“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?
To give the GT students a level playing field, our state legislators are going to have to shift more money to train and certify new GT teachers. In Texas, where our special education students outnumber the GT students by factor of 1.4 to 1, special education expenditures outpace GT expenditures by almost 11 to 1. In my own school district special education outspends GT by 43 to 1 and all these figures are the actual expenditure numbers from the Texas Education Agency for 2006-2007. As bad as this is, Texas is the second highest state in the U.S. in GT spending.
Dr. Robert Sternburg at Tufts University (now Provost at Oklahoma State University) told me he estimated that in America we spend about $99 on special education for every $1 spent on gifted and talented education. Dr.Joyce Van Tassel-Baska at William and Mary College is quoted in Genius Denied that America spends 143 times as much on special education as on gifted and talented.
So it is clear, we must train and certify many more teachers in GT to 1] Find the poor, the girls, and the minorities that are being lost, and 2] To train these students to be the leaders that they should be and have the potential to be.
The big question is what can you as an individual do about it. While the national government sets the tone, it is basically the state legislators (representatives and state senators) and the state education agencies that have the power because they control the money and the priorities. Most legislators are not aware of the problem, while most state agencies and district superintendents are so pressured with federal initiatives like No Child Left Behind, they can only give lip service to the GT problem, which they mostly are aware of and understand.
The real power lies with you. If you would call, or write, or fax, or e-mail your state representative and state senator and the head of your state education agency and ask them 1] to require state certification exams of Gifted and Talented teachers, and 2] that all identified Gifted and Talented students be taught by state certified Gifted and Talented teachers. 3] Place an emphasis on finding these gifted kids at the beginning of elementary school. We are doing exactly that for our special education students. We should do the same for our most brilliant kids, many of whom we are losing.
“Failure to help the gifted child is a societal tragedy, the extent of which is difficult to measure, but which is surely great. How can we measure the sonata unwritten, the curative drug undiscovered, the absence of political insight? They are the difference between what we are and what we could be as a society.”
Dr. James J. Gallagher, University of North Carolina
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 3)
Gifted Education Writer