Thoughts On Education: What is Gifted and Talented Education?

Posted by on January 04, 2012

The identification of Gifted and Talented students is a difficult and most important task.  If we consider our future, and presume that our future leaders will most likely come from the ranks of the Gifted and Talented, can we afford to not provide them with the best educational resources available to us?  In a knowledge economy, can we afford to reduce the efforts to identify and develop our future leaders, especially among the underprivileged?  The following article by Dick Kantenberger is republished with his permission.  We would all like your feedback and participation in a discussion on the subject.

What is Gifted and Talented Education? (part 3); For what are we looking?

Dick Kantenberger , Gifted Education Examiner

The goals of Gifted and Talented education are to identify and train the cognitive skills of gifted students whose vulnerability is such that it is estimated we are losing about a million kids a year because the general public and the state and federal politicians mostly have the misconception that if a child is gifted then “don’t worry about it, s/he is bound to turn out OK”. That is the most misunderstood aspect of all. Modern research indicates that the gifted are equally distributed among all races, sexes and economic segments of society. However, what does a typical Gifted and Talented class look like? It is often Asians and middle class white boys with a smattering of girls, and a few Hispanics and African-Americans. Why? Because we are only finding the easy ones that want to be found. It is the poor of all groups that are most under-represented. In public education in Texas, Whites and Asian student populations combined don’t even make a majority. It is easy to see the disparity. The under represented groups are much harder to find, primarily due to cultural and economic differences. Some don’t want to be found. Some students, along with their parents don’t know their child is gifted. In certain segments of our society being gifted is being labeled a nerd. Kids want to fit in with their friends and don’t want them to think they are different. They try to hide it from their friends and even their parents. They intentionally goof-off and make low to average grades. Many of the highly gifted learn so quickly they get very bored at school and may even become troublemakers. There are many characteristics that teachers must be trained to observe. Notice I said teachers, not councilors, principals and administrators, because the latter rarely see the kids for any length of time in the classroom. It is the teachers that have to know what to look for and have the opportunity to see more of the telltale signs. There are so many little characteristics a teacher must look for, and that is why they have to be properly trained. It is the total collection of characteristics that is needed in order to make a judgment. For instance, exquisite handwriting and very bad handwriting can be both a characteristic of a potential gifted student. By themselves they don’t mean too much, but coupled with several other clues they could identify a potential Gifted student. But, either sign should send a message to the teacher to start looking for other symptoms. A rude and disruptive kid may be a sign of an academically-challenged student, or one who has goofed off so long that he or she is so far behind and doesn’t care any more, or they also may be a gifted student who is bored to death because they learned the material in the first ten minutes of class and are repulsed to doing repetitive drills and homework. Some highly gifted kids will in time refuse to do any work at all in school. What is critical with all of these students is that they are at risk of dropping out of school before they begin high school. That is why we need to find them and get them into Gifted and Talented programs before they do drop out. That’s why the period between the K and 8th grade is so important. More on what we can do next time. For comments and/or questions please e-mail me at: dick.kantenberger@gmail.com.

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