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New Hope Middle School to Replace Gifted Program

Lynn WrightRepresentatives of Lowndes County schools have announced that its Gifted program, known as MERIT, is to be replaced by a “Pre-AP” system, for their 7th-grade-and-above students. Over seventy parents, a number of whom were teachers, attended a meeting explaining this at New Hope Middle School recently. NHMS Sam Allison, County schools superintendent Lynn Wright and assistant schools superintendent Dr. Robin Ballard were present to discuss the decision, which had already been made even before the meeting took place. While the school system had been working on this idea for about the last three years, parents and students only recently heard about it, after the fact. The school board plans to take up the matter on Friday.
Allison explained that their decision came about “not because of budget cuts, not because it was a bad program,” but that he felt that students in the program were simply not testing as high as he had expected; he also noted that Lowndes County has roughly thirty percent of its students in the gifted program, as opposed to the national average of more like five percent. He did not make any explicit connection between the unusually high percentage of students in the program and the real-world results.
Many of the attendees were upset, both at the decision, and at the feeling that they had not been afforded the opportunity to give their input into the process. At least some expressed the sentiment that they felt that the smarter students were being punished for their intelligence. Others spoke of children who really only felt a sense of “belonging” in the MERIT classes.
After two hours of questions from the crowd, one person asked if the decision was final; Superintendent Wright responded in the affirmative, prompting the parents in attendance to leave, seeming to feel a sense of defeat.

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