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Gifted program should end sooner

I was interested to read that the Champaign school district plans to phase out its gifted program over the next three years. This timetable is disappointing, as the district’s Education Equity Excellence Committee recommended the immediate elimination of this program in its report prepared in response to the school board’s proclamation last summer declaring racism a public-health crisis.

I applaud the action and regret the public backlash.

Members of the committee who drafted the report stated that “segregated gifted classrooms cause immeasurable harm to all children who witness them. Through its highly segregated gifted classes, the district promulgates the pernicious myth of Black intellectual inferiority. Every child deserves to engage with intellectually challenging material every day in school.”

The facts are clear. The News-Gazette reported, “although the district has attempted to diversify the program … it simply hasn’t worked. In 2020, just 3 percent of the district’s Black students and 3 percent of its Hispanic students were enrolled in gifted classes, while 11 percent of White students and 30 percent of Asian students were enrolled in the program.”

Student test scores reported by the Illinois Board of Higher Education make it clear that Unit 4 needs change to better serve Black students. I believe that this change will better provide the classroom environment and instruction for more students to succeed, with higher expectations, peer modeling and improved classroom behavior.

There are many benefits to all of us if our public schools meet the challenge of its mission to serve all students. All students.

MARCIA E. NELSON

Champaign

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