse learners. In fact, Dr. Ford has the only book chapter that I know of that addresses this –and I have one article in Theory into Practice that addresses this topic.
        Below please find a few things I’ve written on the topic –
        I’ve also included an article on gender bias since you mentioned that in your post too.
        As you know, Dr. Ford has written extensively on multicultural gifted education. See her website for a list of her books
        http://www.drdonnayford.com

        Crepeau-Hobson, F., & Bianco, M. Response to intervention: Promises and pitfalls for gifted students with learning disabilities. Intervention in School and Clinic, 48(3), 142-151. DOI:10.1177/1053451212454005

        Crepeau-Hobson, F., & Bianco, M. (2010). Identification of gifted students with learning disabilities in a response to intervention era. Psychology in the Schools. 48(2),102-109.

        Bianco, M. (2010). Strength-based RTI: Conceptualizing a multi-tiered system for developing gifted potential. Theory Into Practice, 49(4):323–330.

        Bianco, M., & Leech, N. (2010). Twice-exceptional learners: Effects of teacher preparation and disability labels on gifted referrals. Teacher Education and Special Education 33(4), 319-334

        Bianco, M., Harris, Bryn, Garrison-Wade, D., & Leech, N. (2011). Gifted girls: Gender bias in gifted referrals. Roeper Review, 33 (1) 170.

      • Dr. Bianco, thank you for your critique and the suggested literature.

        U.S. Census Bureau stats and other sources have shown that high school dropouts have significantly lower average pay and higher rates of unemployment and illiteracy. Because someone is poor does not mean they are uneducated, but a strong enough correlation exists to justify a ‘may’ statement.

        Is there strong enough correlation to say that impoverished parents are more likely to not value education to the same degree? While Compton-Lilly in 2003 said that low-income parents have the same attitudes about education that wealthier parents do, Hoover-Dempsey & Sandler pointed out in “Review of Educational Research”, 1997, that low-income parents often feel it is the school’s responsibility to do the teaching, while middle class parents feel that they should collaborate with school efforts. Clearly there are differences in attitudes that correlate to income level.

        I also question whether, on average, a high school dropout and a highly degreed individual can be said to value education equally. While both may consider it ‘extremely important’ when responding to a survey, are those values equivalent and are they perceived as equivalent by their children currently enrolled in school?

        I do relish this opportunity to learn from you and others on here as this is not my area of expertise. I am much more comfortable in the realm of gifted education and in crunching vast amounts of data to extract useful information.

        I do apologize to Mr. Pullen for any hijacking of his blog I may have contributed to. I you prefer I move this conversation elsewhere, I will endeavor to do so.

      • Mr. Raymond and Dr. Bianco – let’s move the conversation to http://donnayford.wordpress.com/ (may also be called race4ourlives.com); this is a new blog and I am still working out the logistics. Please go there to cut/paste your comments. Also, I did respond about assessment and will do so again. Thanks in advance. dyf

      • @Raymond: Dear Mr. Raymond, thank you for the various emails, I am in workshops all day this week, but wanted to begin a set of suggestions along assessment lines; I see that Dr. Bianco has just responded with resources for C&I. I may come back to that later tonight.

        This weekend my newest book came out — it contains the most effective/equitable tests, checklists, along with promising procedures (screening and identification cutscores, matrices, content, time of testing, grade wide screening, etc.). There are also vignettes and case studies (incl. recent court case in GT where I served as the expert witness on behalf of Hispanic and Black students).

        Recommended measures: My #1 intelligence test is the Naglieri Non-verbal Ability Test; have some reservations about CogAT (look at 3 subscales INDIVIDUALLY). Again, policies and procedures matter, so you can have a valid and reliable test/instrument that is rendered ineffective.

        Also, I do not support teacher referral as the FIRST step to screening and identification… EVERY study has shown that teachers under-referral Black students, and half of the studies show under-referral for Hispanic students. Equally problematic are checklists completed by teachers.

