To show why school choice is important, Seattle’s education system intentionally dismantles a program to serve its gifted students in one of its schools – completely ignoring the wishes of parents.
In January, the Seattle School Board voted to partner with a nonprofit to improve the Washington Middle School curriculum. Unfortunately, these changes come at the expense of the Highly Capable Cohort (HCC) program, an extremely popular gifted program that allows students who score well on standardized tests to participate in specialized classes where they study material beyond the regular curriculum.
The program has historically been dominated by white and Asian students, to the frustration of those looking to see more diversity in such offerings. But instead of working to improve access for minorities, some school leaders – including Superintendent Denise Juneau – decided that the gifted classes are a form of ‘redlining’, which is the historical practice of not providing mortgages to people in minority communities live. The Seattle Public School District wants to cancel the HCC program. The changes at Washington Middle School are just the beginning, district leaders hope.
As The strangerKatie Herzog reports that the parents of minority children in the program are particularly unhappy with the prospect of their children returning to regular classes. “My request is that you take into account the disservice you would do to the minorities already in the HCC program,” Herzog heard a father testify in the school district. “The program does more for black children, especially black boys, than it does for their peers.”
Other minority parents told Herzog similar stories about the life-saving potential of gifted classes. “Their children … are bored in general class and then [they] are eventually labeled as disruptive when they only need an accelerated curriculum, “wrote Herzog.
Only 1.6 percent of participants in the HCC program are African American. But for those children’s parents, that’s a reason to expand it, not end it. A parent told Herzog that Juneau had not spoken to minority parents who have children on the program to get their feedback. Instead, Chandra Hampson, director of the school board, claimed that these families were “tokenized” and used by whites to support the program.
Seattle Times columnist Danny Westneat is baffled by those in the school district who would rather take out a successful program than try to extend the reach. He cites a school administrator who reportedly told a parent that the program leads to “probability” through the privileged.
Such a zero-sum argument can lead to a dark place. “Undoing such hoarding” is a delicate area, “explained the scholar Richard Reeves a few years ago, because” improving the rate of upward relative mobility from the bottom is associated with a sting in the tail: it requires more downward mobility from above ‘,’ Westneat wrote. But ‘educational opportunities are not limited resources (at least it doesn’t have to be). In the HCC program, for example, there is no fixed number of slots, such as in admission to a selective college. “
It should be horrifying for every parent to have school districts run by bureaucrats who believe that educational equality not only means improving opportunities and outcomes for students who are behind, but also hindering students who go faster than average. Plus, this doesn’t just happen in Seattle. ReasonMatt Welch has written about a similar struggle in New York City to abolish gifted programs in public schools.
“This is a debate about the role and purpose of a public school district,” Chun Ng of Seattle told Westneat. “Is it to give every child a basic standard? Or is it to promote the potential of every child? What the district is proposing here is like Medicaid, sort of a broad safety net approach. It’s understandable because, like Medicaid, people fall through the cracks. But if you want more, you have to go to a private school. ‘
And that is ultimately why school choice is so important. Parents should be able to respond to Juneau’s stupid dismissal of their children’s needs by taking their business elsewhere.