GT program pays off

Adam Schasel, Staff Reporter

With a group of my friends and peers, I had the opportunity of talking to a class of gifted and talented eighth graders about maintaining GT classes in high school. They were mostly concerned about GPA and rank in high school and it was our job to reassure them that taking advanced, but not differently weighted classes would not negatively affect their college transcripts.

These concerns are completely valid. However, the idea that gifted and talented students simply receive more work with little payoff frustrates me, because it’s not true. Not only is it not true, it causes students to drop out of what can be (and is, for me) an intellectually engaging, rewarding and fun program.

Does GT give you more work? The answer: depends. GT Social Studies classes in high school featured almost identical coursework. AP/GT Lang with Mrs Pabst featured timed writings on a weekly basis compared with a much smaller rate for the non-GT Lang class with Mrs Page. GT Math classes are practically the only route to taking higher-level math courses such as AP Calculus before senior year. GT science courses, admittedly, contained more advanced coursework just for the sake of more advanced coursework.

But the payoff is, without a doubt, worth the (extremely rare) extra hour of homework. Group retakes with smarter kids in GT history classes almost always guaranteed better test grades. Not only did weekly timed writings in AP/GT Lang prepare us for the AP test, it also pushed us to be better writers (an ability that students will appreciate when it comes to writing college essays or the occasional newspaper article). Plus, the constant current events discussions and the opportunity to have one of your favorite teachers two years and a row made the choice to take GT a no-brainer.

That goes double for GT math – because of my GT math classes from middle and high school, I was able to take Calculus AB and BC in my junior and senior years, respectively, doubling the time I spent learning from the seemingly divine Keith Christian. Extra coursework was even justified for GT Physics, since tests were identical to non-GT classes and we were able to do labs that non-GT students didn’t have time for.

But whenever I run into ex-GT students in the halls, they never mention the homework. All they can talk about is how they miss the GT atmosphere.

When you take classes with the same kids from sixth grade to senior year, you tend to bond with each other. And when students bond with each other, it makes the learning process that less painful. Discussions flow more freely and are filled with actually insightful ideas and comments instead of awkward silences. Faster learning leads to greater free time. More free time means ice cream and Chinese food parties (obviously).

When referring to students learning and discussing and Chinese food-partying with each other for seven years, some mention the “GT bubble-“ a theory stating that when students have the same classes with each other for so long, it makes them hostile to outsiders and difficult to adjust to students who learn at a slower pace than them. While probably true for some GT students, this is bubble is easily popped by other classes on campus; for example, my experiences in Band, Newspaper, Spanish and many other classes and extracurriculars has allowed me to form relationships with a broad variety of students. Even if someone is taking all the GT classes offered to them, they still have four periods a day to flesh out their schedule by taking classes from a large palette of choices.

The incoming freshmen I talked to may not have the same experience in GT that I did. But not giving the gifted and talented curriculum a fair chance because of untrue stereotypes is not the answer.