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Gifted education is often a flash point in school desegregation debates; in large cities, these programs often operate as an essentially separate school system, dominated by white and Asian children. Though gifted programs touch only 3.3 million school children, about 7 percent of the U.S. student population, it’s disturbing that Black and Hispanic children are rarely chosen for them. 

Some progressives have proposed eliminating gifted programs altogether. Others are seeking ways to increase the number of Black and Hispanic students. Only 4 percent of Black children and 5 percent of Hispanic children are in gifted programs compared with 8 percent of white and 13 percent of Asian children, according to the most recent federal figures.

Against this political backdrop, a new study raises big questions about whether gifted education benefits the kids who are lucky enough to be in it. Researchers analyzed the records of about 1,300 students, drawn from a nationally representative sample of children across the country, who started kindergarten in 2010 and participated in a gifted program for at least one year during their elementary school years through fifth grade. 

In school systems that offer gifted programs, children generally begin their schooling in a regular kindergarten classroom with children of mixed abilities. Some are labeled as gifted during that first kindergarten year. Others get assigned as late as fifth grade. Researchers compared student performance before and after participating in a gifted program.

Students’ reading scores were only slightly higher after receiving gifted instruction, moving from 78th to 80th percentile in reading on a national yardstick. The boost to math achievement from gifted instruction was much smaller, about a third of that size. No improvements were detected in how engaged or motivated students were in school after joining a gifted program. For example, teachers reported no difference in how hard students worked, how much they participated in discussions or how much they paid attention and listened in class.

Black students didn’t experience even the small reading gains that their white peers did in gifted programs, showing zero difference after receiving gifted services, on average. Similarly, low-income students of all races tended not to reap the academic gains that their wealthier peers did. Asian children, by contrast, posted larger gains in math after joining a gifted program.

“What was most concerning to me was that even this small benefit wasn’t equally distributed across all students subgroups,” said Christopher Redding, an assistant professor at the University of Florida and one of the study’s co-authors. “It seems like Black students benefit less than white students and that high income students benefit the most.”

Related: Gifted classes may not help talented students move ahead faster

The study, “Do Students in Gifted Programs Perform Better? Linking Gifted Program Participants to Achievement and Nonachievement Outcomes,” is slated to be published in May 2021 in the journal of Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis. Redding and his co-author, Jason A. Grissom at Vanderbilt University, presented their study in April 2021 at a session of the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association. 

This federal data was only recently made available to researchers and it’s the first time that we’re getting a comprehensive national picture of how well kids are doing in gifted programs from kindergarten through fifth grade. Previous research, most of it limited to specific states and school districts, has been mixed. Some studies have shown sluggish learning growth for gifted students. However, high achieving students tend to improve less than average or below average students whether they’re in gifted or regular classrooms. 

A well-designed 2011 study of one city found no evidence that students in the gifted program outperformed those just below the cutoff for giftedness by the time they reached seventh grade. It also found that high achieving students who won a seat in a lottery to attend a popular magnet school did better in science but not in math or English compared to similar students who lost the lottery. 

A 2016 study of a school district in Florida found no benefit for white students but large benefits for Black and Hispanic students who were assigned to separate gifted classrooms. This national study found the opposite, that white students reaped benefits from gifted programs that children of color did not. The Florida study wasn’t wrong but this national study shows that different schools administer gifted services differently and can get different results.

What to make of these small-to-nil benefits across the nation depends on your perspective. Advocates of gifted education might see promise in the fact that high achieving students saw any gains at all from gifted programs. In many schools children might receive only a few hours a week of extra instruction. Students are pulled out of their regular classroom or a teacher is sent into their classroom to work with advanced students in small groups. One might rightly wonder if “gifted” students would see a larger boost if they received more hours of advanced instruction. 

Related: Brainy black and Hispanic students might benefit most from ‘honors’ classrooms

Unfortunately, the federal data that the researchers relied upon didn’t document the type of gifted instruction or how many hours each student received. So the researchers weren’t able to see if higher dosage — or separate full-day classrooms for gifted students — generated better learning outcomes for high achievers.

Virginia Roach, executive director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth, which operates programs for high achieving students, commended the study in an email.  She said the disappointing results are a sign that teachers need better training to teach gifted students differently. She added that pressures to increase the number of students who pass annual state tests discourage teachers from focusing on advanced students and giving them an “optimal” challenge. 

