Our school district has one of the highest budget's for special needs kids on Long Island. Last year the district tried to reorganize the special education teacher staffing at all the schools to reflect the successful program in place in one of the grade schools. The result would have been the replacement of four teachers with four teaching assistants. They also wanted to implement a very small program for gifted children (there is none in place now).
The hue and cry over this was incredible. The parents went ballistic that they were going to "cut" special ed and spend money on gifted kids. There was no appreciation for the fact that the district already pays out a big chunk of its budget on special ed and spends NOTHING right now on gifted kids. The board backed down and things went back to status quo.
Our schools are geared to the lowest common denominator. Most parents don't realize how much this hurts special needs children just as much if not more than gifted children. If your child is special needs, but manages to do okay in school anyway, they are not eligible for services. The goal isn't to help children do the best that they can. The goal is only to make sure they can do enough to get by. I think that's why America lags behind other countries in terms of education. We need to help EVERY child do the best they can. And don't tell me there isn't enough money for it. Somehow the US finds hundreds of billions of dollars when it wants to start a pointless war in Iraq. They can find a few more billion here and there to help kids achieve in education.
I think one has to consider exactly what is meant by gifted. Is the primary criterion that they are doing fine, but could do harder work and aren't being challenged by the normal curriculum? Or are we going more for a classification type of definition - they are children who will actually fare poorly in school because they have different learning styles and something innate to their giftedness causes the standard curriculum to not "work" for them? In the former case, I think the solution is to go back to tracked classes. The modern concept of "differentiated learning" is really just a code word for conducting multiple tracks within the classroom which is a ridiculous expectation to put on a teacher with a class of more than several children. To me, this is not a money issue, a "neglecting the gifted issue" - it's political correctness and the self esteem movement once again running amok.
The second case is more intriguing to me. If gifted children are, among other things, characterized by an inability to flourish within the standard curriculum, then I think we have to ask ourselves some questions before we can determine whether we are neglecting them: Do they benefit in the long run from a specialized program? That is, does being in such a program have benefits that extend into adulthood, leading to intellectual development and successes that would not have occurred without the program? Or, once they are confronted with a more traditional setting (work, college, etc.), do these individuals simply flounder again?
Ideally, all children should be challenged to the maximum of their abilities. I say ideally, because I think we've taken on a financially crippling burden of expectation in some cases - I know there are people who would disagree vociferously, but I don't see the point of spending tens of thousands of dollars yearly on out of district placement for an individual who has a profound level of MR, for example, because at the end of the day, what education has been accomplished? I'd apply the same criterion to providing gifted education - it can't just feel good now and keep the kids out of the teacher's hair. There has to be some long term benefit.
I couldn't agree more with this post. Inclusion has some benefits, definitely - the kids grow up with other kids that have special needs and learn to become their champions instead of their tormentors. OTOH, my friend truly wishes her DS could be in a 'special needs' class so that they could focus on teaching him life skills instead of some of the Social Studies topics that are completely useless to him. I have found that the pendulum has swung so far in the direction of the schools catering to special needs kids, that the programs we used to have for bright kids have become extinct. When I was in grade 6 we had the smart class, the average class and the dumb class. We all knew that that was what it was as 11 year olds. In a way, I think we need to find our way back to that kind of structuring and stop worrying about the politics and the political correctedness of it all. The special needs kids will not have an aide their whole lives and neither will the gifted kid be accomodated with a different learning style in University. At the end of grade 12, everyone can feel good about themselves, but have we really done our best by these kids? I don't know.
Actually, the gifted kids CAN be accommodated with different learning styles in a University setting. There are honors studies, individual studies and opportunities to test out of but still get credit for classes that are too easy for them. They have opportunities and levels of study offered that they've never had before.
As for keeping gifted kids in regular and inclusion classes, it's not always a good thing. My son was teased and bullied because, despite being younger than his classmates, they "didn't understand what he was talking about". In one class a teacher told us that he had an incredibly advanced sense of humor and the teachers thought he was hilarious but his classmates rarely understood his jokes.
I think you'd have ask two or three questions? what is the benefit, who receives the benefit and who pays for it?
Originally Posted by LL2
Why do we want to challenge all children to the maximum of their abilities and what is the cost of doing that and also what is the benefit.
to what end are we working? I think that has been lost sight of long ago.
What is the purpose of a public education? and are we achieving that?
Once you understand those things then you might be able to answer the questions regarding children on either end of the spectrum.
I think America is ignoring children full stop. We don't want them around and if they are around we want them to be quiet so we can get on with what we want to do. We shut them up in schools, we shut them up by sticking them in front of a TV or computer or game machine, we shut them up in houses to 'keep them safe' and then nourish them with mindless violence or implied violence in movies and 'games'... maybe I'll revise my statement and say that rather than ignoring them America's children are being 'used' to further the financial goals of the movie makers and the marketing arms of corporate America.
Advocating for my gifted ds and my very bright (though not yet tested) dd has become my full-time SAHM job. I have even begun seeing a counselor for it. My ds in particular has some quirks of character and behavior that on the surface appear to be purposeful, but are the result of his very unique style and needs. He may be "smart" but he still needs help, and understanding, and compassion, and support, and explanations, and praise. He does not necessarily know more...he knows DIFFERENTLY. To me, that is a special need, albeit at another end of the spectrum.
Our house is up for sale so that if (big if) we can sell it for a decent price and make a lateral move to a top district nearby...then maybe we will have more peace in our lives.
By the sheer definition of giftedness (i.e., 97%ile or more) the chances of a teacher seeing true giftedness is not very likely on a year-to-year basis. But when a teacher does encounter a gifted child, why does s/he not rise to that challenge? Why is it so hard to change, to think outside the box a little, to NOT give pencil and paper worksheets every morning for an hour? Why do I have to research teaching techniques in the hopes of trying to influence, in the least threatening manner possible, my kids' teachers?
BTW, we live in MI which does not mandate testing for or funding gifted programs.
Just curious, how did all those gifted children survive back in the "old days" before any programs?
Well, I qualify as 'gifted' based on testing I received in high school, but I went to a rural school with no AP, no Calculus, no nothing. So I was bored out of my mind, learned very little and got average grades. I made up for it by being involved in and leading every single after-school activity, which helped with the boredom but not with the learning. I am so grateful that I fell into a great college. It was like waking up after a long sleep. I got straight As, went to Africa, went on to grad school, and loved every minute of it. If I hadn't had that experience, I would never have known how exciting, fun and interesting learning could be.
Originally Posted by Shazadio
So probably in the 'old days' a lot of kids were bored just like I was, and never realized their full potential....I don't see that as a good thing.