Speaking of the Short Bus
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By becky - Last updated: Tuesday, March 2, 2004 - Save & Share - 10 Comments

Gifted kids in Louisiana are lucky if their programs are still tied into the special education programs. In most places where that isn’t the case, gifted programs are being cut right and left.


Obviously, there are a wide variety of causes for this. But am I wrong in assuming that the majority of backporchers benefited from these gifted and talented programs? I, for one, was kicked out of STEP (the name in BISD at the time) twice. Both times because I was so bored with my regular work that I stopped doing it. When the teacher in this article says:

“People say, `These kids are smart. They’re going to make it anyway,’ ” Ms. Groves said. But experts say that gifted children can easily grow bored and alienated.
“These are the kids who are either going to turn out to be nuclear scientists or Unabombers,” “It all depends on which way they’re led.”

Shes not kidding! I cant imagine how much more painful school would have been for me had I never been exposed to the challenges of the STEP program.

Posted in Nerd • • Top Of Page

10 Responses to “Speaking of the Short Bus”

Comment from Jenna
Time March 3, 2004 at 11:45 am

God how I hate smart kids…

Comment from Jank
Time March 4, 2004 at 3:17 am

I’d been meaning to rant on this for a while, but my take is Boo-frickin’-hoo. And I absolutely loved my time at Magnet.

Let’s face it – the “gifted” programs are a way for upper and middle class parents to send their kids to private school without footing a dime of the bill. It’s “School Choice” or “Vouchers” but open to kids whose parents give a rat’s ass and have the time and inclination to lobby to get them into the program. Meanwhile, the kids who truly need help are locked into increasingly anarchic schools without hope of getting the discipline or attention that people in real jobs need.

By letting mostly affluent parents ensconse their children in “gifted” programs, the core problems facing our schools continue to grow – teachers who are paid based on tenure, not performance; lack of accountability on the part of the students; curriculums designed for the last learner in class instead of the first; etc. The parents who have had educational success and who could provide valuable services to local schools through the PTA/PTO/School Board are mollified because their kids are “special”. The very parents who have the most to offer to the discussion are removed to an ivory tower, away from the “riff raff”.

I also find it hard to believe that it’s only us gifted kids who can grow “bored and alienated.” Like much of what we wring our hands over, boredom and alienation seem to be essential parts of passing from childhood to adulthood. Hardly something limited to gifted kids.

Don’t get me wrong – as an individual, I greatly benefited from walking the hallowed halls, knowing that “what the heart can believe, the mind can achieve” or some such. I just question the value to the community, especially in the case of programs in smaller states. Take a look at our unscientific sample in this community: To a person, not a one of us has stayed in Caddo Parish to give back to the community. All CMHS did for us was to prepare us to leave town. Zero gain to the community for an above average number of dollars spent on our education. How is it in the interest of the community to spend dollars on “enrichment” programs when the recipients of those dollars blow town on the first chance?

As for claims of being “saved” by gifted programs – well, my guess is that most of us would have muddled through and ended up in the top part of our class wherever we went to school. A friend I met in college went to Cap’n Shreve with the realization that it’d be heaps easier to break the top 10% there than at Nerd Central.

IMO, the cost effective solution already presents itself – we test the snot out of kids already – why not let the gifted types skip grades/self study by hopping from class to class? Cyn, my guess is that much of the reason you were bored out of your skull is that lessons moved too slow for you. I had the same problem, and was usually finished with textbooks about halfway through the first semester. Imagine what else I could have learned if I could have taken the end-of-course exam at that point and went ahead to something else challenging. Or, instead of adding extra classes, let gifted kids head to college earlier? I’d leave the option open to kids/parents, but having testing-on-demand for smart kids could be a cost-effective way of making them un-bored.

In summary:
– Loved benefiting from CMHS’s GT program.
– Think it was a waste of Caddo Parish taxpayer’s money.
– Think it was a cheap way for my folks to send me to private school.
– Would use it for my own kid in a heartbeat.
– Would rather see the money spent on vouchers for low income families.

