More blacks, poor in Balto. Co. gifted classes

Pilot program boosts numbers, board told

April 13, 2005|By Sara Neufeld | Sara Neufeld,SUN STAFF

A pilot program in more than 30 Baltimore County elementary schools has greatly increased the number of poor and minority children in gifted-and-talented programs, according to a report presented last night to the county school board.

The program looks beyond test scores to identify children as gifted, sending resource teachers to schools to evaluate pupils. It has been launched in 38 Title 1 schools, which receive extra federal money because they serve large numbers of poor children. The report looks at 31 schools.

In those schools, the rate of enrollment in gifted programs is the same for white and black children, according to a report on the state of gifted education in the county's schools. The report also describes trends in enrollment and rising test scores for gifted-and-talented students throughout the county.

Board members Rodger Janssen and Warren Hayman said they are concerned that some students in gifted programs have failed the state standardized tests. Hayman noted that 23 percent of gifted 10th-graders failed math tests, saying, "That's a red flag."

Districtwide, black children are underrepresented in gifted programs. Though they make up nearly 40 percent of district enrollment, black children account for 25 percent of enrollment in gifted programs in elementaries, the report says. That number is up from 16 percent five years ago.

Last school year, 19 percent of children in elementary gifted programs received free or reduced-price lunches, up from 13 percent in the 1999-2000 school year. During that time, the percentage of all elementary school pupils receiving subsidized meals rose from 30 to 38.

Representation in the gifted program of minorities and children receiving subsidized lunch was lower in middle and high schools than in elementaries. And, of 2,213 children districtwide who speak English as a second language, 36 were enrolled in gifted programs.

The report was presented one day after the release of another report, which concluded that participation in gifted programs has risen substantially among all racial groups, but the lowest increase has been among blacks.

Schools in the county's affluent central area had the highest enrollment in gifted programs. The southwest area, which has a large minority population and a high poverty rate, had the lowest enrollment in elementary and middle schools. The southeast area, where there is also a high poverty rate, had the lowest enrollment in high schools.

In other business, the board approved boundaries for the new Woodholme Elementary School, scheduled to open this fall to relieve crowding at New Town Elementary. New Town, Milbrook, Owings Mills and Fort Garrison will be affected by the changes.

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