The Ohio General Assembly along with The State Board of Education are taking a break in August. It seems like this might be a good time to tie a few seemingly unrelated events/issues together as we try to predict what gifted issues will be front and center as move toward 2022. These issues include:
The on-going discussion about the New York Times 1619 project/critical race theory (CRT) at the Ohio State Board of Education;
- Nationwide pushback against gifted programs/Advanced Placement based on equity issues;
- A new report on Advanced Placement Achievement Gaps; and, finally,
- The passage of HB82 (report card bill) and the need to reconfigure the gifted performance indicator.
Let’s begin with the July 2021 State Board of Education meeting. At this meeting, there were multiple witnesses testifying on an agenda item asking for an Ohio Attorney General(AG) opinion on a State Board equity resolution passed in July 2020. (The resolution condemned racism as an impediment to educational equity, called for ODE staff to undergo training. It also called for a review of academic standards to eliminate bias, and encouraged local boards of education to take similar action.) What followed the July 2020 resolution were months of hours-long testimony, a ban on in-person testimony on the topic, and a good deal of heated discussion at the State Board about the merits of the 1619 project, CRT, and other equity issues. All of this led to the request for an AG opinion. One of the witnesses speaking to the request was Jeremy Cox, who in his testimony, made the following statement:
Since discrimination on the basis of race is illegal by Federal Law, and equal opportunity is enshrined in both the Declaration of Independence and the US Constitution, asking for a legal opinion on the goal of equity makes perfect sense to determine if; (#1) it means true equality or merely the sameness of outcome, and (#2) if it contradicts the goal of opportunity, which is to maintain a level playing field so that each individual can achieve whatever goal he/she is willing to apply his or her talent and energy to accomplish.
If equal outcome for each student is the goal, what does this mean for our school children? Does it mean eliminating advanced classes, so everyone ends up with the same education, regardless of talent, energy and work ethic? If so, then teaching would indeed become easier for the educators as the expectation is that all students will end up with the same level of knowledge and identical attitudes.
It is worthwhile to watch the whole testimony and exchange which can be viewed beginning at
1:03:40 on the Ohio Channel: https://ohiochannel.org/video/state-board-of-education-7-13-2021.
After his testimony, State Board members segued from general issues of equity to a discussion of what was happening to accelerated math (particularly Advanced Placement) across the state. Regardless of political affiliation, most board members appeared to be absolutely against the idea of removing advanced coursework in the name of equity. One board member exclaimed, “That’s not what we do in education.” But those of us who have been around for a while know that, historically, yes, this is exactly what happens in education all the time. And in fact, another board member referred to an article about the executive director of the Ohio Council for the Teachers of Math (OCTM) warning against Honors tracks in math as a source of inequity. The article can be found at: https://www.beaconjournal.com/story/news/2021/04/28/education-consultant-focuses-equity-empowerment-classroom/7292650002/.
The good news here is that it does not appear that State Board of Education members, regardless of political ideology, support removing advanced learning opportunities in Ohio. Likewise, the Ohio Department of Education (ODE) does not appear to support removing opportunities for advanced coursework.
But we do know that across the country there has been increasing pressure to eliminate advanced educational programs. From California, where a committee pushed language to remove access to advanced instruction to New York, Boston, and Virginia where access to select schools have been under fire for lack of diversity causing, there has been a common theme of decreasing advanced learning opportunities in the name of equity. In some cases, there has been an outright call to eliminate gifted opportunities altogether. It’s an easy solution, isn’t it? If minorities and economically disadvantages students are under-represented in gifted programs and other areas of advanced learning, just eliminate those programs! Honestly, this “solution” is as lazy as it is counter-productive. The students most hurt by eliminating advanced programs in public settings are those students who are only able to access public education – the very population that is under-represented.
And then we get to the new report from American Progress, which outlines the lack of minority participation in Advanced Placement Courses. This report can be accessed at:
The recommendations from this report are well worth the time to read as they are thoughtful and thorough. Note: not once does report indicate that the solution to the issue is to eliminate Advanced Placement opportunities. The American Progress report recommendations also reflect what is well-known in the gifted field: The solution to bring more under-represented student populations into advanced learning programs is not easy. It requires a multi-pronged approach that takes time, money, effort, retraining, and the will to make it work. If it were easy, this program would have been solved by now.
HB82 (report card reform), which passed in June, requires that gifted performance indicator be configured to include measures of reporting for underrepresented populations. Ohio is in a unique position to thoughtfully move forward in an effort to close the gap on opportunities for both gifted identification and service to underrepresented student populations. It will take more than a report card measure to achieve this. But hopefully, as the Ohio Department of Education and State Board of Education tackle the redevelopment of the gifted performance indicator, we can begin the discussion of the multi-pronged approach that will be required to reduce the inequities in Ohio that exist in gifted education. The work will be difficult, but Ohio cannot afford to put this work off any longer.