Comment from Jank
Time March 4, 2004 at 3:26 am

Three more items:

1. None of that “it’s for the children” BS.
2. I’m also not in the mood for any “If it helps just one kid, it’s worth it” BS – but if there’s a really pertinent example I’ll cotton it, but just because I’m in a charitable mood.
3. I’ve been thinking about this for a while – I’m constantly amazed how discussion on the porch mirrors my own trains of thought pretty closely.

And – call it 3.1 – The problem is essentially one of waiting it out on the part of the teacher’s unions: Parents have, max, like 6 years in any one given school to make a change throught the PTO. Of that, before a parent can make an educated stab at what’s ailing the school, a year or two of that is already down the drain. Junior high and high school give even less of a window to change curricula or get underperforming teachers dismissed. So many parents avoid the School Board/PTO with a vengence (Do y’all know who your school board reps are?)

Oh, and the next-to-last bullet should read “kids”, not “kid” – I keep forgetting there are two now.

Comment from doc
Time March 4, 2004 at 10:49 am

>How is it in the interest of the community to spend dollars on “enrichment” programs when the recipients of those dollars blow town on the first chance?

I had thought this very same thing until recently. Carrie’s 10 yr class reunion (CMHS) is this year. They started a wesite for the class to post what’s been happening for the last 10 years etc.

What is shocking is that of the 60 or so of her classmates who have responded, around 40-45 are back in Shreveport, many doing things in the community, including 7-8 working as teachers in the public school system.

Though we all have an aversion to Shreveport, or at least living there, I do not think getting ahead at CMHS or one of the other Magnet schools in the city gave us that aversion.

Personally Shreveport is a great town to visit, but it just doesn’t have the cultural, atheletic, climate I’m looking for.

I’d also like to point out that the magnet programs were historically done to get white kids into historically minority schools. I don’t know of any one on the porch who’s home school would have been located at 1611 Viking Dr.

Comment from KMc
Time March 4, 2004 at 12:34 pm

[raises hand]

Comment from etrigan
Time March 4, 2004 at 1:41 pm

From my class, CMHS recouped at least three people that I assume are excellent teachers (Brandon Laird, Tracey Widiger, and Jeremy Jinks) who cover a wide range of education. I would return to Shreveport, but I’d be there pretty much alone (from my closest friends) but there are quite a few quality Magnites still in town.

Doc’s got a good final point. Despite what we perceived as race problems at CMHS, I think we were light years ahead of other public schools in race relations and I think the city benefits from that, now.

It may be hyperbole — we’ll never _really_ know — but I know that an education at Northwood would have sent me in a completely different direction. And your assumption that G/T and Magnet is a class priviledge, when I started in the program our family was barely middle-class, if at all.

Is it Bill Hicks who talked about the fact that education should get the kind of money and attention we devote to defense? I won’t go that far, but I fully believe that even ‘wasted’ money that falls into the education system is money well-spent. We should worship teachers and pay them 2-3x what they make. Politicians (and the public to some extent) are too short-sighted to realize the ROI(Return on Investment) that a good education provides to society.

Comment from Anonymous
Time March 4, 2004 at 2:25 pm

> We should worship teachers and pay them 2-3x what they make

No arguments here – I’d be teaching in a heartbeat if it could keep my lovely wife in a style to which she’s become accustomed. My point was just that G/T programs suck down a disproportinate share of assets relative to the students served. And don’t forget – I was the only one who publicly admitted that Kucinich’s “Department of Peace” might actually be a worthwhile idea…

> What is shocking is that of the 60 or so of her classmates who have responded, around 40-45 are back in Shreveport

Don’t know that I’d call this shocking – my guess is that the people who are still in town are much more in tune with the school and the other alums, and likely to be early responders for this kind of stuff.

> And your assumption that G/T and Magnet is a class priviledge, when I started in the program our family was barely middle-class

As were we when I started, at least until Dad got Reagan’s military pay raise. There was good reason I was driving the Superwagon – that’s all we could afford. But two (three) white boys on the low end of the economic spectrum do not a conclusion make. As far as Doc’s point about Magnet being a neighborhood school – Ha. It was chosen because filling it with gifted kids would push its students into the other schools around, (Byrd and Shreve) solving forced integration problems. Riddle me this – how much time did you spend in the neighborhood that wasn’t either on campus or locked in a car or a bus? Hmm. (I do agree with you, though, that CMHS was light years ahead.)

