Expansion of gifted program likely BALTIMORE COUTNY

April 30, 1993|By Mary Maushard | Mary Maushard,Staff Writer

Principals and teachers, rather than central administrators would decide who gets into Baltimore County's program for gifted and talented students next year under a proposal the school board heard last night.

The plan, from a committee that studied the politically sensitive GT program for six months, would switch from heavy reliance on standardized test scores to evaluations by staff in each school.

If the school board agrees, the result will probably be more students in GT classes, said Phyllis Burke, assistant superintendent for instruction and committee chairwoman. "But the standards for getting into the program will still be there. Excellence is still a main theme,'' she said.

Parents with students in GT classes and other supporters had feared that the study would result in elimination of the county's often-touted program for advanced students. Nearly 1,200 of those parents confronted Superintendent Stuart Berger at a long, heated meeting last fall.

Critics of the program have said the current selection process may leave out youngsters who would benefit from the advanced classes.

Because Dr. Berger has said repeatedly that he wants the program to be "more inclusive,'' GT proponents also feared that its curricula and standards would be watered down.

But Regina Schwab, the county's GT coordinator, said the committee concentrated on both inclusion and standards. "I don't see the two as being mutually exclusive. The program's going to be richer; it's going to be strengthened,'' she said yesterday.

Ken Dill, president of the Baltimore County Association for Gifted and Talented Education and one of several parents on the committee, said ''The report is not overly specific, but what is there is very favorable."

He cautioned that while the county is moving to site-based management, which gives more responsibility to principals and teachers, a central authority will still have to ensure that ''every kid has the same opportunities.''

Among the specific recommendations:

* As many schools as possible should offer GT programs.

* Each school should establish a committee to choose students and monitor their performances.

* Parents and students should be involved in the admission process.

* Children who can benefit from accelerated classes should be identified as early as possible.

* Sixth-grade should be the transition year, with students given many opportunities to explore GT programs. In the spring of sixth grade, recommendations would be made for continuation in GT classes based on each student's performance.

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