All children are gifted one way or another. But because labels are still used to identify children, when I say gifted you immediately know I am referring to children who have high IQs. They intellectually function ahead of their peers on the bell-shaped curve—sometimes far ahead. They also might have learning disabilities along with being gifted. Then, if identified, they are called twice exceptional.
How do states address the gifted? In most places they do little—if anything.
In our nation many politicians and business leaders like to bad mouth America’s students. They pay no mind to the thousands who function at high levels. The so-called ed. reformers blather on about competition and dropout factories while foisting draconian measures like dull one-size-fits-all instruction and worthless, repetitive high-stakes testing. Consider the dearth of gifted programming in this country.
- IL, MO, MI, NY, NH, SD, VT, DE, RI and DC have NO or unknown state gifted programming, possibly it is funded at the local level, and NO or an unknown amount of state funding for gifted education.
- CT, MD, PA, and AL mandate gifted programming but have NO state funding for programs.
- CA, NV, WY, ND, and NM actually have funding, but they mandate NO gifted programming.
- Other states have mandated gifted programming but only partially fund it.
- Only GA, MS, OK, and IA fully fund gifted programming.
—Davidson Institute for Talent Development
Students identified as gifted might get a once a week pull-out class in elementary school. The teachers in these classes can be excellent, credentialed in understanding gifted students, or they may have no background in this area whatsoever.
In this pull-out class children do projects or work on puzzles. Most any child would enjoy such activities. Such programs might also do more harm than good because they could elicit jealousy from the students not in the gifted program.
Pull-out gifted resource classes that meet daily and address academic areas might be the best scenario. Gifted students get to still mingle with their peers in some regular classes and feel a part of the overall school environment (see Meghank comment below).
In middle school, students might get advanced classes, or be blended in with other students in regular classes. They score high on tests and get the work done quickly, or they are uninterested and act out. They learn to hate school. Sometimes, however, these students become high achievers, spinning their wheels over trivial information that has little personal value.
In high school, parents of gifted students rely on Accelerated Placement (AP) classes, which were never classes designed for gifted students per se. But by this time, parents take what they can get in the way of schooling. Students move through material at high speed, but are rarely challenged to think in-depth about a subject. The reliance on testing with AP is fierce. Little, if any, attention is paid to the individual gifted student’s interests or strengths.
International Baccalaureate (IB) might be better because it is oriented more towards projects, but it was never designed for gifted students either.
Even the process of identifying gifted students is unfair and insufficient. I’ve heard horror stories of students who miss the IQ cutoff, usual around 128—130, by a point or two!
Then there are the many disadvantaged children who might never get identified as gifted because their parents are poor and/or not well-versed about requesting psychological testing. How many children fall through the cracks and fail in school because they are uninterested…because no one identified them as gifted?
Many criticize Common Core State Standards, and I don’t see anything that addresses gifted students here either. Common Core is just what it says…it concentrates on common knowledge for everyone. There is no individualization.
Parents should push for the following changes:
- If the class size is reasonable, students should remain in regular classes, no matter the age level, with continuous support from a fully certified gifted ed. teacher. Their assignments should reflect what they need to learn—not the narrow standards of any commercialized program.
- A pull-out daily resource class would benefit gifted students if the focus is on academics.
- Some will say Response to Intervention (RTI) assists gifted students. When gifted students are thrown into huge class sizes there is little if any individualization of learning for that student. RTI is assessment—not intervention.
- If gifted students don’t have access to a decent sized class, they should have the option of a self-contained class with other gifted students. If there are not enough gifted students for a self-contained class in one school, they should be able to attend the school where a gifted class exists, or the school district should provide a gifted learning center.
- Students who miss the gifted cut-off point should be monitored carefully and still receive assistance. And a concerted effort should be made to identify gifted students in poor schools.
- The strengths (gifts) of all students should be highlighted in regular classes.
- The gifted associations and the Council for Exceptional Children should put pressure on politicians to improve school policy for gifted students. Ignoring this population has gone on too long.
As usual, I welcome your suggestions and experiences surrounding this important area of special education.