Gifted programs should be abolished in primary schools

Sofie Salcedo, Staff writer

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Let me preface this piece with some background. I myself have been on both sides of the Talented and Gifted (TAG) program since elementary school. I was admitted in fifth grade, but prior to that I was repeatedly tested since first. Now in high school, I am still actively involved in the TAG program and I really do love it. Some of my favorite teachers I have gotten to know through the TAG program and I am hugely appreciative for its impact on Roswell and on me. That said, I do believe that the TAG program should not have a place in elementary schools. This article deals solely with primary school students and the damaging effects of intelligence-based separation at a young age.

 

Gifted programs in elementary schools promote the systematic oppression of students, often do not accurately reflect the nature of “intelligence”, and succeed only in damaging the self esteem of “non-gifted” students.

 

TAG programs so often neglect students who struggle with dyslexia and other learning disabilities, denying them entry on the grounds of not being gifted, further depriving them of the attention that they need to truly succeed. These students get left behind while students who already receive special attention are set up for even more success. Additionally, gifted programs have traditionally favored white and upper-class children over black and brown children or children from less affluent backgrounds. Still, not only does the TAG program favor neurotypical students who generally do not need the extra push they are given, but it also is fairly unreliable in determining “intelligence”.

 

According to a survey I took, 71% of students who responded to being in the Fulton County gifted program were admitted before fourth grade, 14% while they were still in kindergarten. Is it really possible to determine the prospective abilities of a student when they haven’t even learned addition and subtraction yet? Even experts agree that this may be too soon for accelerated students to showcase their prowess. While there are exceptions, precocious children who are clearly ahead of their peers at a young age, the majority of students appear equal at this level, separated only by their ability to make a picture out of an ambiguous shape.

Aside from the obvious systematic favoritism exacerbated by gifted programs, TAG also creates self-fulfilling prophecies with kids deemed “un-gifted” and cultivates poor self-esteem from a young age. I interviewed senior Jirielle Mwamba about her experience not being in the TAG program. “It’s kinda weird taking a test about your skills and being told that you’re not good enough at such an early age. It makes you feel inadequate in a way. Like, “what’s the point if I’m not good enough?”” This mindset is common among kids turned away from gifted programs. They lose passion for learning and sooner decide that they will never live up to their potential. These “self-fulfilling prophecies” are a common product of elementary TAG education. Junior Kate Goud shares Jirielle’s outlook. “Not just the intelligence test, but also the creativity test; as a writer it’s something that sticks with me. Being told by a test that I’m not creative.” These lasting damages to self-esteem are not something to be disregard and should be considered when continuing funding for gifted programs in primary schools.