Letter to the editor: In defense of Challenge

Fox’s rebuttal to the February editorial.

Intelligence is all too real. Yes, it is one of the most enigmatic qualities of a person, and thus is hard to measure, but it nonetheless exists. Students who receive an IQ (Intelligence Quotient) score of 130 or more on an LMSD administered test, which places them in the top 2.5 percentile, have the option of being put into LMSD’s Gifted program. If they choose to enter, they receive a GIEP (Gifted Individualized Education Plan), which legally entitles them to the school district’s Gifted program. Students may also enter the program if they show other exceptionally high intellectual abilities, such as being multiple years ahead in math or English. 

The aim of the Gifted program in LMSD, and of Gifted programs in general, is to provide additional support to students who require supplementary material in addition to regular classroom instruction. A common manifestation of this would be a student being bored in elementary school because they already know the material that is being taught, so they are placed in the Gifted program to work on enrichment projects. This is how many students used to be placed in the program. They would be bored at school and tell their parents, who would then contact the elementary school to administer the test. However, this raised equity issues since students from lower-income were less likely to be selected to take the test, or even know about the program to begin with. Because of this, LMSD switched to an automatic screening program in second grade, where all students are now given the test regardless of any factors, to promote equity within the school district. 

It is worth noting that Challenge, the elementary and middle school program, and Academic Seminar, the high school program, serve different functions. Challenge mainly serves as an additional academic class, used to teach students new information, or allow them to conduct research. Academic Seminar is primarily used for independent projects, allowing students to explore an area of interest that they either do not learn enough about in their regular classes, or an entirely new area that they have never covered in school. This is the Academic Seminar formula from freshman through junior year, and senior year is dedicated to the I-Search (post-secondary explorations) and senior project extensions. 

The experiences and enrichment provided by the Gifted program are invaluable, and it should not be tampered with or disbanded. Great minds promote each other, and by having these minds together more often, we are building a community of future successful intellects. Yes, equity issues are important, but the district has already made moves to remedy this lack of equity by implementing universal screening. While IQ tests are not a perfect measure of intelligence, they are far more accurate than many people portray them as, and they are the best metric to measure intelligence that has ever existed (other than good old-fashioned observation). To address the argument that a family’s resources affect a student’s IQ score, this is true, however only minimally, as the younger a person takes the test, the less of an influence this has. This is why the tests are conducted in second grade, when students are seven or eight years old. 

Overall, the Gifted program does an accurate job of selecting students who would best benefit from its resources and opportunities. It must be held sacred, for to overlook intelligence is to stumble upon a pot of fool’s gold.     

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