The education of gifted children requires the educator to recognize and understand the differences between gifted children and their non-gifted peers. Gifted children often require a different type of stimulation and learning to best accommodate their needs and improve their potential. However, the current trend in education revolves around proficiency testing and standardization of curriculum. An educator must question if this is in the best interest of gifted children. An article by Jason S. McIntosh explores these concepts. In the article, the author summarizes and discusses the recent findings of three educational groups.
In the first part of the article, the author discusses the “Excellence Gap.” This refers to the increased gap in attainment between white students and minority students. Particularly, while minority students have increasingly achieved “proficient” level on examinations, they fail to reach the higher advanced levels. However, a greater number of non-minority students have advanced from “proficient” to “highly advanced” on examinations. At the eighth grade level, the excellence gap was particularly large for math skills. This was not true for girls though. They also had an “excellence gap” in math. In minority students, the largest excellence gap occurred with African-American students. The study suggested that educators need to ask how any curriculum changes would affect high-achieving students and also how to increase the number of high-achievers.
The second part of the article also found that students from low socioeconomic status also failed to achieve high-levels on achievement exams. There was a high correlation between socioeconomic status and the level a student would achieve on achievement examinations. Students from higher socioeconomic status would achieve high levels, while those from low socioeconomic groups often fared poorly. This indicates that there is something else at work than merely measuring the actual abilities of the student.
The third part examined how high-performers continued to perform throughout their academic career. While some students who achieved high-level performances on examinations early in their education continued to score well, others did not. For thirty to fifty percent of the students, their performance on examinations worsened over several years’ time. This indicates that the students are not being challenged enough to continue to grow intellectually. Of particular interest was that high-achieving boys were more likely to show a descent in their test scores over time. While “late-bloomers” did occur, these tended to be individuals who already scored at the proficient level. As their education developed, they began to score at the “high-achievement” level. However, it was less likely that an individual who was low-level in performance would achieve high-levels later in his or her academic career.
The article was interesting in that it showed the recently acquired knowledge concerning students and how they are grouped into various classifications. It does raise some interesting questions, particularly about lower socioeconomic students. For instance, do the students in this group fare poorly because they suffer poor nutrition? Do they not have supportive parents? It is possible that the parents are engaged in the basic activities of life, such as providing food and shelter. Parents in higher socioeconomic groups may have the luxury of exposing their children to a variety of educational experiences. Without a full understanding of the nature of these problems, it is difficult to find ways to overcome them.
Additional information would have been valuable concerning the gap between boys and girls. One needs to ask why girls fall away in the math sections of achievement. It is well-known that women are sorely lacking in the science, engineering and technological fields. The basis for these fields is mathematics. Without a strong background in mathematics and an interesting in learning more about this field, females will continue to lag in this area. However, boys are more likely to begin as high-achievers and then fall to lower achievement levels. One also needs to ask why this is the case. Is there a social attitude towards boys who are high achievers in academics, especially rather than sports?
Obviously, modern day society worships sports stars; most individuals could not name an important scientist. There is no improved social status associated with achieving a high level of academic success. Boys may find their interest geared to sports and other activities for this reason. However, girls likely recognize that sports do not lead to the same level of fame and success that boys can achieve. For instance, there is a professional women’s basketball association as well. Most individuals likely know nothing about it and its players. The same cannot be said for the NBA. Boys may begin as high achievers, but society does not give them adequate reason to continue in this pursuit.
Overall, I agreed with the article and the author’s analyses. It clearly indicated areas where improvement in gifted education is required. This improvement must stress closing the excellence gap. Perhaps standardized testing and curriculum is not the best form to do this. Standardized testing and curriculum fails to allow individual educators to assist individual students in achieving the greatest possible level of success. A classroom is not made up of a homogenous group of students. A classroom is made up of a group of dynamic individuals. Every individual brings his or her own challenges and strengths to the educational experience. The curriculum needs to reflect this. A curriculum that is only geared to one group of students will fail many of the students. Not all students will place the same value on all parts of the curriculum. It is important to recognize that there are distinct differences in all individuals. The student should be allowed to follow his or her own path as required. A curriculum that forces all individuals to follow the same path will, undoubtedly, leave many of them lagging behind.
- McIntosh, Jason S. (2011) “The gap, the trap, and the high flyers flaps: a summary and analysis of three important studies focusing on excellence gaps in American education,” Gifted Children, 5(1).