A startling finding from the study is that most students in gifted programs are only slightly above average in achievement, far from anyone’s idea of a genius. The average “gifted” student across the nation ranked between the 75th and 80th percentiles in math and reading, according to the national yardstick tests used by the researchers. The process for deciding which students get assigned to gifted programs varies a lot by state and school district but clearly the identification process is broken if it’s not targeting students who are several grade levels ahead of their peers and in need of more challenging material. 

Perhaps it should be no surprise that students aren’t achieving more in gifted classrooms when most educators admit they don’t even try to teach advanced material in them. A 2019 survey of teachers in gifted programs found they primarily focused on “enrichment activities,” such as creative, fun projects and critical thinking exercises and discussions, keeping children on grade-level material, rather than moving them ahead to advanced academic content. 

The research consensus, by contrast, argues for propelling high achieving children ahead. “This acceleration question is a really important one,” said Redding, arguing that researchers need to re-examine ideas for exceptionally advanced kids, from starting kindergarten early and skipping a grade to giving advanced instruction in a particular subject. “We need to learn whether other approaches would be more beneficial for supporting gifted students versus some sort of a pullout or enrichment model,” said Redding.

It’s possible that standardized achievement tests and teacher surveys on student engagement are unable to measure the benefits of a gifted education. Perhaps placement in a gifted program raises a child’s self-esteem and confidence and the results don’t emerge until decades later in the form of PhDs, poems and patents. 

But based on the measures we have now and the current state of affairs of these programs, it appears that gifted education isn’t much of a gift to students.

This story about gifted programs was written by Jill Barshay and produced by The Hechinger Report, a nonprofit, independent news organization focused on inequality and innovation in education. Sign up for the Hechinger newsletter.

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Letters to the Editor

27 Letters

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  1. I am a retired elementary school Principal and post retirement a Consultant to Charter Schools. My son was in public school gifted programs from age 5-14 and AP courses in high school. He was challenged, always read 2 years above grade level, developed critical thinking skills. The elementary program was mostly project based and my son was always leaning something new.
    I had gifted programs in my own schools with outstanding teachers. There was racial and ethic diversity in the programs.
    I do believe teachers make a difference and so do Principals.

  2. I wish you would distinguish between high achieving students and gifted students, there may be some overlap but the labels are not synonymous.

  3. I think you’ve missed the point of gifted education. Giftedness is not about academics. It’s intellectual. Many gifted children do not have grades that most people expect. Many students who perform well academically are not gifted. Giftedness is about thinking outside the box. And don’t be surprised if a gifted child has behavioral issues. They often go hand in hand. Before you create another racial bias, gain an understanding of what constitutes giftedness.

    As a teacher of the gifted, a mother of gifted children, and an adult who grew up gifted in Mississippi before Mississippi had a gifted program, I know gifted.

    Janet Taylor-Perry, B.S, M.A.T
    Gifted Instructor, Jackson Public Schools (Mississippi)

  4. This is a somewhat misleading article as it does not define what is meant by “gifted education” or “giftedness”. And this is the crux of the problem when discussing gifted education really anywhere in the world. We must define our terms to have this conversation.

    Gifted education does not and cannot create gifted students. Gifted education merely educates gifted students given their unique needs.

    “Giftedness” is a catch-all term for some combination of high IQ, developmental asynchronicity (being significantly ahead and significantly behind in different areas at the same time), delayed maturation of executive functioning (often 4-6 years later than age peers) and unique socialisation needs created by these other factors.

    Symptoms of unmet educational needs in gifted children include underachievement, disengagement, behaviours that can be mistaken for ADD, ASD, anxiety and depression. Gifted students can also have disabilities, including specific disabilities and even cognitive disabilities that will mask giftedness. If we attempt to detect or measure giftedness via achievement, we will overlook students with these challenges.

    Achievement measures are also already biased against students of colour, low-income students, students who are immigrants and English-language learners and students experiencing homeless or frequent moves. Achievement and cognitive tests also often have biases against girls. Therefore, if we use “achievement” to evaluate giftedness and gifted education, we bring all these same biases to bear. The result is an article like this, full of conflated and unclear claims that should be used to inform policy only at our peril.

