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 a note from the teacher to parents

by Jennifer Cummings, M.Ed.

Are Talented and Gifted Programs Fair for Students?

In the 1970’s and 80’s there was a movement to develop programs in schools to develop talent in children identified as being “above average”. Most of the time, these programs focused on children’s academic records as sole basis for inclusion into the program, and there was a fixed curriculum that was followed.

Later research found that many children were inadvertently excluded from these programs due to social, economic, or other considerations. However, as the 1980’s drew to an end, many schools faced financial cutbacks that removed most of these programs in schools throughout the country.

Late in the 1990’s and into the 21st century, schools have begun to revisit the concept of providing additional programming for children who are identified as having exceptional talent. However, there have been some significant changes to how many of the programs are structured and how they are implemented.

These changes make the modern enrichment program more accessible to more students and are more open to identifying students whose talents may have gone unnoticed in the past.

Current enrichment models tend to focus on a schoolwide enrichment model, largely developed by Joesph Renzulli through research over the past 30 years. In this model, all students in the school are given new experiences that enrich their lives, including introductions to music, arts, and other academic activities.

In addition, specific students that have identified talents in academic and/or creative fields are given opportunities to explore their interests more fully both in and beyond the classroom. This encourages development of critical thinking, independent research ability, and other important personal skills. Students’ information is continually reviewed, making inclusion into the program a fluid process. Nevertheless, some people question whether these enrichment programs are fair for all students, or whether they provide some students with an unfair advantage.

To answer this question more fully, it is necessary to define the concept of fairness. In educational terms, an educational program is considered “fair” as it works to meet the needs of individual students. This definition allows inclusion of all students in successful public education programs, such as providing students with learning disabilities with special instruction, or providing assistance to children who need extra help in physical ways. The goal of all of these accommodations is the same: to provide each child with the tools they need to achieve their highest level of personal development.

In the case of gifted children, their needs are also different from those of the average learner, only not in the ways traditionally considered. In order to develop the personal potential of these children to the highest level, they also require special services and teaching strategies to be successful in learning. Therefore, it is the goal of enrichment programs to provide the services these children require to receive a fair education that meets their unique needs.

If enrichment programs in schools are working to provide new experiences for all children, identify giftedness in a variety of student populations, and developing personal potential to the highest degree possible, then the programs are certainly fair to include within the public school system. They are simply another way to meet the specialized individual education requirements of a specific group of learners, as are other specialized educational programs.

If you have specific questions about enrichment programs and activities that may be available throughout your child’s school or district, be sure to contact your child’s teacher, the enrichment coordinator, or the school administration. They will be able to provide you with more information about your child’s specific learning opportunities.

Jennifer Cummings

Ms. Cummings, author, and editor of the Education and School Section, she has a psychology and an M.Ed. in special education from Framingham State College in Massachusetts. She was an elementary teacher in Massachusetts serving both regular education and special education students. She has taught grades 1,4, and 5.

"I believe that families' involvement in their child's education is one of the key ingredients to creating a successful school experience for children. Keeping parents informed about school-related issues helps parents and teachers work together for the best possible outcomes for their children. Learning together makes learning fun - for everyone!" - Jennifer Cummings. CummingsSchoolEducation and School  by Jennifer Cummings, M.Ed. Are Talented and Gifted Programs Fair for Students? In the 1970's and 80's there was a movement to develop programs in schools to develop talent in children identified as being 'above average'. Most of the time, these programs focused on children's academic records as sole basis for...Parenting Advice| Family Fun Activities for Kids