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 Conceptual Foundations
                                                                             Gifted Education Home

     One of the foundational elements of education in West Virginia is that all students will have equitable education opportunities. Equity in education for high ability students, who may already be proficient in grade-level skills, is making forward progress in their learning. As for all learners, an appropriate education for gifted learners is one that fosters growth, allowing students to make gains in achievement over time.

     Students identified as gifted have special, unique educational needs that must be met in order to provide a high quality, equitable education. The belief that high ability learners will "get it on their own" is not supported by data. Their unique educational needs must be supported using evidence-based methodologies. Their instruction must be differentiated to include more depth and complexity on content, flexible processes and creativity in product, in order to maximize their academic growth.

Historical Foundation

     In 1969, U.S. Congress expressed its concern over the research confirming that many talented children perform far below their intellectual potential. "This loss is particularly evident in the minority groups..." (Marland, 1971). As a result, Congress passed an addition to the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) providing that gifted talented students should benefit from this federal legislation. In 1971, Sidney P. Marland, who was the Commissioner of Education at the time, was mandated to present a status report to the U.S. Congress on the education of gifted and talented children. In the report, Mr. Marland stated that gifted students "require differentiated educational programs and/or services beyond those normally provided by the regular school program to realize their contribution to self and society" (Marland, 1971).

     Since that time, many individuals have contributed to differentiated instruction for students identified as gifted and a National Research Center on the Gifted and Talented was created to provide research and best practices in this field. In addition, organizations such as the National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC) and the Council for Exceptional Children (CEC) have made great efforts to sustain and expand implementation of gifted education.

Research That Supports the Need for and Benefits of Gifted Education

Legal Foundation

       Gifted education in West Virginia was mandated by WV Code 18-20-1 in 1990 and provided as early as 1977 by many county school districts. The code provides that exceptional children, including those identified as gifted in grades one through eight and exceptional gifted in grades nine through twelve, be educated according to guidelines set forth by the state board of education in Policy 2419; "Regulations for the Education of Students with Exceptionalities." Policy 2419 requires that child find activities, identification, the development of an individualized education plan (IEP), and specialized instruction delivered through a full continuum of delivery options and instructional approaches, be provided for students identified as gifted in West Virginia. Link to WV State Code mandating gifted education.

     West Virginia State Code requires that students who are not eligible as Exceptional Gifted in grades nine through twelve be provided Advanced Placement and Honors courses as appropriate through a Four-Year Education and Transition Plan. Link to WV State Code mandating the Four-Year Plan. For students eligible as Exceptional Gifted in grades nine through twelve, an IEP is developed. The focus of an IEP for Exceptional Gifted is generally on 1) creativity skills, 2) social emotional issues, 3) career studies, 4) personal interests, 5) leadership and/or 6) organizational skills.

Concepts of Giftedness

     Giftedness has multiple forms and varying ability-levels. Giftedness may mean that the child is creative and imaginative, has insight into cause and effect, prefers complex ideas, recalls information easily, and/or is capable of abstract/complex thought. Many characteristics of giftedness can be exhibited both positively and negatively. Giftedness should not be linked to "good" or "bad" behavior.

     Gifted students can have different levels of achievement across different academic areas (Perkins, 1995). Giftedness may mean that the child has already developed the basic skills that other children the same age have yet to be taught; or it may be evident as a "rapid rate of learning, compared to other students of the same age." Their ideas and interests may be different from their age peers, which may cause a sense of isolation. They may be highly sensitive to different viewpoints, very intense in particular interests and able to concentrate for extended periods of time. They may be competitive in nature and highly idealistic.

     Many receive high grades with little effort on information they already know or can learn more rapidly. These students may not realize that all learning takes effort and, when faced with learning challenges later, avoid those challenges and underachieve.

     Some students identified as gifted achieve at levels lower than their capabilities. This may be due to the type of instruction they receive, lack of support from home, health-related issues, or a conscious decision by the student to disengage from learning in favor of conforming with peers.

     High ability can be evident in young children as exceptional performance on intelligence tests, achievement tests and classroom grades. However, focusing only on academic achievement using a single measure may exclude specific academic talent, creativity, leadership or talent in the visual or performing arts. Using multiple measures will compensate for a single test measure that overlooks other gifted traits and characteristics such as creativity, motivation and ability to solve problems.

     Gifted education, with its focus on concepts for deeper understanding while reinforcing content, is such that it engages the student in learning that has meaning and purpose and thus, encourages the student to decide to invest in learning rather than in other popular options outside of learning.

