I never gave much thought to the gifted and talented programs in the U.S. until I had children of my own. My oldest son has been tested for the gifted and talented program every year from 1st grade to 6th grade. In 5th grade he was identified as gifted and offered a spot in a gifted magnet school in Texas. Unfortunately, we had to move to Arizona and he never got to attend. According to the Arizona Public School System he’s not gifted.
My frustration with my oldest son’s qualification and denial has led me to wonder what is wrong with the public school system. After reading arguments for and against gifted education, I have come to realize that the problem with gifted education reflects problems with the general educational system as a whole.
Equality has been an issue in the U.S. education system throughout history. It’s still a problem. In the field of education, educators seem to believe that in order to have equality a cookie cutter approach to school is necessary.
In a cookie cutter approach to education, every student is expected to be at the same level of competency based on age. Unfortunately, in a 5th grade classroom students can be anywhere from a 3rd grade reading level to a 9th grade reading level. This makes it difficult for teachers to challenge each student at their particular learning level.
A better approach according to Davidson would be to “group students by competency in each subject, not be age (133).” This approach to education makes more sense. Yet, due to questions about the quality of testing, the fact that minorities and the poor tend to not do as well on these tests it’s unlikely to happen.
Proponents for gifted education should spend their time focusing on equality in testing and how to achieve equality in schools. Once equality can be better achieved education could be better for every student. According to Banks, “Variables that need to be examined and changed include grouping practices, the social climate of the school, extracurricular activities and participation, and staff expectations and responses to students from diverse cultural, ethnic, racial, and income groups (338).”
A few proponents of gifted education argue that because they have minorities in their gifted program, gifted education is not elitist. According to Galbraith, “when identifying kids for gifted programs, certain groups and types of children are often overlooked and underrepresented (32).” Many parents are frustrated that an inequality in testing leads to an unfair advantage to an upper class, white population in gifted education.
In conclusion, until equality in testing is achieved grouping students according to their ability to achieve isn’t feasible or fair. If educators could make the testing more equitable then true steps in grouping which are needed in the educational system could be achieved.
Banks, James A. “Transformative Knowledge, Curriculum Reform, and Action.” Multicultural Education, Transformative Knowledge, and Action, ed. James A. Banks, New York: Teachers College Press, 1996. 335-346.
Davidson, Bob, and Jan Davidson. Genius Denied. New York: Simon and Schuster, 2004.
Galbraith, Judy. You Know Your Child Is Gifted When . . . Minneapolis, MN: Free Spirit Publishing, Inc., 2000.