Magazine article Parenting for High Potential

What Parents Need to Know

Magazine article Parenting for High Potential

What Parents Need to Know

Article excerpt

Current Research About Gifted and Talented Students

In the last two decades, seminal research has been conducted in the area of giftedness and talent development that has consequences for gifted and talented children and their parents. This article offers three major themes that have emerged from this research to stregthen advocacy efforts by using data to help advocates in their work with schools, districts, and legislators.

Theme One: The Needs of Academically Talented and High-Achieving Students Are Too Seldom Met in Regular Classroom Settings.

According to several well-designed national studies conducted over the last two decades, the needs of academically gifted and high-ability students are often unrecognized and unmet in American classrooms where the focus is most often on struggling learners. Most classroom teachers have not had the professional training necessary to meet the needs of gifted and talented students. A recently released Fordham Institute report entitled High-Achieving Students in the Era of NCLB (2008) found that while low-achieving students made gains under No Child Left Behind, advanced learners did not. The report summarizes what other research in our field also has suggested: academically talented and high-achieving students may be failing to make progress because teachers spend the majority of their time with struggling students despite the fact that they know that others in the classroom need attention as well.

My colleagues and I have been studying classroom instruction for talented readers in urban and suburban schools during the last several years (Reis et al., 2004). We have found that these students receive very little reading instruction and often spend the majority of their school year reading well below their current reading levels. Even if they read several years above grade level, sufficiently challenging books are seldom available for these talented students in their classrooms, and students are not often given the time or encouragement to select more challenging books from the school library. Our research also has demonstrated that talented readers seldom encounter appropriately challenging reading material during regular classroom instruction, as attention in almost all classrooms is directed primarily at students who read significantly below grade level. This research shows that classroom practices have not changed very much in the last decade or so.

In 1993, my colleagues and I conducted a national research study on curriculum compacting (Reis et al., 1993). We found that classroom teachers could eliminate between 40-50% of the previously mastered regular curriculum for high-ability and gifted students. When they eliminated that content, no differences were found between students whose work was compacted and students who did all of the work in reading, math computation, social studies, and spelling (Reis & Purcell, 1993). In other words, we found that almost half of the school year consisted of repetition and work that these academicallytalented students had already mastered. In fact, most of them could have started school in January without missing any previously unmastered content.

Other studies conducted by researchers at the National Research Center on the Gifted and Talented have analyzed what occurs in American classrooms for high-ability students (Archambault et al., 1993). The results portray a disturbing pattern. Archambault et al. conducted the Classroom Practices Survey to determine the extent to which gifted and talented students receive differentiated education in regular classrooms. Sixty-one percent of approximately 7,300 randomly selected third-and fourthgrade teachers in public and private schools in the United States reported that they had never had any training in teaching gifted students. The major finding of this study is that classroom teachers make only minor modifications on a very irregular basis in the regular curriculum to meet the needs of gifted students. …

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