    Giftedness is not achievement. High-achieving students are not necessarily gifted. Measuring achievement does not measure giftedness, and because gifted students often underachieve when their needs are not met, measuring achievement probably isn’t useful to measure whether the needs of gifted students are being met, at all.

    Giftedness is a neurodifference.

  5. Hi,
    I like the idea of banish gifted program forever.its a discrimination between kids at such a early stage. Parents can teach their gifted kids extra at home.At school weak student can get the company of good kid and can be motivated instead of feeling inferior being not in gifted.
    My saw discrimination wheny kid being the smart and communicated could not get selected for student council against a mute gifted kid because he was not in gifted. Some kids want to be in gifted just to be with friends.
    There are thousand of stories of discrimination ..and gifted kids do bully when they think they are super smart and treat other kids like dirt…it’s a label these school psychologist put on kid.
    Parents prepare their kid for gifted test and it’s not all about street smart or IQ

    A test cannot determine any kid cannot compare a doctor,musician, journalist,businessman, dancer or a actor .everybody is perfect in their own way.

  6. As the mother of 2 gifted students, I am encouraged by the discussion of the differences between giftedness and high achievement. No one has used the word creativity but being creative as a problem solver is a reflection of giftedness. In first grade, both of my kids were reading on the 4th grade level and in the 99 percentile state wide. In one of my children, the giftedness was very obvious just by having a conversation. She was self-motivated, eager to please, and an interested learner. My son is the opposite, yet no less gifted. His teacher actually thought he was below level. Behavior can blind teachers to ability. My son was bored and got into trouble. He wasn’t interested in the basic things being taught and therefore didn’t work at it. I am so thankful for testing as it validated that my son was equally as gifted as my daughter. Just very different personalities. Well I appreciate that my district has a gifted program, it’s at most 2 hours a week. Everyone is quick to say how criminal it is to have students left behind, but it’s equally as criminal not to challenge gifted students. It’s disheartening to read a comment by someone who thinks giftedness shouldn’t even be part of the budget. Research shows that lower students benefit from having gifted students in their classes but there is no benefit to the gifted student. The system is equally stacked against the gifted student as much as it is the lower student. Both don’t get what they need. Look at any budget, it’s always about the low end and the special needs. Gifted is an after thought.

  7. I would suspect that the biggest difference for the gifted kids would be seen when they are in a good gifted program and also have good parents who themselves also live with good values and teach good values to their kids. I’m more curious about whether the gifted programs helped the gifted kids have a better understanding of their “gifts” and also did they develop stronger social skills to help improve their mental wellbeing? Those, to me, seem like the most important benefits of a gifted program. And I agree with those who previously posted that the author here doesn’t even seem to understand what really constitutes a gifted child or a gifted program.

  8. The mistake here is the time period.
    In high school in the late 70s my school started the gifted program. An IQ test was required with a cut off of 130.
    The courses were truly college level. Hard…a lot of reading and assignments.
    Flash forward 40 years when i taught high school. Now anybody can take these courses and gee whoda thunk the standards of the course would be lowered….substantially.
    The result?
    Do the math.

  9. It’s interesting that the author points out a “broken” system of identification if it’s not ” targeting students who are several grade levels ahead of their peers and in need of more challenging material.” That definition in particular refers to a highly gifted child, and assumes that all gifted children look the same.

    I agree with other commenters that the crux of the problem isn’t just about whether gifted students are achieving higher–it’s about defining what gifted means and may look like. It also requires a societal agreement that these students deserve to have services and not just “they’ll be fine.”

  10. I am the parent of two children both gifted and one high achieving student. I am Greek and Italian and my wife is Puerto Rican both in NJ. I appreciate the difference between gifted and high achieving. My children are gifted because they have great abilities and we push them HARD. Bend don’t break is my motto. As an engineer in quality management who has worked in pharma for 20 years I appreciate STEM coursework. As for High acheiving. To me that is usually from DNA and drive. Some students are lucky to have both. The race to make everyone equal is not happening in S Korea, China, Japan or Estonia. How are we going to compete in a global marketplace if we dont push students and encourage then to challenge themselves. That’s what AP and honors coursework in HS does. Maybe we should start holding parents accountable. So your child is great at soccer and basketball. But can he do trig or calc. Don’t follow this liberal path. Besides. These same liberal elite make sure their kids are in the finest schools and programs. Makes you say hmmmm.

