Wednesday, December 22, 2021

Gifted Challenges Best of 2021 in gifted education - the good, the bad and the ugly


It has been a tough year. Writing a "best of" post seems like a misnomer, especially when so many families and schools have struggled. It may take some time to fully appreciate the impact of COVID on our lives. Not surprisingly, education, and particularly, gifted education have taken a hit. The most common theme (other than teacher burn-out and parents' frustration) has involved controversies related to how gifted students are identified, equity, underidentification, and even how giftedness is conceptualized. Previously, these topics have been debated at length, but were in the spotlight much more over this past year. In some locales (looking at you, NYC), the concept of gifted education strays far from traditional concepts of giftedness, resulting in the inequitable provision of services, bitterness, and divisiveness within the community. 

The following top ten list includes some interesting, thought-provoking, and controversial articles associated with equity and gifted services. Also included are topics that have gained attention this year as well - children's mental health and stressors in the schools, understanding neurodiversity, the importance of addressing executive functioning skills (notoriously deficient among many gifted children), and a much-needed acknowledgment that using grades as guideposts is problematic. 


Insight into a bright mind

I know this is not an article... But Dr. Nicole Tetreault's book provides a great overview of neurodiversity. "Bright people are misunderstood and mislabeled as awkward geeks, mad scientists, maladjusted poets, oversensitive artists, hyperactive clowns, or antisocial misfits. Do you want to understand the science behind why intelligent, sensitive, and highly creative brains are simply different?" 


How do we best find and serve talented youths?

"...because low-income gifted kids have been neglected for decades, this underinvestment has led to a widening divide between these kids and more advantaged gifted kids who have had their talents developed to the fullest... We suggest that early identification using universal screening of students coupled with adequate talent development can help narrow this divide."


The mathematically gifted are starving for more math

"Some gifted students may be as much as five or seven or more grade levels ahead of their contemporaries in mathematics. That is a long time to wait - for anything. Patience is one thing; preternatural willingness to be bored is another thing, entirely."


Stop eliminating gifted programs and calling it "equity"

"...shutting down gifted programs only deepens the inequities for brilliant, underrepresented students of color and adds another barrier to unlocking their genius." 


We are leaving "lost Einsteins" behind

"... the failure to test for spatial ability has left a reservoir of potentially productive workers untapped, people who would not only thrive in the marketplace but who would also make significant contributions to the national economy."


We are squandering the talents of too many low-income high achievers

"...more needs to be done on behalf of America’s high achieving kids, especially those from low-income backgrounds. What to do? Start by placing the needs of high-ability kids on the policy agenda."


COVID harmed kids' mental health - and the schools are feeling it

"The grief, anxiety and depression children have experienced during the pandemic is welling over into classrooms and hallways, resulting in crying and disruptive behavior in many younger kids and increased violence and bullying among adolescents. For many other children, who keep their sadness and fear inside, the pressures of school have become too great."


Why so many teachers are thinking of quitting

"One in four American teachers reported considering leaving their job by the end of the last academic year."


Five ways to help students focus on learning rather than grades

"...in reality, grades, however flawed, determine placements and ranking. Still, we, as teachers, can get creative within the walls of our own classrooms to make grades more accurate, collaborative, and much less stressful."


Guiding students to improve executive functioning skills

"Executive function needs become more complex among high school students as their life roles evolve... Too often, chaos results as they use self-management approaches they have outgrown, like keeping track of their assignments in their heads."


If you have great articles that you would like to add to this list, please suggest them in the comments section below. Wishing all of you a happy, healthy New Year!


Gail