Sunday, February 3, 2013
TIME FOR A RADICAL CHANGE!!
Coast- to-coast, gifted students and their needs are beginning to get attention. Since the first of the year, I've read several national news articles about programs and new policies affecting gifted students in schools across the nation. This is an exciting time for our field!! Now, more than ever, we are noticing that our budding scientists, writers, artists, mathematician, innovative idea makers, and humanitarians have special needs that should be fairly met with appropriately challenging instruction led by teachers who are empathetic to their needs, well-trained and who are up to the challenge.
IN THE MIDST OF ALL THIS ATTENTION, HOWEVER, IS THE CONTINUING CONCERN ABOUT THE PERSISTENT UNDER-REPRESENTATION OF BLACK & HISPANIC CHILDREN (IN PARTICULAR) IN GIFTED EDUCATION PROGRAMS NATIONWIDE.
It’s a sad commentary on America, without a doubt one of most racially diverse nations in the world, when we continue to hear reports and see ‘visible evidence’ of classrooms segregated by race in 2013. Even more disheartening is that some of these classrooms exist in public schools and are classified as ‘gifted education programs’.
Giftedness truly knows no color. We’ve all seen the studies, we’ve heard the stories of gifted people from across all cultures who have made historical contributions in the past and today - others who are doing remarkable things. Just today, I read about a homeless African American girl who lived a very challenging life, but was able to earn her way into Columbia University, one of our nation’s premier institutions. Last week, I learned of a first grade female tech prodigy and saw the ‘Kid President: everyone needs a pep talk’ video. Stories like these are everywhere!! I dare anyone today to give substantive evidence of the inability to identify giftedness in children of color!
To make a difference in the way that children of color are viewed and treated in schools, we must change the culture of schools. Schools must be places where expectations are high for all, and individual needs of students are met, regardless of their racial or economic background. Changing the culture of schools means that all schools make earnest efforts to seek out gifted learners in every classroom.
Many school districts have been very successful with providing intellectually rich environments for children from all cultural backgrounds and as a result, have seen excellent results. For the districts that have not been as successful, maybe it’s time for a RADICAL CHANGE in COURSE. We lose so much intellectual & creative potential when ALL children & youth given the opportunity to engage in rigorous, challenging instruction.
Working together we can change the course~
PARENTS & FAMILIES OF CULTURALLY DIVERSE STUDENTS- The schools need to hear from you! They need your presence at school programs, board meetings, your volunteer service on Committees. The schools belong to you as well as any other group of citizens. Your child needs you to ask the critical questions- how can I find out if my child qualifies for the gifted classroom/course, the special program or other opportunity? When does the school test students for gifted services? What about my teen who was in the gifted program earlier, but says ‘he doesn’t want to be gifted anymore', what can you do to help me? Professional educators in your schools should be able to answer these questions for you. A RADICAL CHANGE IS NEEDED!!
TEACHERS AND OTHER SCHOOL PERSONNEL – Cultural competency training along with gifted education training should be mandatory in every professional development program. The districts that have been most successful are those who take teacher training seriously and know that cultural competency is a must in increasingly diverse schools! Many school districts have been very successful in identifying Black, Hispanic and Native American students for gifted programs using multiple criteria which include a combination of traditional, culturally fair verbal & nonverbal tests, work samples, performance based assessments, student interviews, teacher and parent rating and other tools. No one instrument or tool should ever be the standard for eligibility! Multiple criteria is a MUST and the standard for our field today. A RADICAL CHANGE IS NEEDED!!
COMMUNITY, CIVIC, & FAITH-BASED LEADERS- Schools and families need you! Everyone should be involved in the effort to ensure that all children receive an education appropriate to meet their needs – especially civic, community and faith-based leaders. You know your community best! Your role in collaborating with schools to offer after-school, Saturday and summer programming is also critical. Citizens who believe in public education deserve to have the needs of their gifted students met as does any parent. Your role as leaders is very important to the success of all children. A RADICAL CHANGE IS NEEDED!!
Identifying Black , Hispanic, Native American, first generation immigrant children as ‘gifted’ may be a radical change in the course of education in America- But change we must if WE BELIEVE IN EQUITY & EXCELLENCE IN EDUCATION FOR ALL! Racially segregated classrooms is a vestige of the past. Too many citizens sacrificed and stood against racial injustice for education and segregation to be used in the same sentence in America today. Together we can eradicate under-representation and racial segregation in gifted education classrooms across the nation! Together we can do this!!