Monday, September 17, 2012

Obtaining 'Optimal Effectiveness' for ALL

I'm stirred up and anxious about the state of American education today. I'm particularly concerned about how little attention is paid to the very unique and exceptional needs of gifted learners. {Gifted learners are those for whom the 'regular' classroom setting is simply not enough to engage their cognitive abilities, be sensitive to their emotional development, and enable them to reach their highest potential}

Like many of you, among my concerns are: Teacher strikes, increasing tuition in our nation's colleges & universities, low ranking of American students as compared to their international neighbors, continuing discussions about the importance of high level 'standards', decreased educational funding ---all with students' lives hanging in the balance.

In the midst of all of these challenges and so many more are students who have been and until we change focus, may continue to be:
  • AND SOME EVEN MISIDENTIFIED as everything but high ability/gifted (that's another post-- for another night). These students are those for whom I am most concerned, for these are the students whose learning potential we seem not to regard as important. Or at least not important enough for any consistent special attention...

In a 1959 speech, Dr. Martin D. Jenkins noted that...

'a society that does not give special attention to its most able youngsters will find itself unable to attain its optimal effectiveness'

And so here we are today - without the special attention needed across all groups- unable to obtain our optimal effectiveness...

How did we arrive at this point? I won't dare venture into that 'land' in this limited space~ but, what I will once again note is that there are able youngsters and teens in classrooms who originate from all communities- living in apartment complexes, single family homes, barrios, section 8 housing, on reservations, and in rural communities across this great land we call America.. waiting for us to develop a substantive, long-term plan for obtain OPTIMAL EFFECTIVENESS through an Equitable and Excellent Educational system that provides for the full development of talent among from all communities. As a nation, we not afford to 'pick and choose' who we will identify as 'able' and whose gifts we will 'not' identify and nurture.

Any plan for special attention as Dr. Jenkins called for in 1959 demands that we do better, serve more broadly and share exemplary practices across states and regions.

While there are a number of exemplary programs nationwide that address these needs, there are still TOO MANY HOLES in services and resources, TOO MANY GAPS in funding, TOO MANY able youngsters whose needs are going unmet.

What does special attention provide for?

  • Teachers who are able to use culturally responsive strategies for identifying and nurturing giftedness across ethnic groups, regardless of students' income levels

  • Classrooms that allow for investigative learning, problem-solving, where student-centered learning (not regurgitation of information) is the norm, not the exception

  • High quality books in EVERY school, EVERY public library that represents work by and for readers from all cultural groups, all genders and family types,

  • Saturday morning, evening and Summer programming that will give these learners the 'extra boost' in the Arts & Sciences they crave and need,

  • Access to college readiness experiences and test preparation that is equitable, economical and within reach of all children with the inclination and interest to attend ANY institution of higher education in America and (NOT just for those whose parents can afford  $500-1,000+ test prep workshops),

  • Educators who recognize the challenges inherent in being culturally diverse and gifted in our schools today, including recognition of the greatest challenge of all-- Systemic Discrimination in the form of Low Expectations for children of color and behaviors that continue to perpetuate this challenge, and

  • Families who are equipped to ADVOCATE tirelessly for their children AND schools who invite these families TO THE TABLE in an open and respectful manner day-to-day...

I could go on and on, but I'll stop here for now. Our children and communities depend on more of us taking on this task and becoming advocates for Excellent, Equitable Educational programming for high ability students across all cultures and within all communities. Our children and futures depend on it, anything less would be - in the words of Dr. Jenkins, a 'moral loss' for all..

Many thanks to those of you who understand my concerns and share interests and who are working so hard to reach the optimal effectiveness mark.

In the next few weeks, I will feature exemplary programs on this site. If you are aware of programs as an educator, parent, or supporters,  please share via email and I'll include them here.

Towards Optimal Effectiveness~

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