Spring Quarter Discussion- Gifted Policy led by Dr. Rosina Gallagher (4/11/2013)

For our first discussion of spring quarter, we invited Dr. Rosina Gallagher,President of the Illinois Association of Gifted Children, to present aboutcurrent education policy and gifted education. She explored the stigma tied togifted education, historical and current challenges facing these programs, andthe improvements needed to ensure that the kids achieve their full potential.

First, Dr. Gallgher spoke a bit about the official standards for being identifiedas “gifted.” Currently, the US Office of Educational Research and Improvementdefines “gifted” students as those with both exceptional potential andmanifested intelligence when compared to others of similar age, experience andsocioeconomic status. In Illinois, students are identified as “gifted” whenthey perform in the top 5% locally in academic areas, such as language arts andmath.

Next, she encouraged us to think back on our own experiencesin elementary schools; many of us had either seen or experienced giftedprograms. As a group, we discussed some of the negative stereotypesassociated with gifted education. We talkedabout whether or not grade-skipping has harmful social implications (researchhas not supported this view), the purpose of education (passing tests versuslearning), and why kids with certain learning disabilities are automaticallydiscounted, even though they may be gifted.

Dr. Gallgher emphasized that gifted students are often misunderstood or mislabeled inclassrooms. Often, students who are super intense, or hyperactive are seen as“problem children” and written off as troublesome, when they may just be boredwith lessons. She suggested that to correctly support these students, schoolsneed to hire educators who can adapt curriculums, increase their resources to fundgifted programs, and advocate for these students at the local, state, andnational levels.

We spoke about how the current increasing reliance on standardized testing is negativelyimpacting gifted education. Because schools are focused on meeting a minimumthreshold, there are no incentives for high achievers, and no incentives forschools to encourage high achievers. In addition, teachers are forced to “teachto the test,” further decreasing room for creativity and advanced explorationof different subjects.

Often, we speak about the ways in which schools are failingto support students who are falling behind, but we don’t recognize that schoolsare also failing their brightest. If we want to maximize the potential ofeducation, decrease the achievement gap, and make sure every student receives asignificant education, we must address the problem of gifted education inpolicy and the community.

For more information about gifted education, please see thefollowing:

The official site of the Illinois Association for GiftedChildren: http://www.iagcgifted.org/

A Huffington Post article about problems in giftededucation: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/marianne-kuzujanakis/gifted-children_b_2948258.html

Sidenote: SFER UChicago now has a listhost! Sign up with sfer@lists.uchicago.edu to receiveregular updates on education news, meeting times, and other info!

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