>I do not think getting ahead at CMHS or one of the other Magnet schools in the city gave us that aversion.

You sure about that? From the time we entered the program, we’re told “You’re not like the rest of the kids in this burg. You’re special. You’re meant for bigger and better things.” We got no football, we got no baseball – our interaction with our peers was limited to kids we knew from elementary school (most of whom would distance themselves as soon as they found out someone was going to Magnet), and other Mustangs who were similarly motivated and disgruntled. Not that that’s a bad thing – my guess is that most of us would have taken one last, fond look at the ‘Pit in our rearviews regardless of where we were in High School. I don’t think that Magnet was the root – it could be as simple as percieved lack of opportunity in town, but that perception was hammered home every day by our teachers and our peers.

Again – don’t misunderstand – I AM better off, no doubt about it, than I would have been if I’d been at Northwood for six years. Rather than six years of being stuffed in lockers and picked on for being the geek, I at least had an environment where I could be a little, well, off, and still be embraced by many of my peers. I came out of CMHS with a lot more self esteem than I would have otherwise.

But, imagine the impact that there could have been on the entire parish by farming out 5-6 of CMHS’s above-average teachers and administrators to each of the other schools in the district. Rather than consolidating teaching talent in one place, it could have encouraged other teachers and taught effective techniques, having a smaller but broader effect on the entire community.

Think of the perception on the part of the teachers at Northwood, who see any kid with potential snatched away to some shining t-shack down bottoms. Teachers who KNOW that there is something sub-par with their students, since all the good ones get grabbed. THAT’s part of my beef with GT programs.

Hyman G. Rickover, the Father of the Nuclear Navy, was fond of saying “you get what you inspect, not what you expect”. IMO, he was missing the boat. My experience shows that people seldom live all the way up to expectations, but that the higher you set expectations, the better people do in achieving them. Magnet schools are a tacit admission that standards are lowered for the rest of the population, and sure enough – they’re failing to meet lowered standards.

Comment from jank
Time March 4, 2004 at 2:27 pm

Hey – the last was me. Though I think it was obvious.

Comment from doc
Time March 4, 2004 at 4:14 pm

>my guess is that most of us would have taken one last, fond look at the ‘Pit in our rearviews regardless of where we were in High School.

This was my point. It would have occurred either way.

I’ll disagree that teachers were constantly pushing that the Port was not the place to be, though. Pardue was a huge advocate of the Port with his yearly history of town tour, emphasizing the architecture and art in town, trying to show the good things in town.

Aslin was constantly pusing students to enjoy the wonderful theatre the Port has to offer, wither by auditioning or just catching shows.

Ma Settlemeyer had us out doing demos at various functions (e.g. Revel) to get us involved.

Sure they advocated heading to college, but many were pushing local colleges as well.

Another question I have is where are your numbers coming from as for the program sucking in dollars? Not that I doubt there is more money spent, just wondering how much. Not to mention the fact that more magnet programs have been installed in the Port in recent years making it much easier for students to get into a program. I know Byrd, Shreve, North Caddo, and Green Oaks all had implemented programs, there may be more.

Comment from doc
Time March 4, 2004 at 4:17 pm

>my guess is that most of us would have taken one last, fond look at the ‘Pit in our rearviews regardless of where we were in High School.

This was my point. It would have occurred either way.

I’ll disagree that teachers were constantly pushing that the Port was not the place to be, though. Pardue was a huge advocate of the Port with his yearly history of town tour, emphasizing the architecture and art in town, trying to show the good things in town.

Aslin was constantly pusing students to enjoy the wonderful theatre the Port has to offer, wither by auditioning or just catching shows.

Ma Settlemeyer had us out doing demos at various functions (e.g. Revel) to get us involved.

Sure they advocated heading to college, but many were pushing local colleges as well.

Another question I have is where are your numbers coming from as for the program sucking in dollars? Not that I doubt there is more money spent, just wondering how much. Not to mention the fact that more magnet programs have been installed in the Port in recent years making it much easier for students to get into a program. I know Byrd, Shreve, North Caddo, and Green Oaks all had implemented programs, there may be more.

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