Opinion | Should Gifted Students Be in Separate Classes?

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To the Editor:

Re “With His Term Ending, de Blasio Seeks Overhaul of Gifted Classes” (front page, Oct. 9):

Eliminating gifted-and-talented programs and asking teachers to meet the needs of students with a vast range of abilities in a single classroom makes as much sense as eliminating grade levels and asking teachers to meet the needs of students with a vast range of ages in a single classroom.

I was fortunate to grow up in Fairfax County, Virginia, where I attended a gifted-and-talented program in a public school system widely regarded as a national leader.

Equity concerns should be addressed by expanding enriched education opportunities — creating more gifted public schools, using multiple metrics to identify promising students with diverse talents rather than relying on a single exam, and locating magnet schools in minority neighborhoods — rather than denying them to public school students with the potential to benefit and excel.

Stephen A. Silver
San Francisco

To the Editor:

Gifted programs should be used only to accommodate children who are so far advanced in one or more subjects that they need smaller, focused specialized instruction because they can’t thrive in a general education classroom.

There is a broad spectrum of ability that can be accommodated in a general education classroom, especially with two teachers in the classrooms that have children with individualized education plans to meet their special needs. Heterogeneous classes need to be the norm, with only the fewest, most extreme exceptions.

Mixed ability classes improve educational outcomes across the board; slower learners have the examples of what it is possible to strive toward and how to get there, and faster learners synthesize skills by explaining how they did the work. More important, the children learn that everyone has something to bring to the table — not just the right answer, but imagination, ideas, social skills and various talents.

Heterogeneous classes enable children to collaborate with and develop respect for people with varying intelligence and ability.

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