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Tuesday's Tip: Gifted Education

UNDERFUNDED AND INAPPROPRIATELY ADMINISTERED

Gifted scholars come from all economic, racial, ethnic, and cultural populations and constitute 3.2 million school scholars or 6% of the school population. Gifted scholars perform at higher levels than their same-aged peers in one or more domains. They require access to appropriate learning opportunities, modifications to their educational instruction, social and emotional support, and guidance to develop their talent and realize their potential.

Currently, ¼ of identified gifted scholars are African American or Latino and ¾ are white. Gifted education matters. A significant number of scholars who are not academically challenged become underachievers and exhibit behavioral problems due to boredom and disengagement, resulting in low self-esteem, dropping out of school, and an increased incidence of mental health issues.

  • 65% of scholars with superior intelligence had major depressive disorders and were more likely to experience being overwhelmed and have an existential depression when their understanding of themselves or the manifestation of unfairness in life occurs.

  • Per Dąbrowski, gifted scholars often have several of the overexcitabilities (OEs); psychomotor, sensual, emotional, imaginational and intellectual because they see reality in a different, stronger and more multisided manner.

    • Psychomotor: excitability of the neuromuscular system, active and energetic, a need for movement.

    • Sensual: intensified positive or negative experiences from the five senses.

    • Intellectual: desire to seek understanding and to analyze and categorize information.

    • Imaginational: intensified imagination and may live in their own private world with imaginary companions and dramatizations.

    • Emotional: heightened, intense feelings or complex emotions, empathy, compassion, and appear highly sensitive.


The report to the U.S. Senate regarding Gifted education noted that:

  • “The majority of gifted scholar’s school adjustment problems occur between kindergarten and fourth grade.”

  • “About half of the gifted scholars became ‘mental dropouts’ at around 10 years of age.”

  • “The federal role in the delivery of services … is all but non-existent.”

  • Gifted education essentially does not exist. There is a poor attempt in our elementary schools, inconsistent and poor programming at middle schools, and only honors or AP classes in high schools. Essentially, what programming is available for the gifted is lacking an appropriate level of instructional pace and /or stimulating academics that are academically aligned vs age aligned.

The quality and availability of Gifted education varies widely across the United States and there is NO federal investment in gifted education. Federal laws do not mandate scholar identification or the provision of appropriate services. Yet, these laws acknowledge that scholars who are gifted and talented have unique needs that are often not met in regular school settings. We have the most backward approach to gifted education and rank the lowest among westernized countries. Lack of access to advanced programming results in talented scholars not having access to elite universities and STEM majors or they drop out.

LEGISLATION

Scholars who have an exceptional intellect or are gifted in the arts are not covered by IDEA. The Jacob K Javits Gifted and Talented Student Education Act of 1988 was the first legislation to identify public school responsibility for gifted education. This law was incorporated into the Elementary and Secondary Education Act which was itself later folded into the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001. It was then included in Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) in December 2015.


Federal law provides a definition of "gifted and talented" but does not outline the criteria for qualifying for services under this definition. Parents need to review state regulations related to their scholar qualifying for a gifted program and must know their role and responsibilities to develop and approve an appropriate Gifted IEP. Unfortunately, many schools do not understand the basic rights and responsibilities that apply to gifted scholars, and it is not uncommon for parental rights and responsibilities to be misrepresented.

We must ask who receives and delivers the scarce gifted education resources and how they are delivered.

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