Are We Cultivating the Best and the Brightest?


Much of the focus in recent years is raising the level of achievement in underperforming schools. This improvement zeroes in on at-risk children in low socio-economic status neighborhoods. First, I believe that this goal is important and very necessary. I believe all children can learn and will learn if given good instruction. Improve instruction and the indicators of quality instruction, and results will happen.

At the same time, the very thing that motivated me to enter the world of education, is fighting for the rights and quality education for the gifted child. Improving this aspect of education will also improve education and instruction for all. The things that help gifted kids, help all kids. Experiential, inquiry based learning is good for everyone.  Although the speed, depth and method of implementation can be different for G/T kids, this curriculum benefits all children.

There is a misnomer that the gifted child, will be fine no matter what. I believe in gifted education. Again, it is for exactly that reason that I got interested in public education. That said, I also believe that education must be individualized for all children. Often integrated or experiential programs are considered for gifted kids. That is not so–ALL CHILDREN BENEFIT FROM THIS TYPE OF EDUCATION. Gifted children specifically do need different interventions. Often they are given more of the same work, penalized to do a longer project not of their choice, and even teach others in the classroom. A little of all of these things may be okay, but without curriculum interventions specifically designed for the gifted aspects of that child, it doesn’t address needed differentiation.

Some states have mandated gifted education. Colorado is one of them. Even so, this mandate only requires the schools to have something. It does not really enforce it through law or the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act,  http://idea.ed.gov/,  which it should. Students now have an ALP (Alternative Learning Plan) not too different from the IEP (Individual Learning Plan) used for Special Education students.  At this time, the ALP is a fairly simple document that addresses what exactly the school will do to support your child’s giftedness.  This can be offering an advanced math class, taking 10th grade science in 9th grade, etc. I am not endorsing these interventions as the best way to educate gifted kids. It becomes more of the same rather than something different. Also, gifted education may address areas in musical, artistic,  kinesthetic giftedness (athletic ability) and leadership. There is no real enforcement of the ALP as there is with the IEP. I don’t think state education officials will audit as they do with the same comprehensiveness of the IEP. The penalties for not providing special services required on an IEP are stiff. I am cynical, but I don’t think there would be significant punishment for not providing a gifted child with the necessary interventions. Often schools say they don’t have the resources for this enforcement (and they often don’t). The interventions are not specific enough to evaluate, in other words, if you have a speech deficit, you get an hour of speech therapy per week. We don’t offer an hour of gifted therapy per week.  Not many seem to take this aspect of education seriously as again, THEY WILL BE FINE. THEY WILL LEARN ANYWAY. The idea of the mandate is to show there is some effort, the evaluation of the follow through is debatable. I serve on a Gifted and Talented Advisory Council for a school district and we, and the district, take this work seriously.                         

So, if you are wondering why I pick this topic on which to focus when yes, there really are a lot of  big educational issues out there. Simply said, the education of every child is important. The notion that G/T kids will be okay without support or quality education for their needs is ridiculous. All children need a quality education. The best and the brightest need quality education too. Our current focus on creativity, innovation and STEM education is for everyone, but in the obvious way, this emphasis will help gifted children develop their potential.

Excellent information for the parents of gifted children:

http://www.nagc.org/STEM.aspx

http://www.nagc.org/index.aspx?id=538

Great blog on gifted children: http://rochestersage.org/

Categories: 21st Century Education, Arts Integrated Education, creativity, critical thinking, Education reform, educational budget, gifted education, Imagination, Innovation, integrated curriculum, motivation, social/emotional wellness, STEM education, Uncategorized

3 comments

  1. Why not individualized learning plans and supports for all children?
    While the degree of customization might vary, it seems unfair to only offer it to students who fit the vague description of gifted-ness.

    • Many schools and districts are offering, if not mandating, individual learning plans which address student aptitude and interest. Students create these plans with the help of guidance counselors and parents. Schools are using profiles such as the MYERS-BRIGGS personality profile to inform in creating these plans as well as the body of evidence they have accumulated from various evaluations and recommendations. The idea is to individualize education and training appropriately for students to be career or college ready.

      No one suggests that only G/T students receive such evaluation to impact their learning. For Giftedness, there is always a body of evidence required to determine and yes, label students that fit the gifted and talented criteria. It is not a simple or vague formula, although it will vary from school district to school district. The comparison here of the Advanced Learning Plan to the Individual Education Plan used for intervention or special education services is to correlate each with the mandates from IDEA.

      All students should receive a quality and equal education with no exception because of ability. My point in focusing on gifted kids in particular is exactly for that reason. It is assumed that gifted kids will be fine, so don’t bother with them.

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