by Tiombe Bisa Kendrick-Dunn
I can truly say, as a school psychologist, I have rarely witnessed a negative reaction from parents when they are informed their child meets eligibility for Gifted programming. However, I have always been puzzled by the fact that many parents do not inquire about the various types of programming offered to students classified as Gifted.
Many parents are unfamiliar with many technical terms related to gifted programming, such as acceleration, flexible grouping, curriculum compacting, resource vs. full time, independent study, Advance Placement (AP) classes, Dual Enrollment, International Baccalaureate Programs (IB), and Cambridge Programs. In addition, many parents lack knowledge related to how gifted children in their school district are particularly serviced, and what types of programs are available outside the school system for gifted children. Therefore, many parents may lack knowledge about gifted programming in general, which negatively impacts their ability to advocate effectively for appropriate gifted programming that will meet the specific needs of their child.
For example, the vast majority of students classified as profoundly gifted would benefit from being placed in a full time gifted program that, according to available research, supports both their academic and social-emotional needs. Also, consider the gifted student who is classified as twice-exceptional (2e). Gifted students classified as 2e have different needs from a gifted student who is profoundly gifted. Although there are some school districts that provide programs for students classified as 2e or profoundly gifted, service provision for these populations of gifted children are not universal across school districts in the U.S. Many identified profoundly gifted and 2e children, especially those from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds, are placed in gifted programs where their unique needs are not addressed appropriately. Typically when parents attend an eligibility meeting for their student, they are often told about the gifted program available at their school, and often are not informed about the variety of gifted programs available at other schools in their district and what they offer. In addition, these parents are rarely informed about available programs outside their school district for gifted children.
As a school psychologist, I am deeply concerned about the paucity of appropriate programming many gifted children are provided with, especially those from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds. Much too often, gifted children are expected to fit into these “one-size fits all” gifted programs, rather than into programs that are research-based and have proven to be effective for their particular needs. As a result of the latter, many gifted children are in jeopardy of not reaching their full potential academically, which often has a negative impact on their social-emotional development.
Challenges of social-emotional development that are not appropriately addressed can lead to significant challenges throughout the life span for gifted individuals in all areas of their lives. Educators, parents, researchers, mental health professionals, and health professionals all need to advocate for appropriate educational programming for gifted children. They must acknowledge that identifying children as gifted should not then lead to placing these children in educational programming for which no research has shown to be effective in meeting the needs of the gifted. It is extremely important that a variety of gifted programming is available to address the diverse needs of gifted children, similar to the variety of programming often available for students classified with disabilities.
It is equally important that available research related to gifted programming is consulted and utilized as a guide when developing new or improving existing models of gifted programming for children. There is nothing worse than placing children in an educational program that is not designed to meet their needs; this equates to a type of educational malpractice. If research is available (and it is) that indicates the types of services gifted children will benefit from based on their needs, then why not use them? Our country can’t afford to continue inappropriately servicing the needs of gifted children. It is imperative that school districts create educational programs for gifted children that will increase their chances of reaching their full potential, so that they will be able to live happy and productive lives as adults. Although identification of gifted children is important, the programming they receive, once they are identified, is crucial for their future development as individuals in all areas of their lives. We must advocate for sound programming practices for all gifted children to ensure their educational and social-emotional needs are met!