Education for the Gifted: Myth and Reality Page: 3 of 3
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I one-time grouping of
Learning deficiencies, It is characteris
Swas a widespread systems to se
educational practice in
thIe sixties and seven- deficiencies in t
Ires.) Keeping stu- call attention o
dents inflexibly in
These groupings year answers on the
after year was an truly wish to ii
abuse. Without fre- titudes about et
qi uent reassessment of
skl achievement and tion as aliife-long
,arnint needs, emphasize the
h- 'ildren were locked
i o inaprropriate ing present in e
ec national environ- classroom.
n7ts. However, true
abi'i y grouping, such
?s we are advocating, places together children
wit:' similar strengths, learning needs and inter-
Sests, even if those arrangements violate tradition-
Sa4 agelclass distinctions. It is imperative that all
Grouping arrangements be frequently modified.
2) Cooperative Learning: In this arrange-
ment, students are clustered in small
heterogeneous groups (that is, mixed ability
levels) and put to work communally on an assign-
ment. For those of us who have experienced the
talented programming is not a popular priority.
There is the anti-elitist sentiment we have men-
tioned and more fundamentally, the misconcep-
tion that these programs are either difficult or
expensive to implement. They are neither; they
simply challenge the status quo.
Despite the 1987 mandated gifted and
dlented programming, a number of educational
t rends growing in popularity throughout Texas.
and the nation threaten to undermine the
.rogress of recent years. They are:
1) eterogeneous groi~ouin: According to
s'is leory, all childson iiiad be grouped
together "democratically,' regardless of differen-
ces in learning needs or abii.tis. But as a little
further analysis will 'ear out, there is no way we
can provide a quality education for all children
by ignoring individual differences. We simply
are not all ale, nor do we work and learn alike.
Nevertheless, this educational practice is fre-
quently favored by administrators who see it as a
more defensible procedure than the now dis-
credited practice of tracking. (Tracking, or the
frustration of committee work, it doesn't take
much imagination to see what can happen unless
the situation is extremely well-monitored. Both
slower and faster paced learners stand to lose.
When proponents of cooperative learning are
questioned about the benefits of this arrange-
ment for gifted students, we are told they will
"sharpen their communication skills" or "develop
empathy." Honing communication skills and
developing empathy are admirable goals, but
they are no substitute for a challenging cur-
3) Grouping by age: Perhaps the most per-
vasive and erroneous educational practice at
work today is the tradition of grouping children
solely by their birth date. If you are six years old
by September Ist, you are judged "ready" for
first-grade work. As Barbara Clark, author of
Growing Up Gifie4 recently observed: "Long ago
it was noted that age was not related to learning;
however, schools continue to organize class-
rooms and learning experiences using age as the
criterion for grouping." Parents need to be
reminded that the age-grade lock step is an ad-
ministrative convenience, nothing more. It has
little correlation to real
learning or the
c of educational development of innate
primarily the potential.
4) The Back to
ir students. (We Basics Movement:
ly to the wrong Educational reform
movements of recent
st paper.) If we years have stressed the
till positive at- necessity of returning
cation -- educa- to the essential ele-
ments, a non-nego-
rocess -- wemusi liable core of basic
ential for learn- skills whose mastery is
:h child in every sable for successful
living. No one would
dispute the importance
of this emphasis. But
for gifted learners-- children who for the most part
master those essentials quickly and easily -- the
result has been a stifling, repetitive learning en-
vironment. Textbooks adopted by Texas and
many other states as a result of this movement
contain a disproportionate amount of review (ap-
proximately 40%) at each grade level. The critical
thinking skills and problem solving abilities so
central to a child's development have been
neglected in the process.
What, if any, are the solutions? The obvious
- -~_ _~___ I
answer, the easy fruc, is always money. !ncreased learning.
funding for gifted education might guarantee Education proceeds on a continuum and if we
access to more comprehensive library selections are to believe the forecasts of the futurists, the
(in fiction, non-fiction, science, fine arts and twenty-first centurywill epitomize that principle.
biography); more manipulative materials par- According to some predictions made recently by
ticularly in mathematics, science and the fine Richard Ishler, Dean of the College of Educa-
arts; more laboratory equipment, computers and tion at Texas Tech University, grade levels will
instructors with the high skill levels to utilize that disappear as school becomes more of a concept
technology; field trips; mentoring relationships; and less of a place in the twenty-first century.
and increased staff development -- continuing Traditional subject matter categories will give
education opportunities for our teachers in way to an emphasis on critical thinking and prob-
Texas, manyof whom lem solvingskills which
work in small, isolated will result in a broader
communities without It is we, the educators, who have the integration of
the networking ad- problem. We have said to the world, knowledge.
vantages of larger "Send us your six-year-olds and we Business and com-
school districts. The munity leaders are al-
beautiful part of these will teach them to read -- all at the ready aware of these
kinds of investments is same time." realities. They know
that all children, not the need for an edu-
just the identified cated, flexible work
gifted and talented, would benefit. force capable of integrating knowledge from a
But perhaps even more important than money wide variety of fields. They know that learning
would be a fundamental change in attitude. We never stops. As a society we are beginning to
need an increased awareness on the part of our understand that the answer to many of the deep-
society of the intrinsic right of every individual to seated social problems we mentioned at the out-
have his learning needs met. In reality, we are a setofthisarticle iseducation-- parent education,
diverse community of adults and children. We substance abuse education, and a classroom
breathe, live, learn, work and play in different education not just relevant to the competitive
ways and at different paces. As a direct result of demands of the next century but true to the
these tremendous differences, we require learn- psychological needs of all children. It is time that
ing environments that accommodate diversity., educators join forces with business and com-
We need to have our likenesses, differences, munity leaders in demanding an education of
strengths, and weaknesses identified and ap- excellence commensurate with each child's
propriately served through a variety of learning potential. If that education requires more ap-
options, all of high quality, in order for each one's propriate grouping for gifted and talented stu-
potential to be develpgied and challenged. We dents, then so be it. For if those students, the
need no artificial boundaries known as the brightest of theirgeneration, are neglected by the
age/grade lockstep, or rigid educational sequen- educational system and not motivated to apply
ces that compartmentalize schooling and place their skills to public policy issues of the next
stumbling blocks along the path to true life-long century, then we are all truly at risk.
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Allard, Laura & Moreno, Elisabeth. Education for the Gifted: Myth and Reality, article, 1987~; (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc232220/m1/3/: accessed January 17, 2019), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting Texas Academy of Mathematics and Science.