Sunday, February 20, 2011

Giving the Gifted an Education

With state budgets under fire and no quick recovery in sight, programs are being slashed at a rapid rate. Sadly, as The New York Times recently reported, gifted education programs are at the forefront of the chopping block. Some argue that the gifted students will do just fine, even if they are not offered specialized programs. After all, these are students who already manage to do well in regular classes, and they are certainly achieving on standardized tests. Yet if we are to respond to President Obama's Sputnik challenge, we clearly need to develop the inherent creativity of our brightest students, preparing them to respond to the unknown challenges of the future. Even Howard Gardner, in his recent book Five Minds for the Future, notes that this mindset of creativity needs to be nurtured. Cutting the programs that challenge our gifted students to think outside the box and beyond the ordinary does everyone a disservice, yet it is a reality that educators must overcome.

So, what can be done? Certainly, keeping these gifted programs intact is a worthwhile venture. By challenging our intellectually gifted students, we keep them engaged in the learning process, and we avoid the classroom management issues that result from bored students. Moreover, we can prepare the innovators who will tackle the rough problems ahead. However, where programs no longer exist, it is up to the individual educator to make that difference for one's students. Thankfully, in an atmosphere where differentiated instruction is valued, the efforts to challenge each student at his or her own level have enormous benefits. Research has shown that what works for the gifted works for all. The key is to actually offer the challenges that stimulate academic growth and creative thinking. If we work to serve all our students with the necessary challenges for their growth, we help our best and brightest while still serving the academic needs of the majority of our students. We owe it to our future to give all our students the academic challenge they deserve. Let's give our students the gift of good education!

Here are links to Howard Gardner's book and The New York Times article that got me thinking.

Gifted Programs Go on Block as Schools Must Do With Less