        The book is “Recruiting and Retaining Culturally Different Students in Gifted Education.” Again, this email is by no means doing justice to what needs to happen. Hope it is helpful. I’d be happy to set up a time to talk with you.

  15. Wow, race is so divisive here when it had nothing to do with the original post. How about we all just work on making sure that everyone is learning and being challenged. It really is not all about race, it is about teaching students, no matter what their color or background. I have gifted students of color and Hispanic students who have more advantages than some of my white students. I try to help my students achieve not matter what their background. Dr. Ford, I hope I never have to listen to your divisiveness and hateful speech in professional development or anywhere else.

    • No pain no gain. and the truth hurts. get some help.

    • @Leah — thanks for chiming in! I appreciate your thoughts and feel a bit saner knowing that not everyone felt the original post was racially-tinged.

      • MPullen — you have yet to provide any proof for your points, which have been rendered pointless. Bianco and I have asked you for evidence other than YOUR opinion. Still waiting.

      • To some people everything is about race and racism. It is sad and seems hateful. Thanks for your post.

    • Leah — and if your colleagues are colorblind and in denial like you, then you will be fortunate to not have me visit your school. Now if the Office for Civil Rights has a problem with your school, sorry, you are likely to have to put up with me. It will be my pleasure to help you…. at any rate, get help for yourself. will be good for those students of ‘color’ who you don’t see because race does not matter. Right. Race is divisive you say? how would you know since race does not matter to you…what foolishness.

  16. Leah -take the medicine Dr. Bianco prescribed for people like you. wish there was a pill for racism. I’d give it to you

    • I think you’d need to take that pill, too. The most racist person in this conversation so far has been you. You have an obvious agenda…the advancement of non-white students…and “only” non-white students. You have made it clear that you would be willing to throw my daughter and her education under the bus in order to advance that of “Malik and Juliana”. That is racist…the original blog post was not. You are the one that is assuming that the black and hispanic students are not in the top 30%…the author never made any such claim. And that assumption is racist.

      You state the need for access to gifted programs for black and Hispanic children. The author said her school has no gifted program at all. Do you believe that they should start one and deny access to white children in order to allow “Malik and Juliana” to “close the gap”? Why? How is that fair? It’s not…but it IS racist. Saying a child doesn’t need special treatment because they are white discounts every aspect of that child but their skin color. That is racist. Saying a child needs special treatment because they are NOT white is equally racist. Again…children’s needs are affected by more than just their skin color. Reducing every issue down to the single factor of race and then trying to advance the needs of one race at the expense of another is racist!

      And what is wrong with being colorblind? Isn’t that what we should be aspiring to? I’ve raised my daughter to view a person’s skin color as the equivalent of hair or eye color. The only thing it affects is how you look. The idea of treating someone differently because they are not “peach” skinned (as she calls it) would never even enter her mind. That is how we will end prejudice…by teaching our children that all people are equal. But you have to do the same or it won’t work.

      The author’s assertion was that high performing students (of any color…as she made no distinction) should not be held back in order to allow the other students (who are not failing, merely not excelling) to catch up. As an “expert” in gifted education, this should be your goal as well. Instead, you have advocated that if those high performing students are white (and made the assumption that they are) then they should most certainly be held back in order to allow the black and Hispanic students (who you assume must be in the bottom group) to catch up. You have been aggressive, hateful, arrogant, and have made a wide variety of racist statements and assumptions regarding both white and non-white children and teachers. You have twisted and deliberately misinterpreted the statements of the author in a manner that would make even the vilest of Fox News hosts look downright open-minded. Your approach does more to hurt your cause than any white supremacist could ever hope to do because you alienate those who would otherwise be sympathetic to your concerns…for example, me. Perhaps you should be the one to delete your posts and start over.

