Seattle Public School System Dumps Gifted Programs in the Name of Equity

Seattle Public Schools (SPS) has decided to replace its program for gifted students with a more “inclusive” and “equitable” model.

This decision is part of a growing trend among states to scrap honors classes in the name of diversity, but it raises serious concerns about the future of education and the potential for mediocrity.

The Highly Capable Cohort (HCC) schools and classrooms, which have served advanced learners in Seattle, are being phased out.

SPS began this process in the 2021-22 school year, claiming that the program failed to address racial inequalities. In its place, the district is introducing the Highly Capable Neighborhood School Model, which will be implemented in every school by the 2024-25 school year.

Under this new model, gifted students will no longer have separate classrooms or schools.

Instead, all students will remain together in the same classroom, with teachers tasked with creating individualized learning plans for each student.

SPS announced that these changes will “address historical inequity” and include “three tiers of service for students depending on individual needs, delivered in a way that honors individual cultures and backgrounds.”

However, parents and teachers have expressed serious concerns about the new program.

As one teacher told The Seattle Times, “I fear gifted students will get overlooked in the new model.” They also pointed out the additional burden placed on teachers, who will now be responsible for creating personalized lesson plans for as many as 20 or 30 students.

While advocates of the changes argue that the new model will address loopholes that left some students behind, such as families who couldn’t make the Saturday testing into the program due to transportation challenges, the reality is that this move is likely to have unintended consequences.

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By eliminating separate programs for gifted students, SPS risks driving the most talented and ambitious students to private schools or homeschooling, where their needs can be better met.

Seattle is not alone in making changes to its offerings for gifted students in the name of racial equity.

Districts in Virginia, Rhode Island, New York, and California have also made headlines in recent years for eliminating honors classes or awards. But this trend is deeply concerning for anyone who values excellence in education.

By penalizing gifted students in the name of equity, schools risk creating a society that settles for mediocrity.

Instead of dumbing down the curriculum and holding back the most talented students, we should be working to ensure that all students have access to the resources and support they need to reach their full potential.

As Seattle Public Schools moves forward with its new program, it is essential that parents, teachers, and the community remain vigilant.

We must ensure that the needs of all students, including the most gifted and talented, are being met.

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Failure to do so will have long-term consequences for our society and our ability to compete in an increasingly complex and challenging world.