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HomeNewsSeattle Closes Gifted and Talented Schools Over Racial Inequities

Seattle Closes Gifted and Talented Schools Over Racial Inequities

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School of the Gifted
Source: Reddit

Seattle recently made headlines by closing its gifted and talented programs, a decision prompted by concerns over racial disparities. The move got people talking and raised questions about equity in education and the future of advanced learning in the city.

The Highly Capable Cohort schools, designed for advanced students, have been severely criticized for their lack of diversity. Information obtained from Seattle Public Schools shows a glaring imbalance, with a vast majority of the students being of white and Asian heritage students, while black and Hispanic students remained underrepresented.

The school board, due to the pressure from the criticisms, has started to phase out these specialized programs so as to squarely address the racial imbalances. However, the decision caused more debates after some parents advocated for more inclusive strategies being put in place rather than outright closure of the program.

On January 22, 2020, school board meeting, parents of color expressed concerns about the closure’s impact on minority students. “My request is that you please consider the disservice you would be doing to the minorities that are already in the HCC program,’ one father said at the meeting, reported local news paper The Stranger. The program does more for black children, particularly black boys, than it does for their peers.”

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However, their pleas were met with criticism from board members, illustrating the complex dynamics at play. The school board vice president Chandra Hampson slammed those parents, saying, “This is a pretty masterful job at tokenizing a really small community of color within the existing cohort.”

Seattle already had plans to replace the gifted programs with the Highly Capable Neighborhood School Model for inclusivity sake and personalized learning. Three elementary schools, five middle schools, and three high schools are currently highly capable cohort schools – all of which will be phased out by the 2027-28 school year due to this new model. According to Seattle Public Schools, the new model will “be more inclusive, equitable and culturally sensitive.”

While all of this is happening because of racial disparities, parents worry about the disadvantages of the closure of such programs. They fear that their children may not receive adequate support or challenge under the new model.

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Erika Ruberry, a parent of a second grader at Decatur Elementary, said, “It seems to me that kids on maybe both extremes are going to be underserved.”

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Karen Stukovsky, who has three students in the gifted program, said, “You can only do so much differentiation.”

“You have some kids who can barely read and some kids who are reading Harry Potter in first grade or kindergarten. How are you going to not only get those kids up to grade level and also challenge those kids who are already way above grade level?”

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Teachers also expressed some doubt about how practical it is to implement individualized learning plans for different classrooms without enough resources. The district’s budget deficit seems to make matters worse, raising questions about funding and support for educators.

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Despite the challenges, supporters of the new model believe it offers opportunities for diverse student interactions and a better learning environment. Principals like Rina Geoghagan highlight the possibilities for cultural exchange and a unique perspective to enhance education.

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