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Maryland District's Officials Seek to Drop Gifted and Talented Label

The superintendent of Baltimore County, Md., schools wants to set aside the "gifted and talented" label for students in favor of a more inclusive category, a move that has some parents worried, the Baltimore Sun reports.

Dallas Dance, the superintendent of the 111,000-student district (not to be confused with Baltimore City schools) wants to codify a category called "advanced academics," which would include gifted and talented students as well as students taking Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate courses.

From the Sun article:

Baltimore County selects its  [gifted] students in 3rd and 5th grades based on achievement and other, more subjective criteria, including personality, creativity, curiosity, and ability to concentrate. Roughly one-fifth of students qualify.

In the past, such students typically were given their own classes, in which teachers guided them through a curriculum developed specifically for them.

But last year, the county changed its approach. In the elementary grades, teachers now teach different levels of students in the same classroom. They break students into groups by ability, and then work their way around the classroom, instructing each of the groups according to its level. Educators say the small-group model allows them to move students in and out of groups more easily. ...

[Wade Kerns, the county's coordinator of advanced academics] said the term gifted and talented is too narrow to encompass the range of the district's offerings for bright students.

But advocates for the gifted and talented said the proposal may run afoul of state law. The National Association for Gifted Children, which maintains a national database on state policy, notes that Maryland is required both to identify and provide services for students who are gifted and talented. Baltimore County officials say its new policy will still follow those mandates. 

That doesn't comfort some. "When you don't name a population, identification issues arise," Julie Miller-Breetz, a parent of gifted and talented children, told the newspaper.

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