Why do we need gifted education? This question has resonated in the minds of many educators and policy-makers since the era of No Child Left Behind (NCLB) has begun. In truth, gifted education is more important than ever before.
NCLB and Its Aftermath
No Child Left Behind (NCLB) was based on a strong need for under-achieving students to receive extra help so that they could begin to learn effectively on grade level. While all agree that this aim is admirable, there have been other side effects of the NCLB legislation. One of these side effects has been that the focus of many educators has been pulled towards the most struggling students and away from the other students in the class.
For those students who are learning on grade level, this change of focus may not have a huge impact. Although they may not be challenged quite as much as they were in the past, educators can still teach in a way that they can gain from. But what of the gifted students in the classes? Money for gifted education has been reduced considerably, and many gifted students are languishing in a classroom with teachers who do not consider their needs.
Between the years 2000 and 2007, the (struggling) students at the 10th percentile of achievement gained tremendously; the (often gifted) students at the 90th percentile of achievement barely made any gains at all.
The Arguments for Gifted Education
Proponents of gifted education stress that all of the students in a classroom deserve to be challenged and assisted on their intellectual journeys, not just those who score most poorly on standardized tests. They believe that overlooking the needs of gifted students is wrong and will lead to gifted students becoming bored, losing interest in learning, and learning to under achieve as well.
Not only that, proponents argue that today’s gifted students may become tomorrow’s gifted adults. Although it takes a lot more than giftedness to make an impact on the world, giftedness definitely gives its holders an advantage over everybody else.
So why do we need gifted education? One possible answer is that gifted students are those who are most likely to make a great impact on the world. They may be the ones who will find cures for diseases, lead their countries, and change the course of history. By holding them back from learning all that they can, we may be sacrificing our brightest students, and thereby those who hold the key to future world change.