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Joel McIntosh

Joel McIntosh
I'm the publisher at Prufrock Press. I've been involved with education for more than 20 years and hold a masters degree in gifted education. I've been a classroom teacher and a parent (still am that). In addition to this blog, you can follow me on Twitter. Feel free to contact me by e-mail if you have any questions about this blog or Prufrock Press.

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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?
Wrestling with Misconceptions: Is the Gifted Label Good or Bad? (scroll down the page to see the article) by Dona J. Matthews and Joanne F. Foster presents some of the pros and cons of the label and how it affects students. It may help you look at the term differently.
The basic questions I ask are:
  • Is the label of “gifted” necessary to get an appropriate education?
  • Does the label of “gifted” assure an appropriate education?
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?
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