“By…(selecting) the youth of genius from among the classes of the poor, we hope to avail the State of those talents which nature has sown as liberally among the poor as the rich, but which perish without use if not sought for and cultivated”. Thomas Jefferson, 1772
We did not listen then. Will we now?
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 much, but coupled with several other clues they could identify a potential GT student. But, either sign should send a message to the teacher to start looking for other signs.
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 way 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 I just mentioned are 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 special educational programs, whether Special Ed or GT, before they drop out. That’s why the period between the 3rd and 8th grade is so important.
Recent research on identifying and serving diverse gifted students published in the Journal for the Education of the Gifted by K. L Speirs Neumeister, C. M. Adams, R. L. Pierce, J. C. Cassady, and F. A. Dixon wrote “Few, if any, teachers mentioned gifted characteristics that are prevalent in minority populations such as oral tradition, movement and verve, communalism and affective characteristics…Only 15% of the teachers recognized that boredom or non-interest may be common in gifted students.
Teachers were less likely to notice gifted characteristics in students having a skill deficit in one area, poor work habits, or behavioral or family problems.” The authors concluded that the results of the survey indicated a need for more professional development on how giftedness manifests itself in minority and economically disadvantaged populations and on multicultural education.
The state and national governments press the school districts to accommodate the academically-challenged students and the Special Education students. These programs are heavily funded. Of course there are some issues with No Child Left Behind that need to be modified and very likely will be in the near future, but Gifted and Talented education is not only under-funded, it is also hamstrung by the state legislatures.
Only 27 states have laws requiring Gifted and Talented programs in their public schools, but only seven states require that certified GT teachers teach the GT students that have been found, but three of these, and sadly Texas is one of them, only make it OPTIONAL that GT students be taught by certified GT teachers. But that’s not the end of the story. In Texas, it is no longer necessary to have certified GT teachers. Regular certified teachers need only spent 30 clock-hours attending GT lectures and seminars to be eligible to teach GT students. No certification exam is required.
I have seen a few teachers at these seminars reading, knitting and grading papers during the lectures. There are no exams. It takes a certain degree of training to be able to find these kids in the first place and even more to know how to modify their curriculums. Without certification exams, it is not happening. Why? In Texas it use to be required that teachers could only become GT certified through university credits. But the need for GT teachers became severely outstripped by the number of newly discovered GT students. Not wanting to spend the money needed to train and certify GT teachers, the Texas Legislature, the Texas Education Agency, and the Texas District Superintendents all came up with a compromise that resulted in the 30 clock-hours, non-certification exam program. This is not enough.
It takes more training for a teacher to be able to first, recognize the hard to identify GT student, and then to develop the necessary modified curriculum for each student. Let me make this perfectly clear, there are many very good and qualified GT teachers in Texas and the U.S. who are totally devoted to their profession and goals, but there are not enough of them. Also the teachers do not have to be gifted themselves to find and teach GT kids, just trained to recognize the signs and know how to modify their curricula. Any good teacher can easily be trained.
Continued next Friday.
Originally published by Dick Kantenberger in Education News, May 25, 2008
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Also view: Education’s “Wag the Dog”: Geniuses Lost (Part 1)
Education’s “Wag the Dog”: Geniuses Lost (Part 2)
Education’s “Wag the Dog”: Geniuses Lost (Part 4)
Gifted Education Writer