Gov. Parris N. Glendening proposed yesterday spending $500,000 next year to help the state's schools do a better job of serving gifted students.
The initiative, which the governor calls his "Excellence in Education" program, would help train teachers to better identify students who ought to be enrolled in gifted-and-talented programs and encourage school systems to develop more programs for those students.
Glendening said he expected the amount devoted to the effort to double, to $1 million, the following year.
"The sad fact is that many of our most gifted children remain unidentified and poorly served," Glendening told dozens of students and state and Howard County educators and politicians at a news conference in the library of Howard's Elkridge Landing Middle School. "We need to allow all of our students to go as far as they can."
Pointing to national studies, the governor said that 10 percent to 15 percent of students who drop out of school are gifted and talented but were not identified as such and quit because they were bored with their classes.
Yesterday's proposal by Glendening -- which requires approval by the legislature this winter -- is part of a larger package of bills that he will introduce to help Maryland children, including a college scholarship program and expanded health care for pregnant women and young children.
Many legislators doubt that the state can afford all of the initiatives and other Glendening proposals, including a state income tax cut, additional aid for Baltimore schools and a pay raise for state police.
Some have characterized it as a pie-in-the-sky attempt by the governor to buy greater approval from voters that could cost the state hundreds of millions of dollars.
The governor defended his initiatives yesterday, saying the $500,000 he wants to spend on gifted students is minuscule compared with the state's $15 billion budget.
"If we can't afford $500,000 for our gifted and talented children, then shame on us," he said. He also portrayed the money as an important business investment, saying scientists who consider joining companies in Maryland's high-tech corridor want strong programs for the gifted to be available for their own children.
The governor's proposal drew quick praise yesterday from state and county educators and from a statewide gifted-and-talented education advocacy group, Maryland's Coalition for Gifted and Talented Education.
"A lot of people in the past said gifted and talented students could take care of themselves in school," said Michael E. Hickey, the Howard County superintendent of schools.
"But that's a very limited view of gifted-and-talented education. There is a need for gifted-and-talented programs now and in the future."
There is no statewide figure for the number of students involved statewide in gifted-and-talented programs because the programs differ widely across Maryland. That information is being collected, however, and is expected to be available next December.
In Howard County, 26 percent of elementary students, 35 percent of middle school students and 40 percent of high school students are involved in some kind of talent-pool class.
Hickey said an additional 17 percent of Howard elementary students, 12 percent of middle school students and 3 percent of high schools students are involved in a "Type III" program, a gifted-and-talented program in which students conduct independent investigations.
Howard school officials said yesterday that it was not clear how the school system might benefit from the governor's proposal because specifics of the plan had not been released.
As an example of the programs that Glendening hopes to see expand across the state, he went to Elkridge Landing's gifted-and-talented class after the news conference for a live interview on the school's television network with Katie Helfrich, a nervous seventh-grade reporter.
As a "Type III" exercise, Katie, 12, and other students at Elkridge Landing produce a daily morning show that includes announcements, interviews and other news for students and teachers.
"This is a great opportunity for all of these kids to learn about something that really interests them," said Terry Sullivan, the school's gifted-and-talented resource teacher. "The kids run all of the equipment, do the interviewing and put on everything."
As Katie sat down with the governor, other students manned the television cameras and worked the control board, broadcasting the five-minute interview to classrooms.
With only an occasional glance at her notes, Katie squeezed in questions about Glendening's commitment to technology in schools, why he got into politics and what courses he recommends for students interested in following his footsteps to Annapolis.
"I can't believe it went so quickly," Katie said afterward as the color returned to her cheeks. "I'm not sure I breathed once during the entire interview."
After the governor left, she and others on the crew huddled to critique their work and relive the interview.
Meanwhile, another Elkridge Landing reporter and cameraman strolled through the remnants of the news conference in the library looking for others to interview, including Hickey.
Interviews and clips from yesterday's news conference will be stretched over a couple of weeks of morning broadcasts, Sullivan said.
Activities of other students involved in gifted-and-talented programs at Elkridge Landing also were noted by Glendening as examples of the kind of instruction he would like to see elsewhere, including computer art, advanced math classes and the development of an Internet home page for the school.
Pub Date: 12/17/96