  11. Gifted programs offer students who may have difficulty socializing with same-age peers an opportunity to find friends who share their interests. Most gifted kids will find their way academically, but being a gifted kid in a mixed classroom can be profoundly lonely. Why don’t the researchers examine the impact of gifted education on the children’s social lives and overall happiness? I don’t think the chosen academic endpoint is of much interest.

  12. I’m afraid that the results of this research, as published, are much broader than they should be. In the first place, there is no mention of the goal of gifted education in the first place. The measures on which such programs are being evaluated are not even mentioned. So how can the author state that the goals aren’t being achieved when we aren’t even sure what they are? Furthermore, a very broad variety of programs are being measured, with many different results. Third, the author has conflated IQ, standardized test scores, and other factors to prove that gifted education doesn’t work. Gifted students may be bored with certain content and not improve their standardized scores one iota. This proves nothing. A better structured survey, including attention to the goals of gifted education, that uses appropriate measurements, and that doesn’t try to measure a broad variety of programs with a single brush, might have totally different findings. Lots of room for study.

  13. Nope. Could you imagine such an article being written about getting rid of educational programs for Autistic kids. Gifted is not high achieving. It is a measurable difference in IQ resulting from faster than normal synaptic processing speed. Gifted kids are wired differently. They are intense. They suffer for this way of being. They need and deserve a differnetiad educational environment not so they can “outpace” your nuerotypical child, but so they can sometimes graduate at all and leave to function in a nuerotypical world. This arrival sadly conflates non nuerotypical children with high achiever and frames the debate accordingly. This is not a contest. You can’t teach a nongifted kid to be gifted. And if you really understood the suffering and social and even emotional disability it can entail, you wouldn’t want to. Stop threatening special needs kids educational programs.

  14. The gifted and talented programs in my are not easy to get into. Not all kids are even given the opportunity to test into the gifted & talented program. A parent must request that their child be evaluated and additional advanced testing is administered 2 grades above their current grade level. And you have to score in a certain percentile to even be admitted if their is room. If they only have room for 15-20 additional kids than even the kids that scored high enough might not get in. They will take the kids with the highest scores.

    It seems that this article is suggesting that certain ethnic groups are not given as much opportunity to succeed as children that are white or asian.

    I think that equal opportunity has been granted to all children living in the united states. But you seem to be seeking equal outcome. If their are less black and hispanic children in gifted & talented classes. Perhaps that can be contributed to parents not being proactive enough and advocating for their children’s academic experience. Or perhaps home life or culture is playing a part in it. But suggesting discrimination based solely on percentages is dissapointing.

    My kids are very bright I don’t personally see them as “gifted or talented” but are excelling academically not because of sheer IQ but because they are growing up in a good home environment where their basic needs are being met on a daily basis. They are performing better than their peers because they have a higher self esteem and are getting support from mom & dad with their schoolwork.

    My son was so excited to learn and embrace school. He now hates school because he is bored to tears. The curriculum is not challenging and they spend an entire month reviewing a simple principle that my son masters on the first day it is presented to him. He now equates education as tedious and boring instead of exciting and engaging. My daughter who had A.D.D. has finally gotten accepted into a gifted and talented program for 7th grade. She excelled so much doing distance learning at home due to covid. Because she could be in charge of her own learning experience. She was not distracted by other children misbehaving. She could control her environment and accomplish the school work at her own pace. Quicker in some subjects slower in others.

    I am so grateful for the gifted & talented program. And I wish more students could participate. For my children to experience being in a classroom with other kids who take education more seriously. They are going to school to learn not just because they have to, or to goof off and hang out with friends.

    I do believe their is a difference in being “gifted and talented” vs being a “high achiever” and “succeeding academically” my kids are not over the top smarter than other children. But I do believe their education is being cheated in a regular public school classroom. Their educational needs are not being met. They have a right to come to school and learn not be bored with constant review of previous material already taught.