      • @C. James — thanks for taking the time to comment! I think you’ve encapsulated what many of us feel when reading Donna’s posts. It’s a shame, too, because I think she has a lot of expertise that could be used persuasively to spur positive change, but that’s not the way she chose to dialogue here.

        I can’t help but add that I am profoundly colorblind (literally) as well. For some reason that added a bit of extra irony to her posts in my eyes. She was so sure my post was about skin color… and I can’t even physically distinguish most colors.

  17. @Donna — I can sense your passion here, and in checking out your website it appears that identifying gifted students of color has been a mission of yours throughout your career. Please understand that your tone in these last few messages, however, is truly coming across at hateful. Let’s all keep it civil here.

    • let me be clear. I hate racism and I hate colorblindness. Is that hateful enough?

    • Mpullen — let me share a secret. when people like what you say, they are passionate… when they dislike what you say, they are angry, hateful. I AM angry that racism exists, I am angry that racism is denied, I am passionate about playing a role in eliminating it – especially in schools. I hope you are too.

      • @Donna — Thanks again for your many comments in this thread. Rather than continue our banter, I’m going to disengage for now, as I’m curious to see what happens with this post and comment thread as other readers find it in the coming days. I’m curious to see if other folks have the same concerns with it that you and Margarita have had, or if they see it more innocuously as Leah did. Either way, it’s certainly been interesting.

  18. You seem bitter, Dr. Ford, and that impression speaks much louder than your statistics, educational background, or even the racism you accuse others of espousing. The way in which you’ve responded to this blog post and the other folks who’ve commented is bullying and intimidating even though the author has been gracious, explained himself, and sought common ground with you. I suppose you completely understand the author’s background as well as the backgrounds of everyone who commented since you seem to think that they should understand you and your perspective so well. As for my point of view (since that seems so important to you), I simply parent two gifted children. I am not a school teacher. I grew up in a very rural area that had basically zero racial diversity (but tons of economic diversity, especially on the lower end of the scale). I am privileged and white–privileged to have parents who stayed together to parent me, privileged to grow up with enough money that I didn’t have to worry but not enough money to take it for granted. Privileged to have community members that supported good education even if they did not have higher degrees themselves. If you want people like me to understand people like you and those you advocate for, being nice is the first step, and not accusing everyone different from you of being racist is the second.

    • @Smith: Thanks for stopping by and chiming in! As the parent of two gifted children, do you have any experiences to share in terms of how their educational needs have/have not been met over the years?

      • Mine are still young, and we elected early on to try something other than public school, so I am not sure my feedback is terribly valuable to you. My older child (2e) liked school and performed very well, but he came home exhausted from the effort of putting one foot in front of the other all day. His small, private school used an accelerated curriculum for all students, hence lots of repetition and review that exhausted him while not addressing his giftedness or learning quirks at all. Differentiation is not SOP at his old school. We homeschooled this year for the first time, and midway through the year, we pulled in my younger son, who has a mid-year b-day that kept him out of K this year. I discovered your blog via a posting on the Gifted Homeschooler’s Forum FB page.

      • @Smith: Your feedback is still very interesting. I’m glad you recognized the need to try something different with your children, and I just wish we could find a way to meet the needs of children like yours as a matter of course in our public (and private) education system.

      • Smith, right. we all have to help ALL of OUR children. Everyone wins. When all children have access to rigorous education and caring, culturally responsive teachers, there are no losers. And getting upset, angry, bitter, and associated emotions, about injustices is a healthy reaction. Being happy or complacent about injustices is not logical to me. And it never ceases to amaze how speaking up for one’s rights and justice is often ‘why are you so angry/bitter”? I ask why are you not angry (not you personally)? At least you were honest enuf to voice your privileges; for what it is worth, I respect that. It gives me hope (still angry though… lol).

    • Smith, people like you will never understand people like me. Just stop suppressing and oppressing people like me. Stop giving people like me something to be engaged, angered, and bitter about. Like many, the bullied now becomes the bully. This is classic. I don’t and won’t play your game. You cannot pat people like me on the head and tell or expect people like me to be happy (or and civil). People like you need to help yourself! You are the one with the problem. And I pray that your children don’t end up to be people like you.

