The Pine View Public School in Osprey has 74 acres dedicated to serving the gifted. Students qualify for this school as part of Florida’s “exceptional education and student services” (ESE), provided to help gifted children with special needs “progress in public school and prepare for life after school.”
Only 2.2% of students in the world score a 130 or higher on the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children, or 830 on the Stanford-Binet — each the standard minimum score to qualify for attendance in Pine View’s gifted program.
In Sarasota County, 5.2% of students meet this standard, or more than twice what is statistically expected.
Other relevant statistics:
• There are 42,030 students in Sarasota County. That would translate to 924 statistically gifted students in Sarasota. Pine View enrollment is 2,150.
• Sarasota County’s population is 4.7% black. Pine View’s black enrollment is 25 students, or 1% of its student body.
• The county is 7.9% Hispanic. Pine View has 89 Hispanic students, or 4% of the student body.
• Asians make up 1.2% of the county’s population. Pine View has 111 Asians, or 10 times the statistical average.
• Pine View has 8.6 % eligible for free and/or reduced lunch. This is four times below the county average of 32.8%.
With exceptional talent, high achievement and potential to excel, the Pine View student has a greater chance to be afflicted with specific social and educational ills that naturally emerge as a counter balance to their extraordinary talents. The ESE paradox is that the slow learner and the gifted learner place too much emphasis on being smart, which is a cause for their disabilities.
Common concerns with the gifted include: heightened emotional, physical and psychological sensitivity; misaligned development between motor skills and their conceptual abilities; relationship issues; apprehension; perfectionism; frustration; self-esteem issues; anxiety; and depression. They use negative, obnoxious or creative ways to show their intelligence and make problems. Gifted learning disabilities include: central, auditory, sensory- and visual-processing disorders; spatial disorientation; dyslexia; and attention deficits.
Until the late 1960s, 130 was the gifted IQ marker used by psychologists to determine whether students would get special educational services. In place of this standard, Joseph Renzulli’s “Three Ring Circle” and Howard Gardner’s “Multiple Intelligence Theory” have been used to blur the lines of reality and move the definition of gifted from innate to my child’s great. These therapeutic theories have so watered down the gifted label that it can now be stuck on any child with a little rhetorical sleight of hand.
Pine View’s sole responsibility is to identify and provide special services to special children. While federal law drives ESE programs, Florida’s gifted program is based on loose state law and administrative rules.
Strict entrance requirements to protect and serve the truly gifted student should not be compromised, because using arbitrary standards creates an abuse of standards that are set to protect children.
Take a look at the numbers and you decide if Pine View has become Sarasota’s semi-segregated elite public prep school for the not-all-gifted.
Dean Kalahar is an economics teacher at Sarasota High School. He lives in Sarasota.