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
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.
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
That Supports the Need for and Benefits of Gifted Education
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 provides that child find activities, identification,
the development of an individualized education plan (IEP),
and specialized instruction delivered through a full continuum
of differentiated curricular options, instructional approaches
and resource materials, include giftedness. Link
to WV State Code mandating gifted education.
West Virginia State Code
provides 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.
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.
Students identified as gifted
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
tests and/or other measures of ability." As children
mature to adolescence, however, "achievement and
high levels of motivation" become the primary characteristics
of their giftedness.
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 general intelligence tests. Revisions
in policy and professional development in the identification
of giftedness is an ongoing challenge. In West Virginia,
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 criteria 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.
Even with policy revisions,
the trend in the number of students identified as gifted
in West Virginia has decreased from 6051 in 1997 to 4848
in 2010. The percentage of total enrollment decreased
from 1.99 percent in 1997 to 1.72 percent in 2010. Link
to Data and Reports.
Consideration of the RTI
- Multi-tiered Instructional 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 Multi-tiered Instructional approach
at least to assure a referral for evaluation for gifted
education services at Tier III.
Is It Fair?
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?
State Board of Education Strategic Goals
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
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
to ERIC ED056243.
Perkins, D. N. (1995). Outsmarting IQ: the emerging
science of learnable intelligence. New York: The
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.
Position Paper "Redefining Giftedness for a New Century:
Shifting the Paradigm" (2010)
for Exceptional Children (CEC)
Pre-K--Grade 12 Gifted Program Standards