How can anyone tell whether a child is merely "bright" or actually "gifted?"
For gushing parents, the answer is often: "Both."
Some members of the think the district simply has too many kids in their gifted program, known as "Project Challenge."
It would seem like a good problem to have, but educators believe a true program for gifted students must be exclusive to be meaningful. The district is moving forward with an assessment to help teachers make the distinction.
The issue was raised at the Dec. 20 school board meeting, an animated discussion about the criteria used to determine entrance into the gifted program.
"It is supposed to be an exclusive thing, like 5 percent," said board President Gary Bettan. "The problem here is that most everyone wants to be in it. We're not discussing the philosophical question at hand....Are we meeting the needs of the higher end or watering down the entire program?"
Specific numbers weren't available, but Bettan said during the meeting that perhaps 20 percent of Plainview's young students are qualifying for the gifted program, far more than the percentage of qualifying students in other districts.
It's certainly not easy to get in. Plainview tests 2nd graders, who need a 130 IQ to initially qualify. But students who just miss the cut-off can be tested again the following year.
Of course, IQ is only one indication of intelligence. Some districts use different criteria for admitting students to their gifted programs. One such test, discussed at the meeting, was the "Renzulli Scale," a series of questions posed to teachers about the abilities of their students.
"Years ago, this was truly a gifted program," said board member Ginger Lieberman. "Iit got watered down a bit because of all the re-testing… If it's a gifted program it can't be 25 percent (of Plainview's students) It should be 2 or 3 percent."
"I'm not going to say it's a perfect process," said Assistant Superintendant Jill Gierasch. "We don't want to eliminate anyone but we want to ensure it's a rigorous program."
Superintendent Gerard W. Dempsey, Jr. said the district is examining its policies and will report back to the board on its findings.