  15. Gifted programs, admissions, and supports vary so widely that a study like this has little value. How can you compare once a week pull out instruction to intense academics and grading that are multiple grade levels ahead? Some programs offer games, some pay for outside enrichment targeted to a student’s unique interests, and some offer access to the arts. The metric used to judge these programs is not effective. Reading scores and teacher survey tell nothing about gifted supports. Many gifted children are not also high achieving. Some may not even be verbal. And yet this survey seems to focus primarily on academic achievement.
    Many families with gifted children cannot and do not rely on what is offered by their public school. They use the excellent service of CTY or TIP, IEA in Pasadena, art classes, math clubs, or short term enrichments like Outschool.
    Finally, I think LAUSD deserves a lot of credit for formulating a program that seeks to identify children broadly across multiple areas including intellectual, high achievement, teacher recommendation, and arts. All children are screened and they may enter pull out or dedicated full time programs. There is a focused arts academy on Saturdays. The highly gifted have additional choices to meet their needs. There are also new options for 2E childrens. The classes remain too large and not personal but it is a good start.

  16. I, like others, would like to clarify that there are highly motivated students as well as gifted students who would benefit from Gifted Programs. My own daughter was in the 99th percentile when tested. When I was in school we had a robust gifted program. My daughter, in her inner-city, Oakland public school, did not have an adequate gifted program, and while in the contract that teachers would differentiate up and down the learning spectrum, gifted students were used to “scaffold” their peers’ learning. When my daughter finally left this system behind in middle school, she entered a school where the standard was to teach as though students were gifted.

    She thrived; and so did all of the students. They could talk about Shakespeare and Chaucer; Calvin and Hobbes.

    When gifted students are not given an adequate education, they learn to “settle”; they are given years and years of training on how mediocrity is the standard.

    I became a teacher as a second career and not one of my courses in my credential program addressed the needs of gifted students. When I brought up the subject, “fairness” and “equity” were the flags waived.

    When I began teaching in the same inner-city district my daughter had attended, and differentiated up, the results were amazing and I was told to tone it down, that I made other teachers “look bad” and parents were “requesting students be in my class in unusually large numbers”. The thing is, every child deserves to learn as much as they possibly can every day they sit in a seat in school.

    I believe that every gifted child should not have to be numbed every day in school. That is what happens to most students, most days in inner-city schools; it is even more true gifted students.

  17. Education in America has many problems, many of which are inherited by the programs that serve our academically advanced youth. The arguments for closing the only source for advancement for our brightest students are not well-founded. Think of that: the fact that most of the bread in the store is white does not mean we should ban all bread together. The fact that Olympic champions improve their personal records by a portion of a percent does not mean the Olympic games should be banned. The fact that we don’t have a coherent definition and measure for giftedness is not a reason to abandon students that want to learn more than standard education is ready to supply. A well-educated person should be reluctant to show the obvious bias against the advancement of education.

  18. I’m a father of an apparently gifted child in a district that has no gifted program. For context my son is 10, currently in fourth grade, he’s taught himself halfway through 7th grade math, he’s years ahead in ELA.. I think this research doesn’t take into various factors. First and foremost from what I’ve seen my son is often lumped in with the other ‘high flyers’, definitely smart kids but no where close to 3 years ahead in math, or reading at the same level. I think that the gifted models have become more inclusive, this lead to lower average scores because at this point the programs have become more a measure of how much support a student has at home, not giftedness. Second, these programs have become more a “we do a little more” vs a “we meet the student where they’re at”. Truly gifted students need to be met at their level, not given a slightly larger box to move around in.

  19. I’m all about teachers being better trained to teach and identify gifted students along with increasing diversity however this article and I am guessing the study are missing the point of gifted education altogether. Gifted does not necessarily mean a student will be more advanced in all subjects. There are struggles that come along with this expectation, especially when some gifted students are not even in a gifted classroom full time. The amount of time spent in gifted education is of course is relevant to the results and the fact that this study doesn’t take that into consideration is an indication to me that more work needs to be done.

  20. I am troubled by this article on many levels, but the most obvious one is that the author has no citations. The reader has no idea who did the study, under what conditions. The reader has no opportunity to search out the author’s sources on his/her own and evaluate them for themselves. Also, there are ways to locate related research articles to read more on the subject. This is very concerning.

  21. Letter To The Editor

    It is better to have imprecise
    answers to the right questions
    than precise answers to
    the wrong questions.

