School funding leaves gifted students behind
Jill Tucker, Chronicle Staff Writer
Sunday, May 2, 2010

As California's public schools have increasingly poured attention and resources into the state's struggling students, high academic learners - the so-called gifted students - have been getting the short shrift, a policy decision that some worry could leave the United States at a competitive disadvantage.

Critics see courses tailored for exceptional students as elitist and not much of an issue when compared with the vast number of students who are lagging grades behind their peers or dropping out of school. But a growing chorus of parents and advocates is asking the contentious question: What about the smart kids?

"We have countries like India, Singapore, China, and they realize the future productivity of their country is an investment in their intellectual and creative resources," said gifted education expert Joseph Renzulli.

By ignoring the needs of gifted students, the achievement gap separating the best students from the worst will be closed "by pulling it down from the top rather than jacking it up from the bottom," he said.

Gifted and Talented Education (GATE) programs even in the best of economic times have gotten only a token nod in school budgets, but in recent years, funding for those programs has eroded further as school districts have grappled with ever-shrinking budgets.

Meanwhile, spending on programs to help the lowest-achieving students has increased with a boost from federal stimulus money and statewide efforts to target struggling schools.

At the federal level, $8 billion has been set aside this year to help the country's worst schools, while the entire $7 million budgeted for GATE - the equivalent of about $140,000 for each of the 50 states - is on the chopping block.

At the same time, California set aside about $39.9 million for the state's 490,000 gifted children. That's about 8 cents for every $100 spent on education - and down from $46.8 million in 2008-09.

On top of that, a new state law allows local school districts to divert any or all of its GATE money to help cover budget shortfalls.

School districts have had to make tough decisions.

Earlier this year at Berkeley High School, for example, district officials proposed cutting extra science labs for honors and advanced placement students, citing a need to spread the funding out to meet the needs of a greater number of students.

<rest of story at link>

My comments:

As Charles Murray has explained in the books "The Bell Curve" and "Real Education", many people don't have the intelligence to get an academic high school education (getting to at least pre-calculus by 12th grade, writing term papers in English), much less get a real college education (he estimates an IQ of 115 is needed, which is about 1/6 of the population if the mean IQ is 100 and the standard deviation is 15), and too much money is being squandered trying to educate people beyond their abilities.

The reality of intellectual differences might be accepted if the intelligence distribution were the same for racial and income groups, but it appears not to be, whether one looks at IQ tests, the achievement tests used for NCLB, or college admissions tests such as the SAT and ACT. The article discusses how gifted programs use non-intellectual criteria to get the "right" mix of students in gifted programs, just as selective colleges do to get a "diverse" class. Instead, students should be selected based on measures of ability and achievement, letting the chips fall where they may.
"To see what is in front of one's nose needs a constant struggle." - George Orwell