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Watered Down Gifted Education Programs

In this day and age, when there are so many reports claiming that the United States is falling behind the eight ball in science, math and technology, why are so many gifted programs being diluted? Isn’t it the gifted and talented that have the most potential to make this world economically and technologically superior?

It seems to be a trend for gifted teachers to be laid off, transferring their responsibilities to teachers inexperienced in gifted education. We have hit hard times economically, so something has to give. I get that. But I wonder how giving regular classroom teachers STEM grants, whittling down gifted education to a period a day in middle school, or pulling in intervention teachers to handle enrichment activities with the gifted students in a class is going to provide a strong foundation upon which a gifted person can continue to build the skills necessary to compete in today’s society. I see most elementary schools in my county do not even have gifted programs, nor do they promote diagnosing a gifted student. I suppose it goes back to the cost. Skimping on strengthening excellence with the students who most possess it seems counterproductive. Hmmm?

STEM grants certainly enhance a regular teacher’s science and math delivery. However, they are defined by a term. After the funds run out, where do the challenging science and math lessons go? What does this say to the priority of intellectual advancement? Does a teacher say she cannot teach as well because the grant has expired? Do parents accept that? Does administration really accept that?

In a neighboring county, gifted education is whittled to one period a day in middle school. Assignment to this class is given only by transfer of already-diagnosed gifted students or upon diligent insistence of parents for their child to be tested and allowed into the program. For each year of middle school, the students in the gifted program work on one project for the whole year. I recall one school enrolled its students in a yearlong Toastmaster’s class, building public speaking skills. The following year, the students were involved in all aspects of creating the yearbook. While skills in a gifted student’s IEP were definitely addressed, the students were not aware of them so that they may finesse their successes. A student confessed to me that she felt there was little or no learning there; that it was just a great diversion at the end of the day. Learning was haphazard and not deliberate. What does this say to the importance of being gifted?

How does a regular classroom teacher handle a pull-in gifted involvement program? Gifted students grasp concepts much more rapidly and more deeply than non-gifted students, so they have time to apply what they learn. How fair is it to the non-gifted student that they do not have the time to apply any knowledge they have gained? By the time they have grasped the concepts, it is time to move on to the next concept. Is it fair for a regular classroom teacher to answer to that?

When gifted education is slighted its full attention, how credible is the program? Do gifted students feel pumped because they are gifted or do they feel like any other student? Does their effort/motivation reflect this? Do they feel that what they have to offer is of value? Just wondering.

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