To be sure, the Boston system is facing a sharp contrast in the racial makeup of the program as opposed to the district at large. The district is 80 percent Black and Hispanic but 70 percent of the programs are white and Asian. However, denying those gifted students this option does not advance educational or diversity policies. Greater diversity is possible but the focus should be on working to help minority children to excel despite what are often adverse conditions in the communities or at home.
Gifted programs and elite academic schools are designed to allow students to reach their full academic potential with other students performing at the highest level of math and other disciplines. It is often difficult for such students to reach that potential in conventional settings. Teachers have to keep their classes as a whole moving forward in subject areas. That often means that academically gifted children are held back by conventional curricula or lesson plans. Those students can actually underperform due to boredom or the lack of challenging material. Many simply leave the public school system. Moreover, students tend to perform better with students progressing at their similar level. Teachers can then focus on a lesson plan and discussions that are tailored to students at a similar performance level.
These concerns should be particularly acute in Boston which has seen 40 percent of its student population chronically absent from classes.
Eliminating such programs creates a false “equity” by lobbing off the top performing programs. That does not advance true diversity in my view. In fairness to educators like Cassellius, these programs do siphon off staff and money. However, a touchstone of a public school system is that children of different needs and backgrounds can excel. The minority of white and Asian students in the district reflects in part the exodus from public schools by such families due to mistrust in the commitment to such policies. Suspending these programs will only accelerate such departures in my view.
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