Monday, December 17, 2018

Top 10 Gifted Education articles of 2018

This has been a tough year... and I don't just mean the political climate!

Articles and commentary related to gifted education have posed more questions than solutions. But the questions they raise are revealing and necessary- and should hopefully lead to much-needed changes.

Some of the best articles of 2018, in my opinion, have highlighted how much change is still needed. They call for revisions in how gifted education is taught. They challenge misconceptions about equity and excellence, and how best to meet the needs of underserved populations. They suggest a deeper, more complex understanding of how children learn, rather than adherence to well-worn concepts that miss the mark. They stress how children's mental health and emotional well-being is always essential.

The following Top 10 articles and commentary that I have selected represent summaries, critique and some recommendations for existing concerns affecting gifted children and gifted education:

Serving students with exceptional promise

"...some children are capable of or have a greater passion for understanding concepts on a deeper, more complex, faster and/or more creative level. Refraining from offering suitable curricuar challenges to students who are ready for them, whether called gifted, talented, exceptionally promising, advanced, or something else because other students are not ready for or do not have an interest in them is not ethically justifiable."

Is there a mindset misconception with giftedness?

"...when you hear arguments against gifted programming because being named 'gifted' causes gifted students to avoid difficult tasks and believe their innate intelligence is set in stone, then know that our findings suggest that gifted students are not as fragile or vulnerable to this belief as we might think. Such arguments about their fixed mindset vulnerabilities are likely based on assumptions and biases and are being erroneously used to shape policy."

Anti-excellence dog-whistles in the education media

"...equity and excellence are not competing concepts. But 'feel-good equity' and excellence are diametrically opposed, competing concepts. Perversely, pursuing equity by removing differentiated learning opportunities reflects a lack of belief in underserved students' ability to do advanced work - even though this educational philosophy masquerades as believing the exact opposite."

We're teaching grit the wrong way

"...trying to teach 'noncognitive' skills like self-control and grit via inherently cognitive mechanisms can set up  vicious cycle of increasing stress, failure, and social isolaton."

America's gifted programming may be a facade

"...there is no standard - or even worthwhile definition - for what constitutes a 'gifted program.' The primary problem with this approach is that, even among practitioners and advocates, 'gifted programming' is a massive umbrella under which fall myriad sorts of services of widely varying degrees of intensity and quality."

Schools shouldn't wait for red flags to address student mental health needs

"One out of every 4 or 5. That's how many students will display a significant mental health problem over the course of their lifetime. Such students can be identified early with considerable accuracy if educators are given the right training and tools."

Addressing the 'gifted gap': Three strategies

"A recent study reported that across the nation, Black and Hispanic students continue to be under-served in gifted programs at an alarming rate... In the report, several practices are noted that appear to have some impact on addressing the 'Gifted Gap' in schools"

Perfectionism is increasing, and that's not good news

"Increasingly, young people hold irrational ideals for themselves, ideals that manifest in unrealistic expectations for academic and professional achievement, how they should look, and what they should own."

No place for social-emotional learning in schools? Are you sure?

"Students who suffer from trauma, and those with mental health issues are not throw away kids that we toss to the side. They are children who have the potential to do great things in life. That is not a political argument... it is a reality."

All students deserve to be challenged

"One recent study found a range of more than eleven grade levels in reading fluency and comprehension among fourth graders in a small group of diverse elementary schools. This is extraordinary variation, implying that a fourth grade teacher may have students reading at a kindergarten level and at a ninth grade level in the same classroom. Whatever the merits of 'differentiating instruction,' a teacher cannot realistically teach sonnet analysis, spelling basics, and the wide spectrum of skills in between to the same set of students."

I did not include the most broad, pressing topics from the past year - gun violence in the schools, the psychological effects of lock-down drills, how paddling is still legally permitted as a form of punishment within some school districts, environmental crises (e.g., hurricanes, fires) that have devastated communities and their schools, and the divisive nature of our political climate. These issues affect all children, but covering them was not within the scope of this review. Please keep in mind, though, that they likely have an impact on your child's well-being.

What articles related to gifted education and gifted children made a difference for you this year? Let us know in the comments section below. Thanks.