    Donald Campbell

    In a recent Hechinger (April 19, 2021)) entitled “PROOF POINTS: Gifted Programs Provide Little To No Academic Boost, New Study Says,” the author cites a recent research study that is based on the same old way that most researchers gather data on any types of school performance. And the article has been picked up by several news feed using headlines such as “Study: Gifted Programs Not Beneficial.”
    If the author and cited researchers believe that focusing on common core standards and increasing reading and math scores on standardized achievement test are the major goals for gifted education, they simply do not understand the difference between lesson-learning giftedness and creative productive giftedness. The major goal of gifted education is not to INCREASE TEST SCORES OR standardize young learners. Rather, most people in the field believe that GIFTED programs SHOULD contribute to AND INCREASE the reservoir of people who contribute to creative innovations in the arts and sciences and to all areas of human endeavor that are designed to make the world a better place.
    Providing an inductive, investigative, and inquiry-based pedagogy rather the traditional deductive, didactic, and prescriptive brand of learning SHOULD BE a major goal of today’s gifted education programs. The focus is on applying knowledge-of and knowledge-how to real-world problems and situations in ways that model the modus operandi of the practicing professional, even if at a junior level of adult professionals. This approach increases collaboration, cooperation, the development of thinking skills and creativity, and the construction of models, scientific and artistic contributions, and preparation of publications and other creative products.

    If some educagors argue that the prime mission of gifted education is to raise scores on high stakes testing, we MUST REMEMBER that people who make high level contributions in their respective fields DO SO BECAUSE OF their interests, task commitment, analytic and creative thinking skills, and a range of executive function skills that are necessary for getting a job done. These kinds of introspective and exploratory skills are the OUTCOMES we should USE to determine the effectiveness of gifted and talent programs rather than INCREASES ON test score. Although these skills cannot be measureD as precisely as math and reading test scores, they are WHAT count when it comes to developing creative and productive giftedness.

    These skills cannot be developed through the sit-memorize-and-repeat teaching that improves the standardized the test scores that most researchers use as the dependent variables in their studies. Rather, an innovative pedagogy teaches young people how to find and focus a problem in which they have developed an interest and to apply investigative methodologies. Expert advice from adults, How-To books, and virtually unlimited Internet tools are necessary resources that must gain advice about from their teachers. And like practicing professionals, student must explore various product formats and potential audiences for their final products, performances, and presentations and other modes of communication.

    If we are going to evaluate and pass judgment on the importance and value of gifted education programs, we must first and foremost examine the main purpose of these programs, THAT is, to increase the worlds reservoir of creative and productive people. A good model for this brand of evaluation might the ways in which we ASSESS THE quality of doctoral program, medical school graduates, or conservatories that prepare HIGHLY CREATIVE artists and performers.

    Joseph S. Renzulli
    Department of Educational Psychology
    The University of Connecticut

  22. There is a big difference between “high achieving” and gifted. In the US, the same percentage of top IQ students drop out of school as the bottom IQ. We spend a fraction of the money on those with high IQs as those with learning disabilities. Yet, gifted children have unique challenges that should be addressed by the educational system. They often are “twice exceptional”-they have a high IQ combined with other issue(s), eg. Anxiety, depression, OCD, autism spectrum, etc. In my child’s school (in the younger grades), the program was focused on social-emotional issues rather than academics. In my opinion, this is the correct focus for gifted children. They are bright. If the emotional issues are addressed, the academics will follow.

  23. Unfortunately, many people make the same confusion. Giftedness is not the same as high-IQ scores or academic performance, and IQ-test scores frequently show a strong relationship with socioeconomic and cultural origins. Perhaps what should be more deeply researched is the bias of the identification tools to select students for gifted programs, which are the real responsible for the unequal access to them.
    The strange thing here is that nobody opposes to develop special programs for disabled students, although they are also “elitist” as the hidden (or not) thoughts on gifted programs, as they are intended to serve a special population…
    We should think about gifted persons as vulnerable as persons with any disability, but we have double standards. In fact, we consider the first ones do not deserve to develop their potential as the latter. Equity is not the same as equality. Please note the difference!

