Regarding the November 2019 article County Schools Reinterpret Gifted Instruction by Lisa Martin on the decision by Albemarle County School Superintendent Matt Haas to redefine the meaning of “giftedness,” I found the comments by Maureen Jensen, lead coach for gifted education in Albemarle County, to be truly remarkable in the absence of facts.
In order to deflate any misguided interpretation of my remarks, I graduated from Berea College, founded for blacks in 1855. My roommate was Luis Alphonso Rosado Concha. Three of my children graduated from Western Albemarle High School, which currently ranks 42nd in Virginia high schools.
In a county highly populated with many professionals, i.e. doctors, lawyers, and engineers, unlike Jensen, I believe there may be a genetic influence on “giftedness and neurobiological” (her words) outcomes, at least to some degree. I also recognize that home environment and parent participation are important elements in realizing achievement goals for all children.
I am in favor of a review for the gifted identification program, as every student does have special talents, but we must be careful not to destroy a program that has been highly successful for decades. Jensen states that the entire process for identifying gifted students is horrifically flawed, with “bias” at every decision point, and must be corrected by starting over and including every student as gifted in some area and developing these special talents.
This sounds alarmingly like the goal is not to fix the problem, but find a way to “make everyone equal” by redefining the meaning of gifted. The imbalance in achievement scores is not peculiar to Albemarle County and Charlottesville, but rather a pattern reflected nationally, requiring immediate and serious attention. Again, I applaud the review, but question the reasoning behind suddenly finding flaws with the current system and starting over, which requires a substantial increase in resources.
Furthermore, being skeptical of the motives behind this action, it strongly appears on the surface that this may be just an attempt at social engineering/justice. The superintendent, who, in his own words, wishes to redefine “giftedness” (i.e. gifted behaviors), appears to be seeking to enhance his resume with yet another headliner initiative closely following his decision to rename Albemarle County schools. His decision to rename schools was based upon comments by James Rorty, a communist writer that paraphrased 1950s remarks by former Superintendent Paul Cale, and thus smeared an individual whose legendary accomplishments on behalf of Albemarle County Public Schools will never again be attained. Perhaps the Superintendent should ask himself why the vast majority of top 50 performing Virginia High Schools are in northern Virginia, and possibly work harder to understand why most private schools highly devoted to classroom “structure and discipline” consistently exceed public school achievement scores.
Louis S. Eaton