      • I never told you to be happy about the state of race relations or education in this country. I don’t know anyone with your background or experience. I put all my cards on the table by admitting that I do not share your experience, and you used that information to judge my motives. I judged your tone, and I stated that it’s doing you no favors.

      • Smith, if I am not angry what else should I be? happy? name the emotion that would make you feel better. And anger does change things and people. since you don’t know how it feels to be such a victim, then clearly you don’t? won’t? refuse to? understand my anger. Empathy goes a long way… but that takes caring. And I not asking for favors. asking for what is right.

        And any ‘ism’ is worth being angry about.

        So let’s play a game here. One that may make you more comfy. Replace racism with sexism. Have you ever faced sexism? if so, did you enjoy being demeaned as a female? were you happy? angry? bitter? are you happy that sexism still exists in employment, etc. etc.? are you going to be happy if your son is sexist or daughter faces sexism?

        Is sexism worth getting upset over? this ‘bully’ is curious.

      • @Dr. Ford: “Smith, right. we all have to help ALL of OUR children. Everyone wins. When all children have access to rigorous education and caring, culturally responsive teachers, there are no losers. And getting upset, angry, bitter, and associated emotions, about injustices is a healthy reaction. Being happy or complacent about injustices is not logical to me. And it never ceases to amaze how speaking up for one’s rights and justice is often ‘why are you so angry/bitter”? I ask why are you not angry (not you personally)? At least you were honest enuf to voice your privileges; for what it is worth, I respect that. It gives me hope (still angry though… lol).”

        Thank you for this reply. I believe you have reasons to be angry at the situations you see. I think your heart for helping others is apparent in this response, not that you need strokes from me–I just want you to know that I really do try to understand others but lack virtually any crucial common experience or firsthand understanding about what you see and experience.

        @mpullen: education is very difficult. I lack the creativity/energy to work on the scale of a classroom (I can multi-task things but definitely not people!), hence I quit my education major one quarter prior to finishing that degree (I went on to a degree in another field). My SIL works in an inner-city school on the west coast and does amazing things there, largely through cooperation on many levels and great deal of passion. Each school and area of the country has differing needs. Best wishes to you in your teaching.

      • Yes, each school has differing needs, but one need is universal — the need for equitable treatment and access to high quality education. That’s not asking for much; a very reasonable request. Best to you and yours.

      • “Smith, if I am not angry what else should I be? happy? name the emotion that would make you feel better. And anger does change things and people. since you don’t know how it feels to be such a victim, then clearly you don’t? won’t? refuse to? understand my anger. Empathy goes a long way… but that takes caring. And I not asking for favors. asking for what is right. ”

        I am not trying to make myself feel better. I get angry all the time about things that are not right (injustices do exist in my realm of experience as well). I do my best to vent that anger before talking or sending a message. I have always had better results changing a situation if I can put “angry” in a box while I am speaking. Feeling angry and speaking/writing in anger are not the same, though I am guilty of speaking in anger at times (and usually have a harder job ahead of me afterwards).

        This isn’t meant as an argumentative statement, but making me uncomfortable is not effective as ____. I’m struggling for appropriate words to fill in this blank, but I am uncomfortable a lot of the time; I’d rather be equipped and capable of effecting change. I will readily admit I am neither, and that doesn’t make me a nasty person. It means I have a totally different life experience. One that I hope eventually leads to me serving others in whatever way I am equipped to serve.

      • Smith; the adage kill more bees honey comes to mind. that is one strategy, and an effective one. But not effective for every situation and person. There are others as well. So, I hear you. Maybe one day we will chat by cell. At any rate, take care.

