Recently I was told that my third graders’ teacher wanted him to test for what in New York City is called the ‘Lead Program’. She thinks he has a good shot at getting in. She isn’t the first of his teachers to say this and many other parents I know think I’m crazy for not working to get him into this program.
This is something that has been around in NYC for well over 30 years. I know because my sisters and I were in it back when it was labeled ‘Gifted and Talented’. (You can probably see why the name has evolved from that extra special moniker). And as the name has evolved, so has the program, which is to say today’s lead is a far cry from the old gifted class.
As far as public schools in Brooklyn go, my son goes to one that is in the top ten schools in the borough. Since the recession, it has had an influx of students whose parents have decided that rather than pay for their young children to go private schools, they will bring them and their accompanying resources to the local public school. This has had its plusses and minuses. The increase in ethnic diversity is a plus. The money is a plus: the parents have it and they have networks for fundraising that were previously unknown to the school – they bring in lots of great extracurricular programs and there is lots of new technology available to the kids that wasn’t before.
It’s kinda like the suburbs descended on us and it is cool. What isn’t so wonderful is that their children, who entered the school with all skills born of the perks of high incomes from birth, are concentrated in the Lead Program. There just isn’t enough room in the 3rd grade lead classroom for all the kids who passed the test which meant that the cutoff for getting in had to be raised. Even then, the class is packed to the gills and some children who in another school would have been in the program have to make due with the class right ‘below’ the lead, the otherwise top 3rd grade class. This is where my son has landed along with about ten other children that he has been in class with since kindergarten. I know some parents who upon having their child pass this test have pushed and insisted that their child be allowed in and have gotten their way.
I don’t feel like them. I know my child and the aggregate stress he would feel being ripped from his friends, having to learn to trust a new teacher, and the rigors of a higher intensity curriculum would outweigh the benefits that may be had from it. The amount of homework in the program is doubled from what my son gets now and it’s hard enough getting him to ‘remember’ to do all of it each night. Adding 40 to 60 minutes more per night would be a nightmare for both of us. I know from speaking with other parents and seeing them firsthand that the projects assigned to the students come in looking like they were done in a print shop by adults because most of them were. I don’t see the point of that, I finished grade school and don’t want to do projects again. I want my son to do them with the minimal amount of help but lots of encouragement, advice and oversight from me. And aside from my laziness, I believe that Khev has a great teacher and has had great teachers. Having students like Khev that they feel can be challenged more has caused a couple of his teachers to devise their own in classroom projects and programs to challenge these students. To me, that’s a win-win situation for all of the students in the classroom and for the teachers as professionals.
As it is, unlike his brothers at this age, Khev still looks forward to and enjoys going to school each and every day. If there’s a chance that could change by putting him in the lead program, that’s a chance I am not willing to take.