Chicago teachers went on strike today, leaving about 350,000 students without classes to attend at the start of the 2012–13 school year. It is the first such strike to occur in the city in 25 years. Sadly, regardless of the outcome, there is already a clear loser in the conflict: the students, including those who are gifted.
Even in the best of circumstances, many gifted students in the country’s urban areas are at risk for being underserved. As Jay Mathews with the Washington Post noted back in March: “Gifted classes are most common in affluent suburbs with many academically oriented families . . . Gifted education receives little notice in low-income urban school districts because it often doesn’t exist there.” Meanwhile, families in urban areas often compete to get their students into the best possible (often private) schools, a hassle that can be incredibly taxing. And with the economy still struggling, more and more parents are turning to cheaper public school alternatives—a situation that could leave students who don’t get into their desired schools especially frustrated. The Montgomery County Public School system (part of the DC metropolitan area), for example, reported in 2010 that only one third of the second-grade students recommended for above-level reading were receiving advanced instruction the following year.
Fortunately, there are options. As public schools slash gifted education programs, gifted charter schools continue to pop up, which may lessen the tooth-and-nail competition in certain communities. And all eyes are on Washington, DC’s new BASIS charter school, which presents what some consider to be the most challenging academic program the city has ever seen. Meanwhile, students in Chicago can make use of programs being offered by organizations like Young Chicago Authors, so they can stay engaged even while their schools' doors remain closed.