Gifted and Talented Program Admissions: Needed Improvements and Reforms
Gifted and talented programs are intrinsically valuable to many children’s education as they provide a system in which all students involved are engaged, challenged, and intellectually stimulated. In "How People Learn", Donovan, Bransford, and Pellegrino (1999) stress the importance of each student being given reasonable and appropriate goals based on his or her level of understanding and competency (p. 20). Gifted and talented programs help institutionalize the attempt to meet all student’s needs by providing uniquely appropriate challenges which aim to keep every student engaged, thus receiving the best chance at success. Although there are many valuable and important aspects of gifted education, there are also significant issues rooted in the base of America’s gifted and talented programs, one of which I will address throughout this paper. In my opinion, the most notable problem which troubles gifted and talented programs is the system by which students are selected to join their school’s gifted and talented program.
The problem associated with how students are chosen to join a gifted and talented program stems from the way that we define giftedness. Because there are countless ways in which any individual can define talent, the government created a federal task force in 1972 to study gifted education in order to standardize the way in which schools choose students for and implement their gifted and talented programs. The task force’s results are known as the Marland Report and include much information as a result of their research, including a decision that a public school’s gifted and talented programs should aim to serve between 3 and 5 percent of the total school population (Eby and Smutny, 1990, p. 4). A more important outcome of the Marland Report for my purposes is a list of six areas which were agreed upon as the areas that should be examined in order to measure a student’s abilities. These areas are:
General intellectual ability
Specific academic aptitude
Creative or productive thinking
Visual and performing arts
Psychomotor ability (Eby and Smutny, 1990, p. 4)
The United States Congress has slightly altered the definition of giftedness presented in 1972, mainly to remedy the problem that talent was being too narrowly defined, but even in recent revisions the first five characteristics listed in the Marland Report remain almost exactly the same, the only one that has been removed is the sixth: psychomotor ability. This last characteristic was removed from the list because officials felt that school athletic programs could meet students’ needs in that specific area and that gifted and talented programs should be instituted to help develop skills and capabilities which are not being satisfactorily provided by a school’s standard curriculum and programs (Eby and Smutny, 1990, p. 5). Defining these five or six areas as the...