Challenging top students
Elimination of the Accelerated Learning Activities Program (ALAP) from Warwick Schools has prompted a debate over whether higher achieving students should be given special treatment or if they will simply take care of themselves.
Although she believes the ALAP program to be beneficial, School Committee Chair Beth Furtado said she voted to eliminate the program because it only supports close to 300 students, or half of a percent of the student population. She believes that the goal should be to utilize resources to support all students.
While that is a true and admirable goal, how does eliminating a program that is said to renew love of school and learning in 300 students support those 300 students?
Some kids are “gifted and talented” when it comes to learning. They finish math problems on the first try, they read fast and they have an uncanny ability to have their hand raised with the correct answer before the teacher even finishes asking the question. It is the case that other students need more time to learn subjects.
While in a classroom, the “smart kids” will often finish assignments early and then just sit there, waiting for the rest of the class to catch up. They become bored with school and some might even begin to act out, distracting the rest of the class who are still trying to learn the material.
Why can’t those students be given the opportunity to challenge themselves with a program that costs $300,000 in a total budget of $158 million?
Ted Larson, an ALAP PTA volunteer and former PTA president, pointed out that there are honors programs to cater to those high performing students at the junior and senior high school levels, but nothing to support the high performing elementary students with ALAP eliminated.
It was also pointed out by Larson, School Committee member Eugene Nadeau and other parents that without support for their high performing students, parents may move to other districts or send their children to private schools where they believe they will be better supported.
With declining enrollment and school classifications from the Rhode Island Department of Education of Typical or worse, can Warwick schools afford to lose 300 of their best and brightest? We think not.
Although “smart kids” are self-motivators and will work hard to achieve their goals on their own, support from their schools in reaching their highest potential will only motivate them more. The School Committee should restore ALAP or replace it with another program, but it shouldn’t leave the brightest behind for the sake of mediocrity.