To Label or Not to Label as Gifted
Some schools are doing away with the label of “gifted and talented” yet still attempting to address the academic needs of bright students. Two schools in Maryland are participating in a pilot program
in which second-graders are tested to see if they qualify for accelerated and enriched instruction. The qualifying students are then placed in accelerated classes that are tailored to their strengths. The theory behind this concept is that children don’t need to be labeled to get the instruction they need.
I have personally seen schools where students are labeled as gifted but do not receive an education that is appropriate for their academic needs. I have also see situations where young people are not formally identified, yet are subject-accelerated or are taught with the aid of in-depth studies using high-level thinking skills that are well above grade-level expectations. These same students may be linked with mentors or offered intense enrichment classes that are geared toward specific strengths. So I ask: Is the label necessary or even desirable?
The basic questions I ask are:
On the many listservs and forums to which I subscribe, I frequently see questions from educators asking advice on what methods to use to identify gifted students. I can assure you, that there are no definitive answers given other than that multiple criteria should be used. There is no consensus on which criteria should be employed or what the cutoffs should be.
I am sure I am dating myself when I tell you that when I was in public school, we never heard the word “gifted.” We did, however, know that some kids were smart and some kids were very smart. We also knew that there were students who dedicated themselves to their studies, working very hard. Those who were academically strong and applied themselves were provided with more difficult work or advanced classes. Expectations were high and it was considered an attribute to be asked to take on more challenge.
So I ask you (and would love to hear your comments): Is the label “gifted” necessary? Does it improve education or should we expect that a top-notch education be provided even without the label?