Since the implementation of No Child Left Behind, I have gathered worrisome anecdotes from undergraduate student teachers, college supervisors, Master of Arts in Teaching elementary-school interns, and clinical liaisons on the reality of gifted education in today's elementary and secondary schools. Echoes of the identified issues of prominent educators come to the surface. For example, the "focus [is] on proficiency rather than academic growth" (Tomlinson, 2002, p. 36); "many teachers have put aside their curricula in favor of preparing their students to take ... 'high stakes tests' ... [which] have to be placed at a fairly basic conceptual level" (Gallagher, 2004, p. 121); and "the needs of gifted students are even more ignored or brushed off than they have been before" (Gallagher, p. 122). It seems appropriate then, in light of the popularity of the "reality" shows that seem to abound, to check with current educators to see what is actually happening from their vantage points. In this investigation, each respondent was identified as an excellent teacher of gifted children by their school/district administrators and/or by parents whose children were taught by them.
I set out to obtain response to a series of questions (Appendix A) from 10 teachers who work in four school districts in Colorado and who teach in a variety of settings, from "low-performing" schools to "high-performing" settings, from poverty to affluence, from elementary to middle school, and from perspectives as specialists in gifted education to those of "regular" classroom teachers and to experienced teachers on special assignment. Of the group, one teacher is a district supervisor of K-12 gifted education; two serve as gifted resource teachers; two teach in an International Baccalaureate (IB) middle school and have received specialized IB training; one is a K-6 foreign-language teacher recommended as outstanding by the district's assistant superintendent; one recently was the State's Elementary Drama Teacher of the Year; one was her district's Elementary Teacher of the Year; and two are literacy specialists/instructional coaches. The four districts that these teachers represent have a total population of 65,847 students, of which 4,401 have been identified as gifted. The respondents, whose experience in teaching spans 5 to 34 years, received the survey at a meeting in May, 2004, and replied over the month that followed with written candor. Confidentiality was offered, and more than half requested that neither their name nor school district be identified. Based on the desire for confidentiality, I honored it for all respondents, having concluded that the high stakes of today's teaching environment refer not only to test scores, but to teachers' professional welfare.
An initial issue for consideration was the overall effect of NCLB on the teachers' school, class, and/or district. Each answer below originated from a teacher in a different district:
1. "The gifted children who were ignored or overlooked before are now even more so."
2. "We're constantly being told that it is most important to bring our low-scoring children up on standardized tests (i.e., the Colorado Student Assessment Program, hereafter referred to as CSAP, which is the basis for 'scoring' schools and reporting to the federal government), and to bring proficient students to advanced. In many schools, curricula focus on reading, writing, and math only; children are learning to 'do' the CSAP, not learn for life!"
3. "More time is devoted to test preparation, unfortunately. Teachers will choose to keep their children for test preparation activities, thus canceling Talented and Gifted (TAG) classes. It is frowned upon (by the District) to remove TAG students during test preparation in regular classrooms." As of Summer 2005, the speaker reported that the situation continues to worsen, reporting that she is required to tutor and …