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INSTEAD OF DUMBING DOWN, SCHOOLS SHOULD SMARTEN UP

Bravo to Donn Esmonde for his thoughtful discussion of the disastrous consequences for all gifted Buffalo Public School students if officials were to change admission policies for Olmsted School and City Honors. The academic achievements at these schools are among the highest in Buffalo, New York State and the nation.

The mission of public education is to provide all students with the educational opportunities and programs that will enable them to develop their learning potential to the fullest.

But the Buffalo Public Schools have not fulfilled this mission for their gifted students. Each year, students who meet the requirements for admission to gifted programs are denied admission because there are simply not enough slots. Lowering admission standards would only increase the pool of "qualified" students, excluding even more students than before. We need to expand programs for gifted students -- or create new ones -- so that all who qualify will have access to the education they need and deserve.

Nor would lowered standards deal effectively with the goal of maintaining diversity in the student body. The way to achieve stable diversity without sacrificing quality is not by "dumbing down" the excellent programs already in place, but by "smarting up" the quality of education for all students, especially for those whose school readiness and academic progress have been hindered by financial or educational deprivation.

Some strides in this direction have already been made. Many more are needed.

LILLIAN LEIBER Buffalo

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