Challenging all students: What a radical idea!

For decades, college admissions officers have
sought to re-engineer the demographics of their campuses—an understandable
impulse with all manner of perverse consequences
. Not surprisingly, this
dubious idea has filtered down to the K-12 system, too. Districts, like the one
in Alexandria, VA, are revamping entrance requirements for their gifted-education
programs in an effort to boost minority enrollment. (In Alexandria, 34 percent
of the students are black and 31 percent are Hispanic—yet, in the city’s gifted
program, those percentages drop to 17 and 11, respectively.) Gadfly welcomes
efforts to improve outreach and strengthen kids’ preparation: Qualified and
capable students of color won’t enroll in gifted-education programs of which
they aren’t aware. But slackening the criteria for program entry is something
else entirely. As
with AP classes
, rigorous entrance requirements for gifted programs are
necessary if high-achieving students (whatever their race) are to get much out
of them. Simply put, our education system must work to the advantage of all its students—from those scoring in
the top decile to those in the bottom. Districts should try this “radical”
concept instead: Group students by academic prowess, and meet the needs of all
pupils. Let common sense prevail!

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