  19. I love how you people with degrees like to sling your words and data around without getting anything real done, one reason why we have so many problems in the education system, especially among administrators, is that people with crap loads of “knowledge” but no real world sense of what’s going, instead having to prove their theories and smarts but forgettiing about the kids.

    • CCRider: it is clear you have no degrees… you make no sense. you should consider removing that post…ignorance is not bliss.

    • CCRider: all teachers have degrees, you mean them too? All doctors have degrees, pilots, nurses, architects… have degrees? you mean them too? What about any one in your family? you including them in this sweeping statement? Now, I am going to laugh myself to sleep. Pleasant dreams.

    • CCRIder: You have NO idea what you are talking about – or to whom you are speaking – and referring to. If you did, you would recognize the pure ignorance of your statement.

      • CCRider clearly failed to do her homework… Dr. Bianco is one of THE leading authorities/scholars on gifted HISPANIC students. Read her work — and learn from it. Also read about White privilege, prejudice (Allport, Merton, Dovidio), microaggressions (Sue), Office for Civil Rights on-going lawsuits about discrimination in schools and gifted programs, Civil Rights Title VI (1964), Brown v Board of Education (1954). And visit the FBI hate crimes website.

  20. Perhaps being in Michigan like Mr. Pullen and being in a high-performing district like Mr. Pullen, I understand exactly where he is coming from. The achievement gaps examined by the Michigan Department of Education were not based on any characteristic such as race, gender, income, etc. It was simply a measurement of the top 30% vs. the bottom 30%. A school that is doing great in closing achievement gaps between races and income levels could still be a Focus School, whereas a school that has not been as successful may not be.

    In my district, we have 13 elementary schools and they are run very differently depending on the principal. The first one we were at placed all the focus on struggling students. The learning consultant did not have time for gifted students. There was no cross-classroom ability grouping, partial acceleration, curriculum compacting, or other strategy to meet the needs of gifted students. Gifted students were ignored to put resources towards struggling students. This school had lower average MEAP scores, but was not a Focus School because they pushed the bottom end up while holding the top end down.

    We switched schools because our children were frustrated and not learning new material. The new school focused on growth for ALL students. It certainly hasn’t been perfect, but they use strategies that can help all students and are willing to accelerate gifted learners. The top 30% does very well there and most of them read above grade level. The bottom 30% also does well and has needs met. However, because they have not held down the top 30%, there is a significant achievement gap as measured by the Michigan Department of Education. It is a Focus School even though it outscores every other elementary school in the district.

    That appears to be what is frustrating Mr. Pullen. Two schools with identical demographics can be categorized differently because of the focus of the teachers and administration. A school where every child is succeeding to his or her ability level can be a Focus School, whereas a school where gifted students are ignored can not be penalized.

    I do not dispute achievement gaps for minority and low-income students exist. They are troubling and need to be fixed. If the Michigan Department of Education had selected these achievement gaps, the Focus Schools designation would be more valid. However, it did not and it tagged many great schools that help every child succeed as needing improvement.

    • @Joshua — thanks for your comment, and sorry for my delay in responding! You nailed the issue precisely. Well said, and thanks for taking the time to comment here.

  21. I didn’t think I would join the fray here but I am still reeling from the blithe acceptance of inequity in mpullen’s Scenario A. Full disclosure: I am one of “those people” – mixed race/African American, degreed and defending my dissertation on gifted Latina/o students at the end of July, public school bilingual educator for over 30 years. Never had the opportunity to work in a school that did not receive Title I funding – or its various incarnations over the years. I now work in my district office in – you guessed it – Bilingual/ESL gifted.

    I am also the parent of three gifted students (and one probably dual-exceptional unidentified) who are hs school graduates. One is an engineer, one is a med student, one is in graduate school, and my 2e son is in college in West Texas. Sorry to disgorge my credentials but I wanted to be clear without holding anything back.

    In this country, race always matters. Or, if I may amend, race and money always matter. Look it up. Our glorious Declaration of Independence gave all men (white men with property) the right to set things up. They did a marvelous job of tilting the deck in their favor to the degree that it has lasted lo these 200+ years.