Trends, Issues and Future Directions

     Data indicate that gifted learners make greater gains in achievement when in some sort of ability grouping (Rogers, 2002). However, some people have a negative attitude toward providing alternate methods of education for students identified as gifted.

      Many programs are viewed as elitist because of the composition of the programs; many of the identified students have economic advantages. This may be due to the difficulty in identifying students as gifted using a narrow range of evidence rather than multiple measures. In West Virginia, revisions in policy now include identifying potential for achievement. the state policy requires local education agencies to use various test instruments in measuring general intellectual ability and to consider academic achievement or classroom performance in identifying students with giftedness. In addition, special consideration of other data that complements the definition may also be used to identify giftedness if it appears that the student's giftedness may not be apparent due to low socio-economic status, a disability in accordance with state policy, or a background that is linguistically or culturally different. These data include, but are not limited to, individual achievement, group achievement, classroom performance, teacher input, inventories, scales, checklists of characteristics/traits based on research of gifted individuals, student product(s) and parent information. The following lists different procedures that the eligibility committee may use in determining eligibility of a student who belongs to a historically under-represented population. This is not an exhaustive list.
a. Using an alternative assessment to identify giftedness in minority students.
b. Using a matrix to get a total picture.
c. Using parent, student and teacher rating scales to give added information.

     The number of students identified as gifted in West Virginia is fairly consistent at approximately 5000 students in grades one through eight. The percentage of total enrollment continues to be 1.72 percent. Link to Data and Reports.

     Consideration of the 3 Level Framework model with progress monitoring to include above-grade levels skills may offer a more viable way of identifying giftedness. More emphasis will be given to applying the 3 Level Framework instructional approach at least to assure a referral for evaluation for gifted education services at Level 3.

      "The changing conception of intelligence is one of the most powerful, liberating forces ever to influence the restructuring of education, schools, and society. It also is a vital influence behind the development of the Habits of Mind..." Arthur L. Costa and Bena Kallick, Learning and Leading with Habits of Mind (2008, A.S.C.D)

The Fairness Question

     Most people agree that it is not fair to require students identified as gifted to do more of the same kind of work to fill in time when they have correctly finished a classroom assignment before other students in the class. Nor is it fair to ask those students to complete extended activities in addition to their general assignments. The idea that all students identified as gifted enjoy more work is misguided. Not many people want to write a report in addition to the project when everyone else just does the project. (The Challenge, 2008) Experts agree that gifted students don't need more work; they need a different kind of work that is appropriate to their individual level of academic achievement.

     Some parents complain when their child is asked to complete more challenging or demanding activities that are higher in content and level of thinking. They question the fairness of requiring students identified as gifted to complete work with more rigor and complexity. If fair means the same instruction, the same assignments, the same scoring guides; then, no, it is not fair. (Vincent 2000) But if fair means giving assignments at the student's appropriate level of academic achievement, then, yes, it is fair. "We don't require students to eat the same kinds of food or to participate in the same after-school activities." (Tomlinson and Doubet 2006) When we ask bright students to do work that is a bit challenging for them, we are asking them to do exactly what we're asking every other student to do: stretch, learn something new, grow, and make progress.

    If a child shows an interest and talent in music, for example, the parents would probably try to provide private lessons. The music teacher would assign music at or slightly above the child's demonstrated level. If a child showed promise as a basketball or football player, the coach would direct the player to the appropriate exercises to develop and extend skills. Why wouldn't we apply this same concept to academics?


West Virginia State Board of Education Strategic Plan

West Virginia State Board Policies (Policy 2419)

Doubet, K. & Tomlinson, C.A. (2006) Smart in the Middle Grades, Classrooms That Work for bright Middle Schoolers. Westerville, OH: National Middle School Association.

Marland, S.P., Jr. (1971). Education of the gifted and talented: Vol. 1, Report to the Congress of the United States. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office. Link to ERIC ED056243.

Perkins, D. N. (1995). Outsmarting IQ: the emerging science of learnable intelligence. New York: The Free Press.

Rogers, K. B., (2002). Re-Forming Gifted Education. Scottsdale, AZ: Great Potential Press, Inc.

Vincent, Donna What's Fair: The Story of Gifted Gail and Special Eddy The Quarterly, Vol. 22, No. 3 (Summer 2000)

"Fact Or Fiction: What Do the Experts Say?" The Challenge Magazine of The Center for Gifted Studies, WKU, Summer 2008.

NAGC Position Paper "Redefining Giftedness for a New Century: Shifting the Paradigm" (2010)

Council for Exceptional Children (CEC)

NAGC Pre-K--Grade 12 Gifted Program Standards