Teaching the Gifted Student
Definitions of "gifted" vary, but most experts recognize that gifted students demonstrate a high level of intellectual, leadership, or artistic ability. In some cases, these students may be ill-suited for regular classroom instruction, since they may become bored or disruptive. As the legal rights of individuals who are gifted are not protected by federal mandates, it is highly recommended that individuals become familiar with local and state policies for specific implementation procedures. Teachers should also be knowledgeable about the needs of gifted students and seek out appropriate training.
Keywords Acceleration; Bloom's Taxonomy of Thinking; Enrichment Activities; Gifted; Individuals with Disabilities Education Act of 2004 (IDEA); Intelligence; Intelligence Quotient; Jacob K. Javits Gifted &Talented Students Act; Least Restrictive Environment; Pull-Out Services; Unbiased Assessment
Special Education: Teaching the Gifted Student
The provision of educational services in the United States for individuals considered to be gifted can be traced back to 1867 in the St. Louis, Missouri public schools (Heward & Orlansky 1992; National Association for Gifted Children [NAGC], 2005). In St. Louis, the practice of flexible promotion was initiated to promote students who excelled academically. Over the next forty years, programs implemented various promotion methods for individuals who are gifted. According to Heward and Orlansky (1992), the Cleveland program was established as an enrichment program for the gifted. This program has continuously provided services to the gifted since 1922 and is considered to the longest running program for gifted education in the United States. The emergence of standardized intelligence tests in the early 1900s advanced the idea for education of the gifted. During this time, the most well-known and still used test of intelligence, the Stanford-Binet Intelligence Scale, was developed. Most tests in use continue to use the Stanford-Binet as the measure to compare all intelligence tests.
Definitions of Gifted
Depending on the educational perspective, the definition of gifted can vary. In fact, there is disagreement over the definition of gifted (Baker & Friedman-Nimz, 2002; Coleman, 2004; Cramond, 2004; Jolly, 2005). However, Matthews (2004) stated that intellectual ability has been the hallmark of any definition of gifted since its early origins. Terman, who is considered the father of gifted education, defined gifted as performance in the top two percent on a standardized test of intelligence (Heward & Orlansky, 1992; Jolly, 2005; Karnes & Marquardt, 1997; NAGC, 2005). In 1958, Witty described gifted as having performance that is remarkable in any area (Heward & Orlansky, 1992), while others define giftedness as the top five percent of the population (Coleman, 2004; Cramond, 2004; Jolly, 2005).
Since the 1970s, definitions include the idea that intelligence alone does not define all the possible areas of giftedness (Coleman, 2004; Cramond, 2004; Heward & Orlansky, 1992; Jolly, 2005; Karnes & Marquardt, 1997; NAGC, 2005). For instance, Coleman (2004) claimed that a consensus definition has existed since Marland's definition was first published in 1972. According to Coleman, Marland, the United States Commissioner of Education, defined gifted as:
Gifted and talented children are those identified by professionally qualified persons, who by virtue of outstanding abilities, are capable of high performance. These are children who require differentiated educational programs and/or services beyond those normally provided by the regular school program in order to realize their contribution to self and society (as cited in Coleman, 2004, p.10).
Bonner and Jennings (2007) cited the definition provided by "the United States Department of Education's (1993) National Excellence. A Case for Developing Americas Talent report, which states that giftedness includes:
Children and youth with outstanding talent perform or show: the potential for performing at remarkably high levels of accomplishment when compared with others of their age, experience, or environment. These children and youth exhibit high performance capacity in intellectual, creative, and/or artistic areas, and unusual leadership capacity, or excel in specific academic fields. They require services or activities not ordinarily provided by the school. Outstanding talents are present in children and youth from all cultural groups, across all economic strata, and in all areas of human endeavor (as cited in Bonner & Jennings, 2007, p. 19).
Jolly (2005) provided the 2004 federal definition of gifted as:
The term 'gifted and talented students' means children and youth who give evidence of high performance capability in areas such as intellectual, creative, artistic, or leadership capacity, or in specific academic fields, and who require services or activities not ordinarily provided by the school in order to fully develop such capabilities (p. 38).
In examining the definitions provided, it is important to note that gifted individuals may exhibit abilities in some or all of the areas discussed. Individuals who are gifted are not a homogenous group and may demonstrate characteristics in varying degrees and intensities. Also, while an individual who is gifted may not exhibit all of the traits discussed; the presence of any of these characteristics is not necessarily proof that a child is gifted.
Characteristics of Gifted
Intellectual abilities typically mean high performance on a standardized intelligence or achievement test. A subjective intelligence quotient (IQ) score is not included in the federal definition. However, many states continue to use an IQ score as an identifying criterion for giftedness (Jolly, 2005). Research has shown that individuals who score high on standardized testing also perform well in all academic areas (Heward & Orlansky, 1992). However, a debate exists on the use of standardized intelligence or achievement tests as these tests are found to have bias in identifying minority students, culturally different students, and students from low socioeconomic backgrounds (Jolly, 2005).
A specific academic ability refers to exceptional performance in one or two specific areas of academics. For example, someone can perform exceptionally well in math but perform as his or her peers in English and science.
Coleman (2004) stated that leadership abilities were included in the definition of gifted in 1972 by the United States Commissioner of Education. A simple definition of leadership is an individual who can persuade others through activities to achieve a goal. In terms of gifted, these individuals have the interpersonal and intellectual skills to bring together groups of people (i.e., scientists and environmentalists) to solve problems that affect society (i.e., global warming). In other words, individuals with gifted leadership abilities implement solutions based on data and science (Heward & Orlansky, 1992). In the many variations of defining gifted, leadership continues to be upheld as a hallmark similar to intelligence.
An individual who is considered gifted in the visual or performing arts are considered by the general public to be prodigies in music or dance. These are individuals who possess skills far beyond their developmental age levels.
While the federal definition is very broad based, many states choose to limit the definition of gifted to intellect, creativity, and leadership (Heward & Orlansky, 1992; Karnes & Marquardt, 1997; National Association for Gifted Children [NAGC], 2005). Federal laws are comprehensive in how states can accept federal funds when identifying and serving individuals with disabilities. In contrast, individuals who are gifted experience great variations in eligibility for services is defined by individual states.
Legal Issues with Gifted Education
In 1988, the Jacob K. Javits Gifted and Talented Students Act was passed by Congress to establish and provide model programs and/or projects for serving individuals identified as gifted (NAGC, 2005). However, the Act does not protect the legal rights of individuals considered gifted. Currently, federal laws exist only to protect the rights of individuals with disabilities. In fact, individuals with disabilities are assured a free, appropriate public education through the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act 2004 (IDEA 2004).
Karnes and Marquardt (1997) reported that individual states have the legal responsibility to establish and provide services to the individuals who are gifted. As a result, individuals identified as gifted are provided highly variable services from state to state and in some states from one school district to another. Karnes and Marquardt (1997) also state that many states have mandated gifted services. In some states, a state definition and guidelines for services may exist. However, in other states, the local school district defines, develops and implements guidelines for the district. Advocates for gifted education state the lack of a federal definition leads to a hodgepodge of definitions and services...
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