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When Carroll County Public Schools held the first of three public meetings earlier this month, asking the community for input regarding budgetary items CCPS is considering, several of those items had to do with adding staff to help students with behavorial or mental health issues and for special education.

These are clearly areas that need more attention and more staffing from a school system that lost some 375 positions over the span of a decade in budget-related cuts. But that doesn’t mean the kids who excel in school can be ignored. That’s why we were glad to see a supervisor of advanced academics named at last week’s Board of Education meeting as CCPS looks to place more emphasis on the gifted and talented program.

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Century High School principal Troy Barnes will helm the new post and it is an important one. As BOE President Donna Sivigny noted, at a previous work session, the board decided, “We need someone who’s going to wake up every day and eat, sleep, breathe what’s important about advanced academics.” His mission will include supporting students, teachers and families with enrichment and accelerated learning opportunities and he will be responsible for the oversight of the instructional programming for those students who have been identified to receive Gifted and Talented (G&T) services, according to CCPS.

This came after an evaluation of the G&T program that looked at the ways top students have been underserved and recommended a three-year plan to improve it. The evaluation noted that the program lacked a sole person overseeing it. Barnes being elevated to the newly created position takes care of that.

An issue that has come up is a new state mandate requiring school districts identify at least 10% of the student population to receive G&T services. Jason Anderson, chief of academics, equity and accountability for CCPS, said the regulation has met mixed reactions, noting that some are saying, ‘Wait a second. Are we watering this down too much?’”

That’s preposterous. If, on average, experts looking at 10 kids can’t find one whose ability is significantly above the norm for their age, they might want to consider revising their criteria. Identifying G&T kids is a subjective as well as objective process. Picking only, say, the top 5% is undoubtedly missing out on some serious academic potential.

According to the National Association for Gifted Children website: “It is difficult to estimate the absolute number of gifted children ... because the calculation is dependent on the number of areas, or domains, being measured and the method used to identify gifted children. However, many consider children who are in the top 10 percent in relation to a national and/or local norm to be a good guide.”

Sounds like a good guide. Also, minorities, traditionally, are badly underrepresented in G&T programs across the country. According to NAGC, “not all gifted children look or act alike. Giftedness exists in every demographic group and personality type. It is important that adults look hard to discover potential.”

We agree. And considering that placement into the G&T program in elementary school can affect what classes students qualify for in middle school and, ultimately, what classes students will be taking in high school and, quite possibly, what areas of interest said students will have in terms of college or career, it’s an important part of our educational system and there’s no reason to skimp on the number of students identified. And CCPS apparently will not. Anderson said it is "not for us to make that decision, it’s for us to provide a service, whether that’s 10% or whether that be 11% or 12%.”

We’re glad the school system named a supervisor of advanced academics and is placing more emphasis on programs for the gifted. We hope to see a dramatic rise in students identified and services offered over the next three years.

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