Research Proposal: Meeting the Needs of the Gifted and Talented Students in a Regular Classroom

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Gifted Program

It is difficult to find anything in the U.S. that has not been affected, one way or the other, by the current economic problems. Unfortunately, education is often the first to suffer from budget cuts. Even in the best of times, this is an area that receives the financial blows. Within the educational systems, the electives and special programs are ever more precarious. Thus, it comes as no surprise that the National Association of Gifted Children's (2009) "The State of the States in Gifted Education" report lists a number of states that have reduced or eliminated their gifted programsFive states decreased funding for gifted education in 2008-2009, four of these had increased funding in the prior year, while one had held funding constant. Eight states' received smaller proportional increases during this past year than in the year prior, and one of these held funding flat after an increase in the previous year. Those interviewed for the association's report were asked about positive and negative influences on gifted education. They expressed concern about changes in funding for gifted education and reduced funding for education overall. In addition, six respondents wrote separate notes about the budget cuts due to the current economy. Parents and teachers of gifted and talented children have continually faced a lack of state resources and support. For gifted programs throughout the country, this is even more of a challenging time. Even with their budget cuts, schools now have to focus on how normally underserved children can receive gifted programs and how the changing demographics in the country are impacting education.

According to the National Association of Gifted Children (2009), there are an estimated three million academically gifted and talented students from pre-K to grade 12 in the U.S. Although these students represent a wide variety of experiences, expertise, and cultural backgrounds, they all require a responsive and challenging education to help them achieve their highest potential. The association's (2009) report shows the diversity among states for gifted programming and services. Without a cohesive national strategy or any written federal mandate, state and local levels make final decisions on gifted programming. In 2008-09, this resulted in a disparity of services between and within states: 18 states do not have any funds allocated specifically for gifted programs and services. Further, of the 32 states with a mandate for gifted and talented education, only 6 reported fully funding the mandate, and of the 23 states submitting non-zero funding amounts, 11 allocated more than $10 million to gifted education and four allocated less than $1 million. Funding per each gifted student ranged from less than $2 to more than $750. However, gifted education funding was rated one of the areas requiring the most need of attention, with 36 of people interviewed for the association's report rating it "highest in need" or "in need" and only two rating it "not in need" or "least in need." Other areas of interest to the schools in terms of the gifted program were specific mandates, high levels of funding, professional preparation requirements, and accountability measures.

The National Association of Gifted Children's (2009) report noted that teacher training for gifted education is another area that varies across the nation. Only five states required general teachers to have pre-service training for gifted students, although these teachers are most often depended upon to meet the diverse educational needs of some of the most capable students. In 36 schools, general education teachers do not have training in this specialized area any time during their careers. Even when gifted students are placed in special programs tailored specifically for them, the teachers' training varies, with 20 states requiring those in gifted education programs to be certificated or endorsed in this specialized area, but just five states where teachers receive annual professional development. Thirteen states require district administrators for gifted education, but administrators need certification in gifted and education in only four of these states. A majority of those interviewed said funding for professional training in gifted education, preservice training at the undergraduate level, and training for general education teachers in gifted instruction needed attention. The No Child Left Behind program has also negatively impacted the gifted education, because it has led to under challenging those students who did not need extra support or has taken away funding away from other programs.

In recent years, educators of the gifted and talented have been challenged to identify gifts and abilities in culturally diverse and economically disadvantaged youth and to build programs to develop their talents. Gifted educators have long faced this challenge (Baldwin, Gear, & Lucito, 1980), but changing national demographics and a greater focus on equal representation of certain minority and economically disadvantaged students in educational programs for the gifted (Richert, 2003) have driven school systems and gifted education professionals to set their sights on these omitted youth. This is a very difficult challenge, as it is not only the talented and gifted programs that are trying to resolve the situation of highly variable educational resources across the U.S. Despite many attempts at educational reform over the years, numerous minorities and low-come children have yet to reach their full academic potential (Cavazos, 2002, p. 695).

According to Clasen (2006), gifted and talented educators have responded to this challenge of focusing on new student populations in a variety of ways. New methods are being devised to be more all-inclusive and encompass a wider variety of abilities and talents. Gifted program professionals continually look for different ways to identify and define the multidimensional aspects of giftedness. Romanoff, Algozzine & Nielson (1999), for example, conducted a statewide examination of scores on end-of-grade reading and math tests to evaluate the performance of African-American and Caucasian students. Although the Caucasian students' scores were above those of their African-American peers, the difference was smaller in reading and mathematics for those youth identified and placed in gifted programs. A number of different types of programs have been established specifically to recognize and develop a variety of talents in normally underserved student populations, such as university/school partnerships. Schools are also addressing the need for additional teacher training and staff development to identify and develop programming for underrepresented students. In an analysis of Texas' gifted education programs, Baker (2001) found significant disparities in availability of these opportunities for a variety of student populations, as well as major differences in procedures utilized to determine program eligibility Today, policymakers, researchers and educators are interested in the manner in which youth are identified as gifted and talented and entitled to such programs.

Reed (2007), for example, recognized that most of the students in gifted and talented educational programs are Caucasian, with some African-American and Asian students. However, due to language, many of the Hispanic students were not being identified and placed in these programs. English-as-a-second-language (ESL) students were out of sight in English language development classes with teachers lacking experience in gifted education. Normally, ESL students or their families do not complain, since many did not even know such programs exist. Reed was teaching at a school where the criterion for the gifted program was the Otis-Lennon School Ability Test, which measured the students' cognitive abilities as they relate to acquisition of knowledge and school success. Naturally, it was not likely that any of the 800 ESL students could do well on this test, regardless of their cognitive abilities. Because of budget, the school could not purchase new screening tools, such as the Naglieri Nonverbal Ability Test. Reed (2007) said she had to overcome resistance both from the school and the ESL community to screen and identify these students and then work closely with the faculty and parents to ensure fairness and a favorable outcome. They all learned that with creativity, it was possible to find and meet the educational needs of an under-served population. No longer were ESL students excluded from the most academically rigorous courses.

Determining which tests to use for identification of gifted youth is a major emphasis. Sak (2009) examined the psychometric properties of the three-mathematical minds (M3) test, which was developed based on a multidimensional giftedness concept to identify mathematically talented students. According to Sak (2009), the three-mathematical minds model is an vehicle for developing theory-driven tests of mathematical ability to assess the students' primary cognitive abilities for the three mathematical areas of production, reproduction, and routine problem-solving. Participants included 291 middle-school students with lower to upper socio-economic background and a racial distribution of participants as follows: Caucasian (72.2%), Mexican-American (14.4%), Asian (3.4%), black (2.4%), Native American (1.4%), and others (6.2%). The results were mixed: Testing for a wide range of student age and abilities for gifted programs presents a number of academic challenges.

By the year 2025, one in four schoolchildren will be Latino. Minority students, including Hispanics, are often underrepresented in gifted education programs, most often lack knowledge about college as an option, and have the highest high school dropout rate (as reported in Kettler, Shiu, & Johnsen, 2006). Many schools offer advanced placement (AP) college… [END OF PREVIEW]

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