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Why are our gifted and talented (GT) classrooms full of Asians? (Photos)

Why are our gifted and talented (GT) classrooms full of Asians? Go in to one just about anywhere in the country and you will find it is true. Are they just smarter than the other kids? No, they are just better prepared.

English  2nd Grade Math
Doubleday
Frank Ha
ITV Houston 55.5

Gifted children represent only about 3% of the population and they are equally distributed around the world among all races, economic classes and societies. This isn’t news. If we were paying attention, Thomas Jefferson told us this in 1782 in his Notes on the State of Virginia. Yet there they are. The Asians are occupying at least half the seats in almost every GT classroom in the country.

The next point to consider is why does the United States currently rank 25th among all world countries in math and science. The current administration in Washington D.C.is spending $ 4 billion dollars every year to get our students prepared to go to college. That number probably exceeds the total amount spent by the rest of the world combined on elementary and secondary education.

Are we just dumb, or are we trying to prove Thomas Jefferson wrong; no on both counts. First of all, I would guess that by looking at the vast majority, maybe 98% of public school administrators and politicians don’t even know or want to believe what Jefferson wrote. The students in the United States are just as smart as everywhere else.

So what is the problem? As a whole we are not being prepared. Indeed, we have many, many American students who are excelling in academics and who continue on as successful professionals. This is occurring despite the fact that half the students entering college today are failing Freshman English and/or Algebra 1.

Our educational failing seems to be in elementary and secondary education. I know that saying this is not going to make those in the ivory towers of education and government happy. Many do not even want to admit we are continuing to dumb down the educational process. You do not have to do more than look at the state high school exit exams today compared with the exit exams twenty years ago to see this is true.

It does not have to be that way. E.D. Hirsch, Jr. has written a series of books called The Core Knowledge Series, which are resource books for grades one through six. Please bare in mind that this is material that every student should know, not just GT students. It covers the material that a student should learn from first grade through sixth grade. I am attaching a page from the math section of What Your Second Grader Needs to Know.

To better understand the Asian method for gifted children, I am attaching a page from a second grade Chinese math book. Few, if any, of our gifted second graders are learning this material at that age. I’m not saying they can’t. They can. We just are not teaching them. I chose this page because you can more easily read these Arabic numeral math problems rather the word problems, unless of course you understand Mandarin Chinese.

Actually the Chinese don't refer to this as gifted and talented education as such. They refer to it as their Olympic Mathematics Program. They continuously search their country for potentially gifted children in math and science and get them into their Olympic programs as early as possible. You are probably aware that they do the same thing in search of potentially gifted athletes. Here in the America, we do the same thing in search of athletes, but in the private sector. We have a very poor record for trying to find our gifted children. For the most part we let them or their parents search us out.

Is it any wonder that many, if not most, of our gifted kids fall through the cracks? Dr.Donna Y. Ford at Vanderbilt University reports that we are losing 250,000 black students alone every year. Los Angeles Unified School District reports losing over 400 gifted students every year which they have already found; and that's just one public school district.

This illustrates the huge difference in Chinese and Asian education and what we are doing.

There is, however, a teacher in Houston, Texas who is trying to use the Chinese model. He is currently tutoring about 40 multicultural gifted students at Houston GT Academy in Southwest Houston. His name is Frank Ha and he is well known in the Chinese community from the programs that he hosts on local Chinese television and radio.

Ha teaches all classes in English to a multicultural group of students. He also teaches or tutors in many subjects from mathematics, general science, chemistry, biology, history, law, Shakespeare, motivation and discipline and combines several of these topics into one lesson. For instance he combines Plato and Shakespeare into most math courses.

He also teaches ancient Chinese culture based on the Avatar stories that are so popular with young students today. You can contact Ha at 7001 Corporate Dr., Suite 216, Houston, TX, 281-468-0881 or fuyuha@yahoo.com/

The Texas Legislature is starting a new session, so it is a good time to talk with your senator and representative and let them know that gifted education is being short-changed. This situation is even rubbing off on the universities. The University of Texas in 2009 stripped all National Merit Scholars from their scholarship program and gave all the money to regular students who could not afford to go to college.

What happens in the future depends on what you demand of your public school administrators and politicians.

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Dick Kantenberger

National Gifted Education Writer, Examiner.com

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