Tuesday, August 24, 2010

This I Believe

If you don't know me personally, you might not understand why I might disappear here for a week or two. You see, I'm a teacher, and it is the first week back to school. On top of that, I'm taking a graduate class every Tuesday.

The point being, I might not be able to offer anything too scintillating for the next little while as I get into the groove of things. In the meantime, please enjoy this short little introduction essay that I wrote tonight for class. It is a direct nod to the NPR series, This I Believe, of which I am a major fan.

This I Believe

This I believe: Gifted people exist. Many teachers that I meet are dismissive of the concept of gifted and talented programs. They assume that these students just work really hard, or that they are going to succeed anyway. These teachers ask, “why bother to give gifted students special treatment?” I respond with “why wouldn’t you want to provide every student the educational experiences that they need?”

The challenge in combating these notions about giftedness lies in defining giftedness. The most accepted definitions of giftedness are generally difficult to measure in a quantitative manner. Furthermore, the Federal Government allows each state to adopt their programs for gifted students, and the State of Texas allows each school district to decide ultimately how to identify and serve their students. Depending on where a student lives, he or she may or may not be considered gifted by the school system.

I do believe that, with careful consideration, we can identify gifted individuals for service. I believe that a combination of objective and subjective measures ought to be employed. Although tests like the CogAT and ITBS can be used to measure cognitive abilities and academic achievement, these tests do not tell the whole story for students who have different cultural backgrounds, first languages other than English, or learning challenges. By utilizing work samples, teacher and parent inventories, and observation, a gifted and talented screening committee can begin to piece together a whole picture of a child’s cognitive life.

In order to make decisions about service, I believe that educators of the gifted need to closely examine each student’s strengths. If a gifted student exhibits strengths in non-verbal reasoning, then he or she ought to be provided an opportunity to build on that strength through curriculum enrichment. If a gifted student exhibits strengths in quantitative reasoning, then a curriculum that enriches verbal skills may not best serve his or her academic best interest.

Finally, I believe that educators of the gifted should reevaluate their students’ placement and service plan on a regular basis. Like in special education, if a student no longer requires special educational and social interventions, then he or she should be placed back into the least restrictive environment possible. There is not point in isolating a student when he or she does not need special intervention, so it is essential to consider the use of reevaluations throughout the course of a student’s school career.

All students have a right to an academic environment that best meets their learning needs, even gifted students. This I believe.

1 comment:

  1. I know a little girl who nearly failed 4th grade in public education. She scored 97-99 percentile on standardized tests, qualified for language and mathematics GT programs and was placed with the "hardest" regular ed 4th grade teacher.

    After some serious heart to hearts, she was placed in a new school with much more challenging courses and teachers. She was immediately in the top of her class, making straight A's and academically happy again.

    So.... sometimes we need to be in those classes just so we can "survive" and hopefully even thrive.