Should Gifted Students Be in Separate Classes?

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  • From Moderna’s Chairman: Saving Lives of Both Rich and Poor
  • ‘Illiberal Democracy’ in Hungary (and America?)

Mayor Bill de Blasio has resisted changing the city’s gifted and talented program for nearly eight years. His schools chancellor, Meisha Porter, at his right, helped convince him to overhaul the system.Credit…Anna Watts for The New York Times

To the Editor:

Re “With His Term Ending, de Blasio Seeks Overhaul of Gifted Classes” (front page, Oct. 9):

Eliminating gifted-and-talented programs and asking teachers to meet the needs of students with a vast range of abilities in a single classroom makes as much sense as eliminating grade levels and asking teachers to meet the needs of students with a vast range of ages in a single classroom.

I was fortunate to grow up in Fairfax County, Virginia, where I attended a gifted-and-talented program in a public school system widely regarded as a national leader.

Equity concerns should be addressed by expanding enriched education opportunities — creating more gifted public schools, using multiple metrics to identify promising students with diverse talents rather than relying on a single exam, and locating magnet schools in minority neighborhoods — rather than denying them to public school students with the potential to benefit and excel.

Stephen A. Silver
San Francisco

To the Editor:

Gifted programs should be used only to accommodate children who are so far advanced in one or more subjects that they need smaller, focused specialized instruction because they can’t thrive in a general education classroom.

There is a broad spectrum of ability that can be accommodated in a general education classroom, especially with two teachers in the classrooms that have children with individualized education plans to meet their special needs. Heterogeneous classes need to be the norm, with only the fewest, most extreme exceptions.

Mixed ability classes improve educational outcomes across the board; slower learners have the examples of what it is possible to strive toward and how to get there, and faster learners synthesize skills by explaining how they did the work. More important, the children learn that everyone has something to bring to the table — not just the right answer, but imagination, ideas, social skills and various talents.

Heterogeneous classes enable children to collaborate with and develop respect for people with varying intelligence and ability.

Lynn Bernstein
The writer is a recently retired New York City public-school teacher.

To the Editor:

Mayor Bill de Blasio’s plan to tackle inequality in the New York City public schools by “overhauling” gifted education is seriously misguided. Providing accelerated learning in a general education class often means giving gifted students busywork because classes are too large to meet the needs of all students of varying abilities.

That was the rationale for instituting programs for gifted students initially. We need to provide opportunities for gifted students to grow and to challenge them by offering special programs geared toward their abilities. Eliminating these programs will result in a failure to meet the needs of a large number of students. The best way to improve education is by offering programs to meet the needs of all children.

Sandy Koblick
North Haledon, N.J.
The writer is a former gifted education teacher and retired assistant principal in the New York City public schools.

To the Editor:

I have a message for white parents worried about the change to gifted programs in our country’s largest school system, from a white parent in our country’s second-largest school system: Your kids will be just fine.

Here in Los Angeles we don’t screen kindergartners, we don’t have gifted classes in elementary school and our teachers offer differentiated learning in the classroom. Every single student has one or more opportunities to be evaluated for high ability and achievement before middle school, and every middle and high school student with interest and ability has access to honors classes.

And guess what? Our white children learn and flourish, get into good colleges and have good lives — alongside their Latino, Asian, and Black friends and peers. Yours will, too!

Cynthia Freeman
Los Angeles

From Moderna’s Chairman: Saving Lives of Both Rich and Poor

A shot of the Moderna Covid-19 vaccine being administered in Nairobi, Kenya, last month.Credit…Simon Maina/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

To the Editor:

It was deeply disappointing to read the biased online headline for your Oct. 9 story “Moderna, Racing for Profits, Keeps Covid Vaccine Out of Reach of Poor.” Moderna has made great efforts to distribute vaccines throughout the world as fast — and as fairly — as it possibly can.

From the first moment in January 2020 when we were asked to dedicate all our research and resources to fighting the Covid-19 pandemic, our singular focus has been saving lives.

A year ago, Moderna announced that it would not enforce its Covid-19-related patents during the pandemic. In May, Moderna signed a contract with Covax for the supply of up to 500 million doses of its vaccine through 2022. Its recent investment aimed at doubling its manufacturing capacity at its Norwood, Mass., plant was undertaken for one reason: to supply vaccines to low- and middle-income countries.

We also announced plans this month to invest up to $500 million in an mRNA vaccine manufacturing facility in Africa.

A sensational headline at odds with these facts serves only to undermine public trust, and demoralize the scientists and others working around the clock for nearly two years to deliver vaccines — both to Americans and to citizens across the globe.

Noubar Afeyan
The writer is co-founder and chairman of Moderna.

‘Illiberal Democracy’ in Hungary (and America?)

  Credit…Doug Mills/The New York Times

To the Editor:

Re “Hungary Runs Vast Campaign for U.S. Sway” (front page, Oct. 4):

The moves by the “conservative” movement in America are transparent: “Illiberal democracy,” like that under Prime Minister Viktor Orban of Hungary, is its goal. This translates to minority rule. Make no mistake about it.

In previous generations such behavior was called extremist, anti-American, unconstitutional, even fascistic. Little has changed; it still is.

Adam Stoler

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