  24. As an educational researcher I have long been interested in what is called gifted education. Interested because so many of the instructional activities are mirror images of suggestions found for children with IQ scores below 85. Our daughter was identified as gifted in elementary school. She insisted on quitting after two weeks because she said “it was boring.” So she suddenly was no longer considered gifted. But the clunker here is on the end of school year achievement testing she performed better than all of the other kids, including those who participated in the gifted program. I suggested ending the gifted program since it seemed that it hindered academic development rather than spurred it. It took several years but finally the gifted program was abandoned. Our ‘gifted’ daughter is now a Ph.D. recipient who has allows her daughters to avoid the ‘gifted’ programs they have been identified for and everybody is much happier.

  25. The purpose of gifted education is NOT to produce academic gains. And “gifted” does not mean “students with high test scores.”
    Gifted education is about teaching students deep, critical thinking. It’s about teaching out-of-the-box thinkers to use their powers for good. You cannot measure that with an achievement test.
    My 2E kid has found his brain-challenging, deep-thinking geeky tribe in gifted education and it is his respite from the bullying he receives from the “normal” kids at school. It’s the best thing that public education could do for him.

  26. The author clearly researched the topic extensively, citing plenty of statistics. While it could be argued some of the variances or disparities they cite, are simply naturally occurring variances based on randomness and not statistically significant. The biggest point of contention i have with this article is the use academic achievement as the criteria to evaluate gifted and talented programs effectiveness.

    The “gifted and talented” designation is more about aptitude then it is about academic success. It is actually quite common for g & t kids to do poorly in school. This is partially why gifted and talented programs are needed. To challenge children with higher aptitudes, teaching them the importance of hard work. Instead of conditioning them to believe they can succeed with little or no effort.

    As the author points a child being gifted and talented has almost no correlation to their academic success. However what this author doesn’t acknowledge is gifted and talented children need to be challenged from early on. To prevent the development of negative habits that will hinder them in the future.

  27. This article comfortably makes strong assessments of the efficacy of gifted programs and either skips or glosses over the defining factors. My guess is that this was due to linear thinking – a condition that would benefit from some “creative and critical thinking” training exercises.

    Frankly, this research is based on so many variables as to be useless: __not all states are required to identify gifted (the last I looked only 35 had requirements)
    __of those required to identify some of these states require only that they are identified and any programming offered is optional and relegated to districts with the cash flow to do so
    __”gifted” in the study was reported by teachers and defined as kids receiving instruction in math or reading arts or giftedness is mentioned on their IEP with the exception of third grade where teachers were allowed to identify gifted as receiving “gifted instruction” in any area. This makes the creative and critical thinking a small subgroup but the lack of results is being relegated to those methods. Perhaps the small gains are only due to those methods and we would see larger gains if we employed those efforts more. Perhaps not but at current we don’t know the answer to that and therefore one shouldn’t write as though the answer is self evidentiary.
    From there we get into what the scope of that service is – an entire school day (rare) or one class per week (much more common) or an adjunct teacher going to the regular class one day per week and providing support or … the fact is there are so many variations that again, a sweeping generalization is meaningless.

    The only thing that this article gets right is the underrepresentation of Black children in gifted identification and over identification of giftedness amongst the affluent. This should be no surprise when society’s expectations of Black children are so low. Often a gifted child, due to boredom or distractibility, will show behavioral issues – the whiter and more affluent (and more educated the parents of) the child is the more we are likely to look for a cause for these behaviors and in Black children we simply dismiss this as evidence of a “bad kid.” Certainly, anti-racist and active breaking of implicit biases is beyond necessary for all of our school administrators in order to identify more Black children who are gifted.

    Another important tool to that end and something sorely missing from your article is an understanding of what giftedness is – it is not simply a high intelligence and it is most assuredly not merely “high achievers” – in fact, gifted kids may well be low achievers for a myriad of factors not related to intelligence. Secondarily is an understanding of that myriad of factors because this is where gifted kids need help. Intelligence is a factor in success up to a certain level – past that level it can often be a hindrance to success particularly if paired with a lateral thinking approach. This is where the support is needed but generally not being provided.

    Mark Twain’s advice to “write what you know” is not limited to fiction and I’d offer this axillary – don’t write until you know.

    Articles like this are, whether consciously or simply an obvious outgrowth of uncritical thinking, damaging to all school kids.

    {I am an interim gifted and talented teacher in a state that does not require any gifted educational supports}

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