Our Shameful National Commitment to Gifted and Talented Children
The National Association for Gifted Children recently released its "State of the Nation in Gifted Education" report. The report offers a frustrating picture of this nation's commitment to providing a quality education to our most talented students.
The report concludes. . .
- Gifted programs are embarrassingly underfunded--Gifted education is without support at the federal level, and states do a poor job of funding programs. Thirteen states have no gifted education funding at all, and most other states provide only token support.
- Teachers are untrained and underprepared--Training in gifted education identification and teaching methods is seldom a requirement for teachers, even teachers working in specialized programs for gifted students.
- Services offered to gifted students are haphazard and piecemeal--Gifted students often can expect fragmented and uncoordinated services and opportunities.
- Gifted education has no accountability--Absent any reporting or accountability measures to ensure that services are delivered equitably, there is no way that local districts or states can monitor and improve gifted education services.
The report's "Executive Summary" concludes that:
Our nation needs a comprehensive, national gifted education policy in which federal, state, and local leaders work together to ensure that all gifted and talented students are identified and served by well-trained teachers using challenging curriculum to meet their advanced learning needs. Supporting teacher training and professional development, designing and sharing model identification and service programs, and eliminating policies that obstruct students from receiving appropriate instruction are core elements of a national strategy to support our most advanced learners. A greater investment in these children is a greater investment in our nation's future. (p. 4)
"Amen," I say. But I have little optimism that this problem will find its solution on the national level. My experience with gifted education over the last 20 years leads me to believe that there is little will at the national level to tackle this problem. Politicians and special interest groups discount gifted education as elitist and unnecessary, regardless of the realities that gifted kids are facing in our schools.
On the other hand, at the local level, parents of gifted children hear such nonsense and call it ridiculous. These parents have real kids who are gifted and need quality services. They push schools and administrators to implement programs at the local level. As a result, we have a patchwork of quality programs and wide disparities in gifted education from one school district (or even one school) to the next.
I wish I had more optimism about gifted education leadership and funding at the national level. However, over and over, it seems that truly effective advocacy is wielded by parents at a grassroots level. Unfortunately, this fact will continue to cause wide disparities in gifted education until we find the national will to face this country's shoddy approach to educating gifted children.