Inclusion of a particular student in a gifted program is often predicated on how the term ‘gifted’ is perceived by those determining entrance requirements. When schools have a talent development mind-set, gifted programs seem to promote achievement as the primary goal. High-achievers are sought after while twice-exceptional and under-performing students are usually overlooked. Lack of a federal policy on gifted education has led to a widely disjointed approach to how local school districts determine who participates in a school’s gifted program.
Is there a difference between gifted and high-achieving? Bertie Kingore in her consummate piece, “High Achiever, Gifted Learner, Creative Thinker” explains it this way:
“Identification of gifted students is clouded when concerned adults misinterpret high achievement as giftedness. High-achieving students are noticed for their on-time, neat, well-developed, and correct learning products. Adults comment on these students’ consistent high grades and note how well they acclimate to class procedures and discussions. Some adults assume these students are gifted because their school-appropriate behaviors and products surface above the typical responses of grade-level students.
Educators with expertise in gifted education are frustrated trying to help other educators and parents understand that while high achievers are valuable participants whose high-level modeling is welcomed in classes, they learn differently from gifted learners. In situations in which they are respected and encouraged, gifted students’ thinking is more complex with abstract inferences and more diverse perceptions than is typical of high achievers. Articulating those differences to educators and parents can be difficult.”
It was agreed by most that many gifted students are high-achievers, but that alone should not be the sole determining factor; who receives gifted services should be based on a much more comprehensive procedure.
When asked if gifted programs should cater only to high performers, the answer was a resounding, “No!” Many pointed out that gifted children who do not perform according to ‘standards’ may well be the ones who need help the most. As Cait, school psychologist and blogger at My Little Poppies, pointed out, “You’d leave so many behind. The outliers, the creatives, the square pegs- those who think differently.” Gifted programs which address social and emotional needs may be the last glimmer of hope for some students.
Should students who are not performing up to expectations be left-behind in favor of students who ‘want’ to learn? This was obviously an emotionally charged question. Students with high ability who are stuck in unchallenging academic environments may tune out and not even try to achieve. Molli Osburn, the Creative Math Coach, observed, “Lack of challenge leads to lack of engagement, which leads to lack of achievement.” Curriculum design and programs need to be tailored to motivate and inspire gifted children. Susanne Thomas, Director of Gifted Homeschoolers Forum Online, noted that “We lose the slow, deep, rich thinkers. We lose so much. Gifted education shouldn’t be a reward, but a program that is MEETING NEEDS.”
Finally, the discussion turned to what criteria should be used in gifted screenings. Jade Rivera, educator and coach suggested, “Recommendations from knowledgeable adults that have experience with gifted theory and the child.” Culture, socio-economic levels, portfolios, qualitative assessments, observation, and parental insights were all mentioned as important aspects in identification. For a more in-depth look at this topic see the full transcript at Storify.
Global #gtchat Powered by the Texas Association for the Gifted and Talented is a weekly chat on Twitter. Join us Fridays at 7/6 C & 4 PT in the U.S., midnight in the UK and Saturdays 1 PM NZ/11 AM AEDT to discuss current topics in the gifted community and meet experts in the field. Transcripts of our weekly chats can be found at Storify. Our Facebook Pageprovides information on the chat and news & information regarding the gifted community.
About the author: Lisa Conrad is the Moderator of Global #gtchat Powered by TAGT and Social Media Manager of the Global #gtchat Community. She is a longtime advocate for gifted children and also blogs at Gifted Parenting Support. Lisa can be contacted at: email@example.com
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