Dear Editor: Chris Gomez-Schmidt is right about MMSD’s “head in the sand” approach to students with advanced learning needs. Paradoxically, senior administrators insist on a “tiered support system” in which all student needs, no matter how extreme, are met through differentiation within the regular classroom. They’ve been touting this model for over 26 years, and for over 26 years it hasn’t worked.
In 1998, The Cape Times reported on a “pilot program” in which “specialists would train teachers to challenge their talented and gifted students in the classroom” (Paul Norton, “Talented, Gifted, & Ignored”, May 16-17, 1998). Outgoing Superintendent Cheryl Wilhoyte’s 1998-99 budget foresaw the hope “to expand the program so that Madison teachers in all schools have access to the training and expertise they need to reach advanced learners. “. Twenty-one years later, Madison still lacks systematic, ongoing programming for advanced learners and features the nation’s worst “excellence gaps”. Yet the district continues to promote the same model of “built-in differentiation” and claims that it will solve the complex and deeply rooted problems in our schools.
Recognizing the insufficiency of this ill-advised path would require the district to recognize the scale of the investment it would take to make real breakthroughs, and to exercise the patience and persistence to make a difference. Instead, senior management is keeping the blinders firmly in place and asking school educators to ignore long-established research, violate state statutes for the education of the gifted, and compromise their professional integrity. to preserve appearances.