Academic journal article Journal of the National Collegiate Honors Council

The Impact of K-12 Gifted Programs on Postsecondary Honors Programming

Academic journal article Journal of the National Collegiate Honors Council

The Impact of K-12 Gifted Programs on Postsecondary Honors Programming

Article excerpt

BACKGROUND

While not all students entering a post-secondary honors program have previously participated in gifted programming, honors programming in theory begins through gifted services in elementary schools and later culminates in honors colleges and honors programs at post-secondary institutions. However, a review of participants in these programs suggests that the population is not consistent through the various levels of the educational system. Studies indicate that gifted services and the participating population change in middle school and/or high school when programming shifts from gifted to honors. Related to these shifts are misconceptions and mistaken assumptions that often correlate to a lowering of standards and rigor in "honors" offerings. In order to develop programming appropriate for any population, the population must first be identified and its needs assessed. Thus, it is important that honors directors at the postsecondary level understand both the services provided and population served in the K-12 system. From this understanding, honors directors will be more aware of the needs of two divergent sets of students, those who are identified as gifted and those who are involved in such programs as a result of parental pressure or other perceived advantages. Further, honors directors may find an underserved population in truly gifted students who are not currently participating in post-secondary honors programs partially as a result of their experiences in K-12 gifted programs.

K-12 GIFTED EDUCATION

One of the first problems in addressing gifted education is establishing the definition of "gifted." While IQ has typically been a determining factor in the identification of students qualified for gifted programs in the K-12 system, the Marland (1972) Report as well as the United States Department of Education's (1993) National Excellence: The Case for Developing America's Talent have helped to expand the definition and concept of giftedness. Still, according to Borland (1989), "Although most educators would agree that there are children in the schools who should be designated as gifted, there is very little agreement as to which children should be included in this category. One person's gifted child is another's troublemaker, while the latter's candidate is regarded as merely a good test taker by the former" (p. 6). Nevertheless, according to the Davidson Institute (2005), eighteen states mandate gifted programming and twenty-four states provide funding for gifted services, each state defining "gifted" in its own way but typically identifying the top three to five percent of the student population.

Absent federal requirements for gifted education and minimal federal funding, gifted education is almost entirely left to the states, and "state budgets for gifted education vary widely, ranging from roughly $100 million a year to nothing" (Davidson, Davidson, & Vanderkam, 2004, p. 36). Thus, services provided to this population vary as much as the definition of participants. Borland (1989) presents seven program formats typically employed in K-12 gifted education: special schools for the gifted; the school-within-a-school; self-contained classes; multitracked programs; pull-out programs; resource rooms; and provisions within the regular classroom. It should be noted that each of these program formats has strengths and weaknesses in addressing the needs of gifted students, but each attempts to best meet the needs of such students within the constraints of the system in which the program in employed. Nevertheless, much of the programming is concentrated in the lower grades, prior to middle school. As described by Davidson, Davidson, and Vanderkam (2004), Caryn Ellison, a runner-up for Indiana Teacher of the Year, presents differentiated instruction in her self-contained gifted classroom: "soon they will go to middle school, though, where the self-contained gifted program turns into the equivalent of honors classes, which at any school can have varying levels of difficulty" (p. …

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