Monday, January 24, 2011

Windsor Whiz kid, 10, Kept Out of High School

This article is a couple months old, but i just happened upon through the Committed Sardine...

Since he was a toddler, Bachar Sbeiti was been recognized as being a gifted learner. At the age of three he could speak three languages and had memorized the capitals and flags of 40 countries. He was an accelerated learner in elementary school, being bumped up grade after grade. Now aged 10, when most kids his age are in the fifth grade, he has already completed grade eight and wants to start his grade nine cirriculum.

But a school district says no way. The superintendent doesn't believe in accelerating students, citing research that high school students learn from 'common experiences'. They expect Sbeiti to attend school in an age-appropriate grade, which means he would have to repeat grade six.

Sbeiti, who sounds wise beyond his years, thinks the city should encourage people to push themselves to go higher and be smarter, and that he would be bored doing grade six all over again.

This raises so many questions that my head is swimming. Is the school district getting in his way because of tradition and relying on doing things the way they've always done them? Is the superintendent failing to recognize the learning methods and teaching requirements of a gifted member of the digital generation, and failing to change to meet those needs? Or does the school district have a point - would the young genius be better off with kids his own age? What if this situation is exactly what is wrong with the education system today, and what can be done about it?

Food for thought - chew on this.

originally posted by Mick Harper
Sep 1, 2010

view the original source for this post

Windsor Whiz kid, 10, Kept Out of High School

An academically gifted 10-year-old will have to repeat some grade levels -- because he's too young for high school.

Windsor resident Bachar Sbeiti said he's growing depressed the public school board won't let him enrol in Grade 9 this fall despite his completion of the Grade 8 curriculum through private school.

"It makes me feel bad," said the boy. "The city, I believe, should encourage people to go higher and be smarter."

But Sharon Pyke, a superintendent of education with the Greater Essex County District School Board, said a child of Bachar's age belongs in Grade 5 -- at the most, Grade 6.

"Our belief is that we do not accelerate students," Pyke said.

"We recognize that students work really well with their peers, and want to be with their peers.

"He's coming from a different system. He would be placed in his age-appropriate grade."

Bachar can't help sounding indignant about the school board's position. "I finished Grade 6," he said. "I don't understand the point of doing it again. And I finished Grade 8, too. I just want to go to high school.

"I don't really mind being with people older than me. I want to actually challenge myself."

Recognized as gifted since he was a toddler, Bachar's schooling has been atypical. At the age of three, he could speak three languages, had memorized the capitals and flags of 40 countries, and could recite the 99 Islamic names for God.

He was first enrolled in the Roeper school for gifted children in Bloomfield Hills, Mich. His mother, Hala Sbeiti, said the U.S. location proved too inconvenient and they moved back to Windsor.

Most of Bachar's education thus far has been at the Stellar Leadership Academy -- a local private school that covers the intermediate grades of the Ontario curriculum.

Hala said she's looked into other private facilities that cover the high school grades, such as Academie Ste. Cecile and the First Lutheran Christian Academy. "They have no programs for him."

As a single parent on social assistance, Hala has depended on the support of the Arab community to pay for Bachar's private schooling. The Lebanese-born mother said she's trying to make sure her only child gets the best education possible, but now she feels stuck. "I don't know what to do with him," she said. "There's nothing for gifted children like him."

Asked if she'd consider leaving Windsor so that Bachar can attend other schools, Hala said her son would never accept it.

"He loves Windsor. He refuses to move anywhere. It's his community. It's his life here."

Meanwhile, Pyke said the school board's position is backed by research. She pointed out that in high school, students are also learning from "common experiences" such as obtaining their driving licences. "That would not happen with a 10-year-old."

Pyke said she's not familiar with Bachar's case, but the board's policy with all gifted students is to develop individual education plans, expanding and adding depth to existing curricula.

She said she's conducted her own interviews with gifted students and a recurring theme has been that "kids want to stay with their friends."

But Bachar -- who counts math as his favourite subject -- said he's ready for the high school environment.

"I really don't mind. Most of my friends now are teenagers."

Asked if he's sure he wants to try Grade 9 mathematics -- which includes algebra expressions with exponents, analytic geometry and the study of "linear relations" -- Bachar said he's "very sure."

"I'd get really bored doing Grade 6 again."

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