Author:Shackford, Scott

AS IF TO demonstrate why school choice matters, Seattle's education system is purposefully dismantling a program to serve its gifted students at one of its schools--and completely ignoring parents' wishes in the process.

In January, the Seattle School Board voted to partner with a nonprofit to improve the curriculum of Washington Middle School. Unfortunately, these changes are coming at the expense of the Highly Capable Cohort (HCC) program, an extremely popular gifted program that lets students who score well on standardized tests participate in specialized classes in which they study material several grade levels higher than the ordinary curriculum.

The program has historically been dominated by white and Asian students, to the frustration of folks who want to see more diversity in such offerings. But rather than 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 granting mortgages to people who live in minority communities. The Seattle Public School District thus wants to kill off the HCC program. The changes at Washington Middle School are just the start, district leaders hope.

As The Stranger's Katie Herzog reports, the parents of minority kids in the program are particularly unhappy at the prospect of their children going back to regular classes. "My request is that you please consider the disservice you would be doing to the minorities that are already in the HCC program," Herzog heard one father testify to the school district. "The program does more for black children, particularly black boys, than it does for their peers."

Other minority parents told Herzog similar stories about the life-saving potential of gifted classes. "Their kids... get bored in the general ed classroom, and then [they] end up being tagged as disruptive when what they need is just accelerated curriculum," Herzog wrote.

Only 1.6 percent of the HCC program's participants are African-American. But for those kids' parents, that's a reason to expand it, not end it. One parent told Herzog that Juneau hadn't talked to minority parents who have kids in the program to get their feedback. Instead, School Board Director Chandra Hampson claimed that these families were being "tokenized" and used by white people to...

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