Months ago I read about a school district that used gifted education for all its students, without testing them to determine which students were accelerated learners. The results were astounding: All the students performed well. When they were finally tested, more than would have been expected tested in the gifted range.
The 74 Million website reports on a similar exciting development. A school in one of the poorest districts in the country will use strategies usually reserved for exceptional learners to teach all 550 of its pupils—exceptional or not.
The Advanced Learning Academy, a K-10 school, is the brainchild of District Superintendent Pedro Martinez in San Antonio, Texas, and I believe it will kick the pants off the spurious notion that poor kids need to be taught a diluted curriculum tethered to a desk with their hands folded—instead of a rich, imaginative, project-based course that gets them out of the classroom and into the real world of their community.
Here’s why I think gifted ed for all makes a lot of sense:
- Unit studies are a great way to learn. The 74 Million article states that students will study the San Pedro Creek near their campus across all their school subjects: science, history, geography, literature, and art. In homeschooling jargon, we called that approach a unit study. It’s a delightful way for students to immerse themselves in learning and to break down the artificial barriers that separate academic subjects.
- All children, but especially the poor, need a rich education. The article says the school is an effort to change beliefs where “entrenched poverty has long been seen as a barrier to learning.” This is fallacious thinking if I’ve ever heard it. My father is 86; he grew up during the Depression and remembers when everyone was poor. He grew up in Brooklyn with Italians, Jews, Poles, everyone, and they were all poor. In those days who said poverty was a barrier to learning? When Europeans came to the U.S. during and after the War, who said, ‘Oh, they’re English language learners, they’re poor. They can’t learn.’
- Students need to engage with the world outside the four walls of their classroom. The 74 Million article says “students will work collaboratively and on projects, frequently out in the community.” Do you remember how you loved field trips as a kid? Whether it was to the zoo or a local television station, I found something enthralling about engaging in real life instead of just sitting at my desk. Built into project-based learning is give and take, talking, thinking, considering a course of action, making mistakes, trying again, more discussion. More than an engaging way to learn, it’s also an effective way to develop social and emotional skills.
Read more at 74 Million.