    (Oh, btw, I don’t hate White people – I’m married to one.)

    What I hate is racism and arguments that refuse to examine the disparate effects of race on nearly everything that happens in the US. I started out being curiously amused that no one was mentioning the gap between White Kids and Asian kids – but I realize now that was too glib.

    Simply put I cannot abide solutions that continue to stack the deck so that those who have always had privilege – even in the event gains are made for people of color – get to maintain that privilege. It’s bait and switch. It’s the poll tax again. Of course you can vote – if you can count the grains of rice in this jar. Of course you can attend the university – if you can meet this standard. That we’ve raised your performance but continue to set a standard only certain people will meet – oh, well.

    Scenario A is Plessy v, Ferguson – separate but equal. Scenario B is the even playing field detractors of affirmative action so often call for. What if things really were equal for all children?

    Please do not congratulate me on the success of my children. They are not exceptions. They have privilege, and I realize that. They also have obstacles. As an educator, I was able to advocate for them as many parents are not in public schools – yes, they attended public schools, and still are, even in college. We can’t afford private education on our salaries. But I taught them at home, too – again, something I had the privilege of doing given my job. I made sure they understood and learned the things about their culture and heritage, and the history of working people, that the public schools would not give them.

    I’ll close with this example, Have you ever heard of Benjamin Banneker? I was thrilled when a distant cousin discovered my children and I are direct descendants of his sister. Because my son learned about him, years ago, from me, he was also thrilled and figured his science aptitude went back that far (he’s the engineer). But most of you won’t understand the joke. The man who built the first clock in what would become the United States and was responsible for carrying out the plans to build our nation’s capital from a swamp is lost to mainstream history.

    And that’s the real problem with common core, with minimum standards, with standardized testing. It gives us standardized learning. It ensures that our children remain ignorant of anything but what a very few want them to know. Otherwise, wouldn’t they apply to the all schools – including the private schools the children most Members of Congress attend?

  22. People are claiming racism here. However, this goes against the facts of Mr. Pullen’s district, my district, and most districts in Michigan.

    Detroit is the most segregated city in the United States according to Business Insider – http://www.businessinsider.com/most-segregated-cities-census-maps-2013-4?op=1

    I am just relaying that as a fact. The rest of Michigan is not much different.

    There are very few schools in Michigan where over 30% are white and over 30% are minority. 58% of white students in Michigan are in 90-100% white public schools. 51% of black students in Michigan are in 90-100% minority public schools.

    This Focus School designation is not comparing whites against minorities at the vast majority of schools. For most, it is comparing whites against whites and minorities against minorities.

    Because of Michigan’s segregation problem, the achievement gap is best measured by comparing different schools often in different districts. This Focus Schools designation does not do that. The Reward Schools designation does a bit better as it selects the following:
    1) top 5% of schools on the Top-to-Bottom list
    2) top 5% of schools making the greatest gains in achievement (improvement metric) or
    3) “Beating the Odds.”

    “Beating the Odds” schools are ones that are exceeding what the demographic data would normally show. This would include a number of 90%+ minority schools that are closing the achievement gap.

    I do not believe there is any racism – intentional or not – in Mr. Pullen’s post. He excoriates an asinine designation forced on many Michigan schools by a state Department of Education that has consistently overlooked the needs of gifted students and is under considerable pressure from the federal government to place all resources helping struggling students even if it means the top 30% of students have resources removed from them.

  23. Good grief. I should just turn the keys of this blog over to you. Thank you for so eloquently explaining what I was trying to say.

  24. Dr. Ford, people will try to get you off course when you drive too close to the truth. Don’t waste your time entertaining rhetoric that doesn’t look to truthfully address the real issues of racism and closing the achievement gap “gulf”. Let foolish people reveal themselves and be ensnared by their own words. Stay your course!!!

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