Are the Talented Necessarily Gifted?

Gifted and Talented: Two very simple words that have very complex meanings. Gifted and talented children are identified in my state by three different dimensions. There are three areas to which a child can qualify for this service. Two are based upon aptitude scores, grade point averages, and state testing criteria. This makes sense. Then there is the third dimension which is where the “talented” come in to play. This is to give children who may be artistically creative an opportunity to be placed in the program. I think it is great that the “powers that be” have expanded the criteria to broaden the spectrum of students, however, there are some major flaws with this concept.

The criterion for teaching the gifted and talented in this state is designed to enhance higher level thinking skills and to take students well above the “normal” performance levels for their grade level in academics. What happens is the artistically identified students don’t necessarily have the developmental skills to reach these goals in the gifted academic classes? The state expects these students to be just as successful as the other students who have come into the program based on their academic capabilities. So these classrooms contain half of the students with straight A’s ready to learn and the other half D and F students who on average are discipline problems, but may have an artistic ability. This of course affects the learning experience for the entire class. If the artistically talented aren’t active or creating something, they many times become very uninterested in these higher-level activities and become behavior problems for the entire class.

Rest assure that this is not a result of inadequate teaching. The teachers in my particular district are highly educated and are put through rigorous training for these services. There are many different strategies and techniques demonstrated daily. You just can’t do something “fun” everyday. The “real world” is not a playground everyday and part of the teacher’s job is to prepare students for the real world. This causes a huge division in the classrooms among the students.

I am afraid that in the end we are setting these individuals up for a big failure in society. If students have a talent such as music or art, then provide a program solely for that subject for a period or two a day. The rest of the day should allow them the opportunity to work on their academic skills on a more appropriate level.

Let me be clear in saying that I am not against adding non-academic talents to the Gifted program, I just think that the only way for it to be a success is if accommodations are made for the other areas that they may need assistance in academically.

I am curious to know what others out there think about this topic and if other areas of the country may have a program similar to this that is successful and how it works for their district. I’m all ears.

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