Pitt students want to 'abolish' their community's elementary gifted program

The Pitt News Editorial Board recently published a piece in support of abolishing local elementary gifted programs.

According to the piece, the gifted program intellectually and racially 'segregates students.'

Members of the Pittsburgh community share mixed viewpoints about what such a change would mean for their community.

The Editorial Board of the University of Pittsburgh student paper recently published an article calling to get rid of the gifted program in surrounding schools. 

“The gifted program segregates students — sometimes based on IQ tests conducted at an early age. The program is deeply flawed, encourages students to unnecessarily compete against each other academically and often ends up leaving behind students of color. It is time for Pittsburgh to follow New York’s example and eliminate the gifted program from local school districts,” claims the piece. 

The paper published the piece in light of New York City mayor Bill de Blasio’s recent decision to remove elementary school based gifted programs over the next five year period, saying “Pittsburgh should be next.”

[RELATED: Yale prof decries ‘colorblindness’ in K-12 education]

“The Black Lives Matter movement brought many systemic injustices to light, including segregation in schools partly fueled by gifted programs,” writes the board. “In-person classes have resumed in Pittsburgh-area schools, and Pittsburgh Public Schools recently named a new interim superintendent. Since many things seem to be changing in Pittsburgh-area schools anyway, now is the perfect time to abolish the gifted program.”

The Pitt News Editorial Board also claims that the removal of the gifted program “eliminates the need for an IQ test to place students academically. IQ tests were and are often used to justify racism and white supremacy, and to continue to use them to segregate students perpetuates this long and dark tradition.”

The Board asserts that it is time to “abolish” the gifted program, citing concerns of “segregation.”

A university spokesperson noted to Campus Reform that the paper’s editorials “represent the views of its student editors, not of the University.”

Breanna King, a freshman at the University of Pittsburgh, is in full support of abolishing the gifted program. 

“I think abolishing the gifted program will help the Pittsburgh youth,” King told Campus Reform.

She believes it will be beneficial “because it wouldn’t be a detriment to the kids who are naturally smart, it would simply provide more opportunities for those students who are willing to put in the extra work even if they are not considered gifted.”

Although Breanna King was not in the program herself, the two students at her school that were a part of the program “often complained about the busy work that was loaded onto their workload.”

“I think the concept was a good idea, but there are definitely unfair advantages given to the students who are and are not in the program,” concludes King, admitting that both groups of students, gifted and not, experience disadvantages, not just the children who are not apart of the program.

[RELATED: Education prof says CRT influences K-12 teaching]

On the other hand, multiple members of the Pittsburgh community share concerns about the concept of trashing the program.

Another University of Pittsburgh student, Jamie Munchel, supports keeping the gifted program in place, as it “will help the youth to have the program” since it “encourages children to do better in school and challenges and pushes them to do well academically.”

Munchel contends that “it actually benefits children overall. Yes, it may hurt some children’s self-esteem, but it shows them the truth of the real world.”

“I personally believe if you want something you will work hard enough for it. Race and intelligence do not correlate,” Munchel told Campus Reform.

Pittsburgh resident and mother Sheryl Coleman explained to Campus Reform that she can see how some children may have their feelings hurt because the gifted program is “making them compete against each other to ‘win’ being in the smart class,” but she also feels that kids need to be challenged in the classroom in order for the advanced learners to succeed.

“If some kids already know what the teacher’s teaching and need a more challenging class, then go to a more challenging class,” says Coleman. 

“Why do they care about it so much?” Colman asked about the college students advocating for the change,” adding “Why’s it haunting their daily lives that they want to put energy into it? If it doesn’t pertain to them.”

Sarah Juba, who is also a junior at Point Park University located in Pittsburgh, works in the Belle Vernon Area School District as a kindergarten student helper. After reading the published piece by The Pitt News, she related the story’s message to her own position.

“The school I work with currently does have a gifted program that [students] have to test into with a variety of tests,” Juba revealed to Campus Reform.

Juba recognizes the importance and significance of the gifted program, as it was created to give opportunities to students showing strength in the classroom.

“It helps so many students get ahead in their schooling and in life, as well. Most students show great progress in the lessons and have an easy time with [them] get sent to be tested for the gifted program. This program definitely helps so many kids as they have a place to go and be challenged in their lessons and activities to make it fun for them,” said Juba.

“I think intellectual diversity is a hard thing to understand,” Juba added. “All students learn at different paces and through different ways. There are also different kinds of intelligence that can be used, some are good at reading and writing while others are great at math. They all learn in different ways and some learn faster than others which is what the gifted program is for.”

”All kids learn differently and we need to give them the time and tools to help them achieve academically so they can succeed in their class rank,” said Juba

Campus Reform reached out to Pitt News but did not receive a response. 

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @logandubil