Monday, October 20, 2008

Changing Needs of Gifted Education

In anticipation of a new book from the American Psychological Association (The Development of Giftedness and Talent Across the Life Span) comes this Education Week article:

Excerpt: "If schools were to view giftedness as more of a developmental process than an immutable attribute, they would likely need to test children more often. And children might move in and out of “gifted” programs more frequently, based on their individual needs."

The points made include concepts such as "...Academic talents can wax and wane...(so that) a child who clearly outpaces his or her peers academically at age 8 can end up solidly in the middle of the pack by the end of high school. Instead of being innate and immutable, giftedness can be nurtured and even taught—and if ignored, it can also be lost."

In most gifted programs, preschool testing may be the make-it or break-it determinant of whether a child is in or out of a gifted program. This does lead to under-recognition of children (late bloomers, late talkers, slow performers, non-privileged children) as well as over-estimation of others (early bloomers, early talkers, quick performers, privileged children). Programs would benefit by allowing children to test into gifted programs at different ages, but care should also be taken before exiting a child from a gifted program - unrecognized learning disabilities are common reasons that young gifted children don't look gifted when they get older - and twice-exceptional or 2e children may be inappropriately placed in regular classrooms. For many 2e kids, their most appropriate placement is in a gifted classroom with necessary accommodations.

Gifted dyslexic students may frequently find themselves in the "poor fit" category. Their advanced conceptual, analytical, and oral verbal ability may easily land them into a gifted classroom as kindergarteners, but as they progress through school, they may fall increasingly as writing expectations increase.

Another controversial point raised by developmental psychologist Daniel Keating:

Excerpt: "...pullout-style “enrichment” programs don’t really meet the needs of students who are working far above their grade levels, he said. In fact, Mr. Keating argued, such enrichment is probably better aimed at struggling students.

“Why don’t you take the least-engaged kids and get them to like school more?” he said. “It’s being aimed at the wrong kids.”

Precocious students should be allowed to take academic courses at a higher level, Mr. Keating said."

It's possible that Keating's comments are being taken out of context, but enrichment is appropriate for many gifted students - while acceleration is not - many gifted children can manage more complex and detailed lesson plans, yet not have the motor, expressive output, or other physical development to keep up with grade acceleration.

Interesting issues raised by this new book on gifted education by the APA. We look forward to reading the full book when it's out.

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